One Man’s Journey to Help End Human Trafficking

Joe Schmidt’s crowd-funding website helps everyone play a role in a worthy cause

by - Posted on Dec 10, 2014

Two hands of a trapped person pressed against glass

In 1950, the United Nations General Assembly declared December 10 to be Human Rights Day—a day in which the world would celebrate the “fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.”

One of the most appalling threats to this global declaration is the crime of human trafficking, a system of modern-day slavery which forces 35.8 million people around the world into labor and sex exploitation, with little hope of escape.

When Joe Schmidt first learned about human trafficking at a church life group meeting he hosted in his home, he was horrified that the average age of entry for minors is 12-14 years old, not much older than his three daughters were at the time. He tells Guideposts.org, “[My wife and I] both very much believe our girls are very special to us, but they aren’t any more special than any other girl in the world. The idea that this kind of atrocity existed against little girls like mine was something that immediately resonated with me and became something in my heart that we had to do something about.”

Schmidt started helping out by donating to organizations fighting against human trafficking and raising awareness about just how common this criminal system is in America. Two years later, in 2013, he felt called to leave his position as the chief marketing officer for a corporation and work full-time to help end human trafficking by starting ENDCrowd.com, a crowdfunding website that allows people to donate to specific anti-trafficking projects. 

“ENDCrowd.com was created to give people whose hearts have been cracked by this trafficking to come learn about projects they want to get involved with,” says Schmidt. “You can give a small amount of money to any campaign and you’ll be one of the backers of that campaign and you’ll be taken on the journey of watching that campaign actually happen. And so it’s a very engaging way to get involved in this movement based on projects that touch your heart.”

So far, ENDCrowd.com has fully-funded four out of their 14 projects, including raising $10,000 to buy a van for a Christian school in Cambodia to transport students back and forth to school through a dangerous, high trafficking area; $8,000 for motorcycles for World Hope International to help get educators out to remote villages to protect the community from trafficking; and $3,000 to purchase equipment for trafficking survivors in Northern India to make jewelry to sell. Schmidt is photographed above holding three checks for these campaigns.

But there is still such a long way to go. “One of the most mind-blowing parts of this,” Schmidt says, “is the American public at large has a difficult time wrapping their head around slavery still existing in this world. Especially in the realm of US-based minor sex-trafficking; it’s not as far away as we think it is.”

“There are some early research studies that the majority consumers for minors in the sex industry are usually married from dual-income families….[Trafficking] exists because there is demand. The demand actually does come from everywhere. The demand is the people around us….What we will continue to find is that these are literally the folks next door who are creating the demand for it.”

But the more educated and involved in anti-trafficking Americans are, the closer we’ll be to ending this travesty. One of the latest campaigns on ENDCrowd is to educate truckers at truck stops across the country on what to look out for and how to help.

Through all of these efforts, Schmidt’s personal goal remains to live out the spirit of Matthew 5:21, the parable of the 5 talents, and to use everything he’s been given as an extraordinary gift back to God.

“For my team and myself, we feel like we are appropriately responding to God’s blessings by trying to serve those in tremendous pain and suffering. Everyday we’re working, God smiles on that and we hope to generate significant impact on the anti-trafficking movement.” 

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