Do you have children? Grandchildren? Niece or nephew? Maybe you’ve bonded with some of the neighborhood kids. Just for a moment, think about a time when you enjoyed a special connection with a child that you’re close to. Maybe it was at a ballgame, or during the holidays, or just playing hopscotch on the sidewalk with the kids on your street. Think about that special time and hold that thought while you read this:
“Most kids are lured into sex slavery because they do not know the deceptive tactics of traffickers. They really think they will be models or waitresses. Their parents buy the lies of traffickers.
“‘Just sign here,’ they tell the parents, who never see their daughters again.
“What if we could warn children and their parents ahead of time? What if we could teach them about the lies traffickers use – and how to stand up against them?
“The rate of trafficking would drop and millions of kids would be saved from ever entering the dark world of trafficking.” Excerpt from “The Born2Fly Project” brochure.
Wow. So now, thinking about that special child in your life, what would you do to make sure they are safe from a fate that enslaves 100,000 children in the U.S. today? A trafficker will pay about $300 for a child. What would you do to keep your child — or any child — out of the hands of traffickers? Read on. You’ll find out that safety is not nearly that difficult or expensive.
10 Questions with Diana Scimone, director of Born2Fly
1. Tell me about your business, charity or cause.
The Born to Fly Project works to stop child trafficking, both globally and locally. Each year more than a million kids are lured into modern-day slavery where they’re raped for profit 30 or 40 times a night—night after night. Some of them are just 4 years old. Many are right in the U.S.
Most kids are lured into sex slavery because they don’t know the deceptive tactics of traffickers. What if we could warn children and their parents ahead of time? What if we could teach them about the lies traffickers use—and how to stand up against them? The rate of trafficking would drop and millions of kids would never enter the dark world of trafficking.
That’s what the Born to Fly Project is all about: educating kids and their parents about the dangers of trafficking, with the ultimate goal of ending it. The centerpiece is a wordless book that teaches kids to make wise choices—wordless so we don’t have to translate it into hundreds of languages. A companion curriculum will reinforce the important concepts in the book.
Right now the artist Leah Wiedemer is finishing illustrations for the wordless book, and I’m working on the curriculum. This fall we’ll scan all Leah’s illustrations, and a designer will do the layout. Then we’ll be ready to print…and finally distribute!
2. What keeps you up at night?
Ideas! I’m definitely an idea person, and sometimes it’s hard to shut off the idea machine. I end up doing a lot of middle-of-the-night writing and emailing—just so I can get things out of my brain and onto paper (or someone else’s desk), and then get back to sleep.
3. Who gives you the best advice about your business, charity or cause?
I read a lot of blogs—Beth Kanter, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, and John Stanko. John is on my board. All of them have different advice and always useful; I may not need it right away, but hopefully it’s filed away somewhere in my brain for when I do need it.
Three books that have really impacted me are Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children by John Wood, and Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
4. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Hanging in my office are 16 framed photos of children I’ve met around the world—Sudan, Zimbabwe, Thailand, China, and elsewhere. I know the names of only a few of them; one is a baby named Han, whom I cared for at an orphanage in China where I volunteered 15 years ago. I’ve been to more than 40 countries as a journalist writing about issues of justice—and I’ve taken an awful lot of pictures, but no matter where I go, when I get home, it’s the photos of kids that jump out at me.
Most of these photos were taken long before Born to Fly was born, but it’s as if these kids were calling out to me way back when saying, “You took our picture—now don’t forget us. You might not be able to help us, but there are others you can help.” Some of those countries were not easy to travel to or visit, but I knew I was supposed to go and tell the stories of people who live there and endure so much. It was on those trips—particularly to India and Thailand—where I began to learn about child sex trafficking and knew I had to do something.
5. What would you like to see happen with your business, charity, cause?
I’d like to be out of a job! Someday I hope we can remove the words “child trafficking” from the dictionary. Call me crazy (and people have), but I think we can do it. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have hope.
