DAYL President’s Page
The Heroes Among Us
The risks faced by children experiencing homelessness extend far beyond the immediate concerns for them we all know about–fears of hunger, loss of safety, and lost security and comfort. Homeless children can face an even greater nightmare than losing their shelter. Many fall victim to human traffickers and become bound in slavery across the globe. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, many of whom are children. Some of these victims are our neighbors– living among us here in Dallas. While DAYL and its members are fighting to end childhood homelessness here, an even greater struggle awaits us: the fight against human trafficking around the globe.
Matt Osborne is our hero next door; for five years now, he has fought the scourge that is human trafficking– where human souls (including 2 million children worldwide) are captured, enslaved, and sold into sexual slavery. He’s the Senior Vice President for Rescue and Rehabilitation at Operation Underground Railroad (“O.U.R.”). After a twelve year career at the CIA and the US State Department caused Matt to work on the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (“TIP”) Report, he was inspired to join O.U.R. in August 2014. Through O.U.R., he began assisting the US and foreign governments across the world to help save kids victimized by human trafficking.
The details of Matt’s work are staggering– typically, he works with US law enforcement and foreign governments to execute undercover operations to rescue children being trafficked and offered for sex in those countries. To execute these sting operations, Matt regularly has to negotiate with traffickers (read: hardened criminals who exploit other human beings beyond measure or comprehension) face-to-face, convincing them to incriminate themselves. He has to play the part of an interested customer and restrain his impulse to attack his targets. He’s recounted how one trafficker told him that one girl, around age 13 (the age of Matt’s daughter at the time), had “zero kilometers on” her. Despite his understandable emotion in response to such a terrible thing, Matt must play up his interest and goad the target into incriminating themselves and committing a punishable act.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Matt’s career, however, is how he got here. He is the latest evidence that we are all so, so capable of immeasurable courage, compassion, and generosity, and that we can all decide– at any time– to make our neighbors’ lives better. Before 9/11, Matt was a college graduate covering national sports events for Fox Sports and ESPN in the Cincinnati area. But 9/11 inspired Matt to a life of service in the CIA and US State Department, and eventually, after working briefly on human trafficking issues at the State Department, he decided to dedicate his life to “defending the defenseless,” or victims of human trafficking. Today, he is an “abolitionist” of this scourge, fighting to end the nightmare for all of its victims. Matt is proof that there are untold heroes among us, waiting to step forward.
But Matt’s choices have not come without sacrifice– he gave up the security and benefits of his prestigious government career to join this fight. And he regularly faces significant danger, interacting with dangerous criminals routinely in the course of these sting operations. But thanks to him, at least 120 trafficking victims are now free, and at least 40 traffickers have been arrested. DAYL has done the least we can do to recognize Matt for these incredible, and very real, results when it recently presented Matt with our Liberty Bell Award at the Dallas Bar Association Law Day Luncheon. Matt also presented our keynote speech at the DAYL Foundation Fellows Luncheon this past December, sharing his incredible story.
Every day, DAYL presents all of us with an opportunity. Whether you seek to change the world, or help your colleague down the hall, DAYL offers you a start, a chance, and a community of colleagues who can join and support you. You can help colleagues affected by depression, substance abuse, and depression by joining our Wellness Committee. You can help children through pipeline programs, by becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (“CASA”), or by leading a new effort to combat human trafficking through our Lawyers Serving Children Committee. You can raise funds and awareness for countless area nonprofits that assist our neighbors in need, including women and children, by joining and supporting the DAYL Foundation or by joining our Bolton Ball Committee. Or you can even join our Lawyers Against Domestic Violence Committee’s efforts to adopt and support a family of domestic violence survivors as they transition out of a shelter.
You can take DAYL up on these opportunities at any time– they do not expire, and you are always welcome. And there’s still plenty of time this year to join these efforts. Matt Osborne has proven that all of us can make the choice to step up and help another person in ways that we never previously dreamed of. Whenever you’re ready, let Cherie Harris or our Board of Directors know today where you’d like to step up.