Our guest this week is Rolando ‘Ro’ Lopez. Ro is a retired FBI special agent who rescues victims of child sex trafficking through the Freedom Shield Foundation. He’s a man on a mission: to save as many of these youth and young adults as he can. It’s a truly inspiring story and you’ll hear it on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Freedom Shield Foundation – https://www.freedomshieldfoundation.com
1565 W. Main Street ,Suite 208-105, Lewisville, Texas 75067
YouTube List of Freedom Shield videos – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUXpLQKZywKwZ1Wg0QaepyQ/videos
Alliance for Freedom, Restoration, & Justice (AFRJ) – https://www.afrj.com
Engage Together – https://engagetogether.com
Rescue Her – https://www.rescueher.org
Hawkwood Group – https://www.hawkwoodgroupllc.com
A21 – https://www.a21.org
Tom Couch: Special, thanks to horizon therapeutics for sponsoring today’s special father’s network, dad to dad podcast, working tirelessly to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about horizon therapeutics, mission horizontherapeutics.com
Rolando Lopez: at any given night.
I think there’s anywhere between 250,000 to 300,000 people that are being trafficked in our country because to me, if even one, even one is enslaved, then somebody somewhere needs to be doing something to teach to free that, to free that one, they broke that where your kid you’d want an organization like ours going after him passionately as if it was art.
It was your kid. You know what I mean? So we don’t distinguish whether it’s a Muslim boy or girl or an American little boy. We can’t
Tom Couch: that’s our guests this week. Rolando Lopez. Rolando is a retired FBI agent who rescues victims of child sex trafficking through the freedom shield foundation. He’s a man on a mission to save as many people as he can.
It’s a truly inspiring story and you’ll hear it on this special father’s network. Dad to dad podcast, say hello to David Hirsch. Hi,
Rolando Lopez: and thanks for
David Hirsch: listening to the dad to dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the special
Tom Couch: fathers. The special fathers network is a dad to dad mentoring pro.
For fathers, raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21st century dads.org.
David Hirsch: And if your dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook.
Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad
Tom Couch: and now let’s listen in on this conversation between Rolando Lopez and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with bro Lopez of Dallas, Texas. Who’s a father of two retired FBI, special agent security consultant and outspoken advocate for counter child sex trafficking through an organization.
A not-for-profit. He founded the freedom shield foundation RO thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the special father’s network.
Rolando Lopez: Thank you, David. Happy to be here.
David Hirsch: You’re the proud parent of two children. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about
Rolando Lopez: that.
Well, I grew up, uh, I was born in Montana. I grew up in south Texas and ended up, uh, uh, somewhere along the Southwest border of Texas, uh, near San Antonio, got with the high school, small town there out right on the border of Mexico. And then I ended up going to school, um, in Austin, the university. So it was.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So out of curiosity, what is your dad?
Rolando Lopez: My dad, as far as I can remember, uh, was a Jack of all trades. Uh, he did everything from selling insurance to being a milkman, to, uh, doing all kinds of odd jobs. Um, he ended up working for an insurance company in Nebraska 37 when he turned 36. He wound up applying for the border patrol academy and at eight, which was a max age coming in now, prior to all that prior to being a milkman and insurance guy, he was, uh, he was with the air force out of high school at age 37.
He joined the border patrol and my dad was just, he’s always been, he’s just a tough guy. He’s a. I’ve always kind of like a man’s man, you know, even now at, you know, 75 or 76, he’s a really fit he’s in great shape and stuff. And he’s just a really good man. So he went to the border patrol. I remember the first week I think I was in fourth grade at the time he, um, tore his, uh, Uh, what’s your Ms.
Rotator or it was some, some bad. Oh, he just, he dislocated his shoulder. That’s what it was. And, um, he, they popped it back in place and he stayed for the academy, the next, you know, two or three months or three to four months. Just really tough that way, you know, and now of course he’s paying the price, but he was where the border patrol and 25 years when he retired a couple years,
David Hirsch: that’s awesome.
It sounds like you have a good relationship with them. And I’m wondering if there’s one or two takeaways that when you think about your dad, in addition to being sort of a tough guy, physically fit, you know, even at his age now, um, there’s any important learning, a lesson or takeaway.
Rolando Lopez: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you, I tell you that one of the things I do remember about him, um, that when I think about him and it’s funny, even at my age, You know, to call him dad and in Spanish, he calls me Miho, which he’s my son, you know?
And it’s still, it’s a term of endearment that you’re used to and, you know, you’re growing up and, uh, but, uh, my dad’s always been a strong man of faith as well. So the images I have of him. I could see him at his, my grandfather’s church or other churches that we we’ve been to. Well, when I was a kid and I can see him, you know, on his knees at the alter brain, you know, just in a corners, humble, very humble man.
