To inspire and empower everyone to do their part.

Faces of UnBound: TJ

At UnBound, we believe that every person has a unique part to play in bringing an end to human trafficking. That’s why we encourage everyone (regardless of your career, age, or background) to get involved. Volunteers, survivors, and partners are truly the faces of UnBound; we wouldn’t be who we are without you! We chatted with TJ, a family medicine physician in Waco and longtime friend of UnBound!

TJ lives in Waco with his wife Katie and their three kids: six-year-old Aubrey, four-year-old Caleb, 21 month-old Given one on the way! TJ and his family are committed to service – through medical missions, missionary support trips, and dedicated support of UnBound. As a physician, TJ serves as a volunteer medical trainer for UnBound and offers a unique perspective on the importance of training the community about human trafficking.

TJ and Katie first became involved in the fight against human trafficking while he was in medical school in Denver. A friend recommended they read “Not For Sale” by David Batstone, and by the end of the book, TJ and Katie decided to become advocates for victims of trafficking and do what they could to raise awareness. When they were considering residency programs, one thing that stood out about Waco was that they googled ‘human trafficking Waco’ and UnBound was the first thing that popped up. TJ said that it was a big draw for them “that there was already work being done in the city that [they] could come alongside.” (more…)

On the Front Line: Bus Drivers

Each one of us has a part to play in the fight against human trafficking, but some professionals are in a position that we’d consider the front lines. In their roles, they have a unique ability to identify and intervene in trafficking situations. In this post, we explore how bus drivers in the Houston area are being equipped to play a front-line role in preventing and identifying child sex trafficking. 

In December 2017 UnBound Houston shared with every junior high student in Brazosport ISD the importance of staying safe by being aware of the tactics of human traffickers. Every student presentation is preceded by a parent meeting to allow the parents to have a full understanding of what we will be sharing with their sons and daughters. While our November 2nd parent meeting had a very small attendance, it had a monumental outcome.

One of the parents that attended that evening is also a bus driver for the district. After our presentation, he approached us to see if we would consider presenting this information to bus drivers because they go throughout all parts of their community and “see things.” We never turn down an opportunity to present to any group of professionals who engage with young people, so we very quickly said, “of course!” without realizing the full gravity of the impact of that “YES.”

On November 8th, we were contacted by the Brazosport ISD transportation director, John Craig. A speaker for his upcoming in-service had cancelled, and he wondered if we would be available to speak to the entire transportation department on November 10. Everyone on our usual speaking team was committed that day, so I was asked if I would be willing to do the presentation. As Director of Administration, this is not a part of my normal duties, but being a retired educator and knowing the importance of bus drivers in the day to day life of Texas students, I willingly said “YES” to making the presentation. (more…)

Faces of UnBound: Jason

At UnBound, we believe that every person has a unique part to play in bringing an end to human trafficking. That’s why we encourage everyone (regardless of your career, age, or background) to get involved. Volunteers, survivors, and partners are truly the faces of UnBound; we wouldn’t be who we are without you! Below is the story of Jason, an UnBound Ignite Partner and a powerful advocate for change.

Jason is an IT professional in Waco, Texas. He’s a single father of four kids and has been a long-time donor and supporter of UnBound. We sat down with him to learn about his story and why he got involved with UnBound.

Jason’s passion for supporting the fight against human trafficking comes largely from personal experience. “I had a tremendous struggle with pornography in my past. At one time it was ruling my life twenty years ago and really was destroying my life. I never went as far as struggling with prostitution or sex industry in that regard but I got mighty close. I knew that to step over that line for me personally represented death.” Jason admitted, “Though I didn’t give lots of dollars to the sex industry, I did support the industry just by being another hit on a website and driving the numbers up.” (more…)

The Faces of UnBound: Carrie & Rebekah

At UnBound, we believe that every person has a unique part to play in bringing an end to human trafficking. That’s why we encourage everyone (regardless of your career, age, or background) to get involved. Volunteers, survivors, and partners are truly the faces of UnBound; we wouldn’t be who we are without you! Here’s the story of how artist Carrie Stout decided to use her gifts to contribute to UnBound’s mission.

Carrie Stout, a longtime supporter of UnBound, always wondered how she could get involved. As a full-time artist and mother of one (with one on the way!) Carrie has limited time to spend volunteering. “It just dawned on me like I should have known it all along, I paint. Why can’t we use our artistic abilities to speak for those who have no voice or to tell a story that’s hard to communicate verbally?” Carrie said.

Then, Carrie met with Rebekah Hagman, the gallery owner of Culviate 7Twelve, and together they came up with the idea to do an UnBound Art exhibition. When asked about the show, Rebekah said: “Our biggest failure is allowing sex trafficking to flourish. I perceive this show as an opportunity to give voice to the voiceless.” Rebekah and Carrie brought together a team of artists to create pieces inspired by real stories of human trafficking. Artists chose to depict the strength, breakthrough, courage, and hope found within these stories.

