Jane Greer doesn’t look much like a freedom fighter; nor do the three women she works alongside at Juxtapose Design. They look just like interior designers, which is appropriate since that’s what they are. Their handiwork can be seen all over Park City, especially at the celebrated Stein Eriksen Lodge, recently named the world’s top ski hotel.
But since seeing when something’s not right and fixing it is what they do as professionals, they just had to do something when they learned this:
Twenty-seven million people live in slavery in the world today, as in right now, this very moment, including 2 million children.
That’s more people than every person held captive during the entire 300-year run of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
And many of those 27 million are kept as sex slaves.
How can you let that slide?
Greer heard the statistics at a talk given earlier this year by noted 21st century abolitionist Tim Ballard. Ballard, a BYU graduate, would have been William Seward in an earlier life, or Frederick Douglass, or Abraham Lincoln. Seeing people caged and in chains, literally or figuratively, drives him crazy.
He saw the sex slavery problem firsthand as a CIA operative and later as a Homeland Security investigator, but because so many of the operations he was involved in ran into political red tape that left the children unprotected, he was often frustrated.
So much so that in 2012 he left the government’s steady paycheck behind and along with a handful of other guys who would be played by Brad Pitt or Ryan Gosling in the movies, formed his nonprofit organization, Operation Underground Railroad. Ever since, Ballard and his operatives have traveled the world posing as businessmen looking to hire sex slaves. Once the deal is agreed on, if all goes well, they free all the slaves and lock up all the perps.
More than 1,000 sex slaves have been rescued in the past five years by Operation Underground Railroad, and hundreds more sex traffickers arrested. In 2016, the group’s website shows it liberated 169 children out of slavery and arrested 39 traffickers in stings in Thailand, Nepal, Mexico, India, Haiti, Cambodia, Malaysia and Brazil (you can see the statistics at ourrescue.org).
Hearing all this at a youth church fireside struck a chord with Greer, who already had her own history battling sex traffickers. For several years, she’d quietly sent a few dollars then and again to the Christian-based International Justice Mission, the world’s largest anti-slavery organization.
When she heard Ballard talk to the church kids, his message resonated with her on several fronts. She liked that his group sets sex slaves free directly; she liked that they make sure the kids get rehabilitation help; she especially liked when he stressed to the youth the importance of giving back. She remembered thinking, “we all have something we can contribute to this world; maybe not as grand as what he does, but we all have something we can give.”
At work the next day, she talked to her interior design co-workers Shannon Jensen, Kathy Thorn and Sharon Matt. What could they do to help? Ordering new couches and some lamps wasn’t going to fix this. They couldn’t very well set up a sting in Park City. The town might have its problems, but sex trafficking isn’t one of them.
They could each make a monetary donation, but they wanted to do something more.
That’s when they hit on the idea of inviting Tim Ballard to come again to Park City and speak, but this time he’d get paid. Or, rather, Operation Underground Railroad would get paid. All donations would go to the cause.
“We have done a lot of thinking and now it is time to grow our thoughts into action,” Kathy Thorn wrote on Operation Underground Railroad’s website. “Juxtapose Design is a team of women in the interior design field. However, we are mothers first! Please join us in supporting OUR to go to the rescue! You’re invited to an intimate evening with OUR’s founder, Tim Ballard.”
The benefit is scheduled for Sept. 29 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in upper Deer Valley.
Without such help, “we would not be able to rescue children,” said Ballard. “Not everyone can go undercover with our team, but everyone can find a way to join the fight.”
Hors d’oeuvres will be served and rest assured the lodge’s ballroom will be tastefully decorated.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at my.ourrescue.org/juxtaposedesign.php or by calling 818-850-6146.
“We all have causes and I have a few, but this is the one that’s the cause of causes for me,” Greer said.
“Is there a better one?” She asked. “Think about it, is there a better cause?”