Vicki Tiede is an inspiring Bible teacher, conference speaker, and author. Her passion is to open the Scriptures with women in order to share God’s grace and enduring faithfulness. She transparently relates life experiences that resonate and draw others into a lifelong pursuit of knowing God. Vicki’s candor and humor are a delight to her audiences, who feel like they’ve met a new friend moments after she begins to share a glimpse into her life. She consistently points her audiences back to God’s Word and presents fresh insights into the Scriptures. Living in Rochester, Minnesota, Vicki is a wife, homeschooling mom, and a certified health coach. Vicki holds Master’s degrees in Ministry and in Education.
T4L: Thank-you very much for agreeing to do this interview with Theology for Life Magazine, Vicki. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, including the current ministries you are involved in?
Vicki: I am a wife of one, mom of three, certified health coach to forty-five, Bible teacher, author, and speaker…and I cook and clean as necessary (just kidding…not really). I’m active in my local church and am passionate about the work of Tiny Hands International.
T4L: Haha! Awesome! Can you please tell us a bit about the work of Tiny Hands International?
Vicki: Every year, an estimated 30,000 people are trafficked into India from Nepal and Bangladesh to be sold as slaves. Those numbers have increased substantially after the two earthquakes on April 25th and May 12th, 2015. Through their transit monitoring programs, Tiny Hands has prevented more than 9,000 women and children from experiencing a life of torture and unimaginable brutality.
Throughout the developing world, children are cast aside by poverty, war, and the destruction of families. Orphaned, abandoned, and abused children often become drug addicts, prostitutes, or succumb to disease and violence. Tiny Hands finds these children and places them in loving homes with carefully chosen parents.
T4L: Can you tell us more about how the Lord is working to save people from the sex-trafficking industry there in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh?
Vicki: Before I answer your question, I have to add that we recently began working in South Africa. We’re very excited about the doors God has opened there. In answer to your question … Most anti-trafficking work is done in one of two categories: pre-trafficking and post-trafficking interventions. As you can imagine, post-trafficking interventions respond to cases after someone has already been trafficked. These are rescue and rehabilitation interventions. The goal of pre-trafficking interventions is to prevent trafficking before it happens through awareness or education of those who are greatest risk to be trafficked.
Tiny Hands is unique in that they combat trafficking while it is actually happening, but before victims have been exploited or enslaved. Transit Monitoring is our primary strategy and greatest investment to protect innocent girls from the experience that awaits them in a brothel. We currently have more than 20 Transit Monitoring stations along the border of Nepal as well as in the other aforementioned countries. Border monitors watch for “red flag” signs that a young woman or child is being trafficked and they literally intercept that person before they cross the border; or step on a bus or plane that will take them directly into the sex trade. In April, Tiny Hands surpassed their 10,000th interception! It costs roughly $100 to intercept one person.
T4L: So, how serious is the problem of sex-trafficking?
Vicki: The latest approximations regarding the number of enslaved people worldwide ranges from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000. Read that twice, my friend. Count the zeros. Millions of people are enslaved.
Note that I said these figures represent “approximations”. In reality, I suspect the number is much higher. The opening line of a recent Huffington Post article read, “Nearly 170 victims of child sex trafficking, many of whom had never been reported missing, were rescued in the last week as part of an annual nationwide crackdown, the FBI said Monday” (italics mine). Those were American children, and they had never been reported missing. Let that soak in. How much more likely do you suppose it is that a child in America might be reported missing than in a poverty-stricken village in remote Nepal?
- Of the 27,000,000 worldwide slaves today, half are children.
- 12,000 – 15,000 girls are trafficked annually from Nepal into India. That’s one girl every hour.
- 20,000 girls are trafficked annually from Bangladesh into India— two girls every hour— some are as young as 6 years old.
Sharing statistics makes me nervous because the unsatisfying reality is that we simply don’t know or currently have reliable ways to determine how many people are being trafficked in these places. The closest realistic approximation is very likely a range so wide that it would be impractical for communicating the severity of the problem. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Bangkok summarizes the struggle, “When it comes to statistics, trafficking of girls and women is one of several highly emotive issues which seem to overwhelm critical faculties. Numbers take on a life of their own, gaining acceptance through repetition, often with little inquiry into their derivations. Journalists, bowing to the pressures of editors, demand numbers, any number. Organizations feel compelled to supply them, lending false precisions and spurious authority to many reports.”
I want to be cautious about propagating unreliable statistics that might ultimately do more harm than good to the anti-trafficking effort, which is why I present these numbers as estimates, not facts. I’m asking you to trust me when I say that the numbers are staggering, and the issue would be no less nefarious if there were 27 rather than 27,000,000 slaves.
T4L: Wow, those numbers are unbelievable! So, how can the Church help support the work and or get involved in the work of Tiny Hands International?
Vicki: Visit www.tinyhand.org. They need the help of individuals and churches! On their website they lay out specifics regarding how to fundraise, donate, pray, and advocate for them!
T4L: And what kinds of assistance does Tiny Hands International provide for those who’ve been rescued from the sex-trafficking industry?
Vicki: As I noted before, Tiny Hands isn’t a post-trafficking organization. As a rule, they intercept women and children before they are exploited. With that in mind, most of the time, the young people are able to return to their families. Of course, while they wait for their families to come and get them, they stay in our safe homes and learn about the dangerous of sex trafficking. Most of them had no idea what was about to happen to them. They need to be educated in order to avoid becoming victims again. They also hear about Jesus while they are in the safe home. (All of our transit monitoring stations are run by local churches!) If a girl is unable to return home for some reason (rejection, abuse, no family), then we have a small Women’s Empowerment Center where they learn a trade and are equipped to support themselves. We also partner with other NGOs who offer similar training and opportunities.
T4L: That’s excellent! Could you please tell us a bit about the work of the Dream Center at Tiny Hands International?
Vicki: The Dream Center is one way we are caring for children in Nepal who are most vulnerable to be trafficked. Jesus’ words indicate that a single needy child is the greatest piece of heavenly treasure to be found on earth. How much more, then, is a community of children’s homes, full of children blossoming and growing, learning and loving this God they are beginning to know? For several years, Tiny Hands has talked and dreamed about a place of laughter and joy where children learn, play, wonder, and worship and are surrounded by beauty. It would be a place that would inspire creativity and a greater desire for godliness. It would be a place of community, not inwardly focused, but where the goodness of God would overflow the surrounding neighborhood and city. We are now watching as those early dreams turn into an exciting reality of this and the implications are huge for the future of these children. There will eventually be 6 individual homes with approximately 15 children each. We currently have 2 completed homes and 2 more on which they are about to begin construction. We have a temporary “Dream School” building onsite, which provides the best education in Nepal for both Tiny Hands children and other Nepali children in the surrounding villages. I’ve been to the Dream Center and it is truly a God-honoring and joy-filled place for these kids to thrive!
T4L: That is simply amazing! Thank-you so much for taking the time to let us interview you, Vicki!
This interview first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Theology for Life. To download this issue please click here.