The goal of this partnership is to bring awareness about human trafficking within our community to a larger audience. At UnBound, we know we can’t fight trafficking on our own, it takes the whole community. Throughout the month of October 2018, UnBound and Cultivate 7Twelve offered a variety of events to bring people into the gallery, include a “Human Trafficking 101” presentation, yoga night, and book reading with Julia Walsh.  (more…)

Three Part Podcast Series Highlights the Work of UnBound

In 2017, TFNB Your Bank for Life chose UnBound Waco as a “Charity Champion,” and they have since provided great awareness and community exposure. Recently, they released a three-part podcast series highlighting our work!

Part One: National Director Susan Peters

In this episode, UnBound National Director Susan Peters shares about how UnBound got started, how to identify victims and how UnBound collaborates with other community agencies.







Part Two: McLennan County Sheriff Parnell MacNamara

In this episode, Sheriff MacNamara describes his agency’s efforts to combat human trafficking, and how their strong partnership with UnBound has grown over the years.







Part Three: Survivor Leader Julia Walsh

In this episode, Julia Walsh shares how she was trafficked, how she overcame, and how she’s using her experience to help others.







Huge thanks to Charity Champions and TFNB Your Bank For Life for producing this podcast!

Light Up the Dark 5K 2018!

The UnBound Light Up the Dark 5k is a fun, family-friendly “glow-in-the-dark” run to raise money and awareness for UnBound’s anti-human trafficking work. This annual event is fun for everyone, whether you’re a slow walker or a professional runner! Come early and stay late for body paint, photo booth, bounce houses, food, music and more. This year, we have three events in three Texas cities.

Houston/Galveston: October 6

Moody Gardens Resort & Conference Center

Fort Worth: October 13

Frog Fountain | TCU

Waco: October 13

Touchdown Alley | McLane Stadium

For more information, click on the location you are interested in!

Collaborative Enforcement of Labor Trafficking Laws, Law Enforcement and NGO’s Working Together

Collaborative Enforcement of Labor Trafficking Laws, Law Enforcement and NGO’s Working Together

Written by Detective Joseph Scaramucci for the International Association of Chiefs of Police blog, used with permission

Restaurant owners Zhi Lin and Ya Li Yang were arrested for Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity on June 1, 2018 following an investigation by the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office in Waco, TX.

The Vegas Chinese Buffet was a well-known Chinese buffet in Waco, a city with a population of almost 140,000 people.  On a daily basis anyone watching could have seen the employees; all 18 of them arriving crammed in a van, while the owners showed to work comfortably in their Porsche.

After months of surveillance and Intel gathering, detectives with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office would finally get a break in their case – a human trafficking victim fired by Zhi Lin.  The victim in the case reached out to an international human trafficking organization based out of Waco, called UnBound. (more…)

Guest Post: Grooming – Not All Captives Wear Chains

By Karen Davis

In 2016, as a graduate student at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University, I was first introduced to human trafficking.  I learned there were kids and adults, males and females, of all races, that were being forced, tricked or manipulated into manual and sexual servitude.  I was sickened such an experience was happening in other cultures and far off places. Then I learned human trafficking happens in the United States. In fact, it occurs right here in Waco, Texas.  Because traffickers play on basic human vulnerabilities, everyone is potentially susceptible to their lies, but particularly the innocent. The more I learned, the more I became passionate about educating people about how traffickers operate, how they groom their victims.  

Grooming is the process of gradually, methodically and deceptively building the trust of a targeted individual with the purpose of exploiting the individual through forced commercial sex or labor practices. Grooming can happen to any targeted potential victim. In the case of grooming minors, often the predator grooms the family surrounding the child and/or the community the child belongs to. This process can take weeks, months or years.  Traffickers can be extraordinarily patient.

Stages of Grooming:

1. Targeting a victim

They prey on the physically and emotionally vulnerable.  They are astute observers of human behavior. They can tell if a person is insecure, experiencing financial difficulties, or lacking a strong support system.  They look for those with poor social connections, low self-esteem or financial needs. (more…)

5 tips to keep your kids safe from traffickers on social media

Parents, take a moment to imagine, “some scary person comes to your front door, knocks on it and asks to talk to your 12-year-old child. You would look at them, slam the door on their face, and probably call the police” (Kirsta Melton, Office of the Texas Attorney General, 2018). It is chilling to think that this may be happening everyday as your child surfs the web and uses apps on their cell phone. UnBound has worked with children that are being approached by traffickers on social media, online gaming platforms, and apps like or Snapchat.

There’s no easy fix, but here are some basic steps every parent can take to help keep kids safe from traffickers on social media:

1. Monitor your teen’s internet and social media usage

In addition to placing computers and gaming stations in a common area, you should supervise your children’s use of technology by monitoring their app usage and social media accounts. Pay specific attention to platforms where your teens can hold private conversations, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Xbox Live, or Facebook Messenger. This includes not allowing your child to have access to their phones and gaming stations overnight so that traffickers can communicate with them while they are unsupervised. Taking your teen’s phone at night also provides you with an opportunity to oversee their accounts. (more…)