It was almost three years ago that Berrigan’s Tom Barnes was shocked into doing what he could to help protect the children of the world.
Saddened by what he learned in a television special on children trapped in the sex trade, it led him to discover the good work by Destiny Rescue to prevent the atrocities.
Since then, Tom has dedicated much of his spare time to raising awareness of the organisation and funding for its protection, rescue, restoration and reintegration projects.
He’s participated in one Destiny Rescue mission trip to Cambodia and Thailand so far, and he’s one of the lead organisers behind a fundraising cricket match in Port Pirie.
Tom’s latest mission is to raise awareness of the child trafficking issues in his home community of the Southern Riverina, where he hopes to eventually establish a local fundraising initiative in conjunction with local sporting clubs or community groups.
‘‘I first became aware of the problem and Destiny Rescue because of ABC 24 news, and from what I’ve learned watching all the Destiny Rescue blogs on YouTube and after meeting (founder) Tony Kirwan, I honestly don’t admire anyone as much as I do him — for the person he is and for what he’s doing to protect children,’’ he said.
‘‘This man is the whole reason I’ve joined the fight against child sexual exploitation.
‘‘The biggest issue is that people just don’t know about it, but once they do they tend to want to do something.
‘‘Human trafficking is the fastest growing area of organised crime in the world, second only to drug trafficking.
‘‘There are more than one million children trafficked for sex each year, and it has to stop. And it is only going to stop if good people like you and me stand up and refuse to do nothing.
‘‘Destiny Rescue is doing something, and we can too. People need to be made aware this is going on — they don’t see this side of the world because we get caught in our own world, and that is what needs to change.’’
During his trip to Cambodia and Thailand in 2016, Tom and the other mission participants were given a first hand account of the impact of child trafficking from one of the counsellors working with the rescued children.
He was also given a chance to see the homes where the rescued children live, where they have access to a holistic and extensive restoration program.
‘‘To say this trip changed my life is an understatement,’’ he said.
‘‘The way they are treated as slaves can only be described as abhorrent and a living hell for these innocent children.
‘‘To see how the communities live really puts things into perspective — we certainly do live in the lucky country.
‘‘I’ve seen first hand what a terrific job (Destiny Rescue) do to restore these kids and help them regain their childhood and their lives.
‘‘All children have the right to grow up safe and just one act of kindness can change a child’s life — change starts when you choose to care.’’
Destiny Rescue was able to rescue 620 children last year. So far this year it has helped save 135 children, and aims to help 1000.
Tom encourages more people to learn about Destiny Rescue by going to destinyrescue.org.