6. Share a failure and a triumphant outcome to something you have faced in your life.
How much room do we have? One that jumps out at me is Han—probably because I just told you about her. The orphanage where she lived was pretty awful, and the staff were doing the best they could under grim conditions, but let’s just say it was not a pleasant place. Han was very sick and the meager medicine she was getting was not really helping her. The day our team left was very difficult. You can imagine how hard it was for us to leave these kids, knowing we were going back to our nice, clean homes.
About 9 months later the director of the charity called me from China to say that Han had died. He wanted me to know that someone was holding her and rocking her at the time—that she wasn’t alone like so many other orphans when they die. That was some small comfort.
At the time I got that call, I’d just finished an article for a major Christian magazine about orphans in China. Han was, of course, a big part of that article. I called the editor and asked if we could add a few lines about her death. We already had a blurb at the end with an address where people could donate to the charity. We squeezed in her photo and a few lines about her death. That article raised more than $15,000 for the organization I helped with. It was almost as if Han’s death—a child no one knew on the other side of the world—had a purpose. She wasn’t forgotten. (Han is pictured below.)
7. If you were in charge of everything in the world for a day, what’s the first change you would make?
I’m pretty big on prayer, so I’d probably have everyone stop, drop, and pray for a day!
8. What surprises people about you?
That I love sports—not participating but watching. I love football, love the NFL (go Redskins), and after 25 years of living in the south, I’m finally learning to love college football. I love soccer, too, and went to one of the World Cup games when it was in the US in the 1990s. Every four years when the World Cup rolls around, I have my schedule right by the TV and watch as many games as I can. In 2006 I was in Mexico when their national team played in the World Cup, and it was so fun to be there and watch the entire country shut down as everyone huddled around TV screens in malls, streets, and anywhere they could. I was right there with them!
9. What has surprised you recently?
Being named as one of the Top Ten Women Warriors of Twitter! That was a surprise (and a nice one) to find myself on the same list as Oprah and Queen Rania of Jordan. I think I’ve finally started breathing again.
10. What are some hidden talents [or interests?] that people don’t know about you?
I love dance. I studied ballet when I was 3, but a budding career was ended at 5 for unknown reasons. I picked it back up again in my mid 30s and one day came to the tragic realization that the New York City Ballet simply did not have me on their radar screen. Today I take Funiq twice a week—a “fun and unique” workout that combines Latin dance, hip hop, kickboxing, cardio, Pilates, and more. In my dreams, I’m in Swan Lake.
Let’s get back to Born To Fly. Tell us about the 09-09-09 Twitterthon, and how our readers can help.
It’s a 1-day fundraiser for the Born to Fly Project to stop child sex trafficking: 9,000 people each giving $9 on 9/9/09.
The books and curriculum are nearly complete so we’re raising funds to print them and give them to at-risk kids and parents around the world. We’re asking people to:
- Donate: Go to www.born2fly.org and use the Chip-in widget to donate $9. At any of these links look for the Chip-in widget to make a contribution to this valuable cause.
- Email: Tell 9 people about 09-09-09 and send them to www.born2fly.org.
- Blog: Post about 09-09-09. Include the logo & Chip-in widget.
- Facebook: Talk about 09-09-09; include the logo and Chip-in widget.
- Twitter: Tweet about it. Follow @09_09_09. Add a Twibbon after you’ve donated.
- Updates: Check Diana Scimone’s blog for the latest: www.dianascimone.com
- Add a Twibbon
Diana Scimone is a journalist who has traveled to more then 40 countries including Sudan, Zimbabwe, Thailand, and India. She founded Born to Fly to respond to the critical needs she has seen among the world’s children. Born to Fly has helped AIDS orphans, street kids, and children devastated by earthquakes, hurricanes, and the tsunami. Today our sole focus is working to stop child trafficking in the U.S. and abroad.