And, um, and his dad was a great man as well. So you’re referring
David Hirsch: to your grandfather on your dad’s
Rolando Lopez: side? Yes, he was, he was a, uh, a preacher. I mean, he was a, he had a church, uh, for about 40 years and. He preached hellfire and brimstone, you know, and he’d take everybody off. And the church had a group of 30 members, you know, that kind of church, but my grandfather was, he was all about the widows and the orphans and, and taking food to people across the border and just widows there locally.
And, uh, when he died, uh, he died before Christmas. Um, I was probably around 18, I think. And he died of pneumonia and he, he got pneumonia while building the house for, for a widow, but that’s who my grandfather was. So they just see good, solid.
David Hirsch: Excellent. Well, thanks for sharing. And I’m wondering, did you have a chance to meet your other grandfather?
Did he play
Rolando Lopez: a role at all? I remember him somewhat, uh, but no, I sent my grandmother on that other side, uh, how to have a hell, a lot more impact on my life. And my grandfather
David Hirsch: did didn’t. I remember that she was like one of the first Hispanics to graduate from somewhere. I don’t remember where
Rolando Lopez: yeah. You know, in the forties, unless you graduated from the Latin American Bible Institute, she was one of the first females to graduate from that.
And. She was another powerful, not necessarily evangelists, but that woman could pray, pray fire down. I’ll be, you know, very powerful. Then she was on my mom’s side.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it sounds like you have some great roots, um, strong family values and, uh, you know, you’re well grounded in your faith, so thanks for sharing.
Sure. So let’s talk about your career. Um, from what I remember you learned about the FBI when you were in like, And I don’t know who planted that seed or how that came about, but if you could just start there and roll forward. Sure.
Rolando Lopez: I knew I was always, um, gosh, I was thinking I was still a freshman when I was still playing with soldiers.
It was old green soldier guys. Uh, my dad was worried about, I was ready to grow up or not, but, uh, I know about 10th grade. I knew that I wanted, I already knew that I wanted to become enough. Yeah. I was 14 at the time, but I knew that the FBI was going to be that number one organization I wanted to join.
So kind did everything throughout my rest of my high school career. If you have a whole three or four years in high school, and then a couple of years in college. So while it had happened,
David Hirsch: so did you go right from college, into the FBI or what’s the process
Rolando Lopez: almost? Uh, I’ll tell you it was closed. I was 21 when I applied and I was going to have to take these language battery exams.
Well, I might’ve known that you had to be 23 before you applied, but I figured, well, what’s working happen. They’ll bounce you out. Well, I pass my language tests by then on 22 and I was getting, I was almost out of college and I’m now 22. And then they, I get a letter saying, Hey, you, you, you pass the language battery exams.
Now you need to come take the special agent. So I remember taking it at age 22 and I’m passing it. And then I get the long background application. I 15 pager and I sent it back in and at the time, because I was living in Austin, my recruiters out of San Antonio, when I sent back the, the application, the recruiter calls me back after they’ve completed everything.
And they said, we just looked at your photo. You’re just a kid. And when we looked at your date of birth, we thought you were born in 57, not 67. So, so they go from, you know, like nobody wanted to let the cow bag that they had messed up, you know, but they said, look, we’re going to do this because it’s, it’s, you know, the average age coming to the bureau, even now it’s still 29, 30 years old.
So they decided to put me on hold until I turned 23 and they call me a couple of weeks before my birthday. And they said, we’re going to interview you because the minimum age coming in is 20. And the max age is of course 37. And they said, we’re going to call you a couple of weeks after your birthday to interview you.
And sure enough, they did. They, they call me before my birthday and they interviewed me after my birthday. And in September, they call me three days before the academy was going to start. They had put a class together and they said, Hey, are you willing to come? And at that point I was working for a company, an import export.
Back home. And I said, Peck. Yeah. So I gave a three-day notice and my boss was cool with it. Cause he knew that’s what I wanted. You know, he knew that I was in the process and the only reason he hired me at the job and he told me, and uh, this is another good life lesson is, um, because I was honest with him and I said, look, I’ll work.
I’ll give you everything I have. I’ll give you a hundred percent every day. I said, but I have applied for another job. And I said, I’m going to leave at some point it could be six months could be nine months could be here. I don’t know. And that guy was a retired us customs agent at the time special agent, he had retired and he re he was running his couple.
So he says, I’m going to hire you just out of pure honesty because you’re honest with me and sure enough, when they came to do my background check, he just gave me Ray reviews as well and all that. So it paid off.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Thanks for sharing
So I’m wondering, how is the work that you did at the FBI? Some of the experiences you had. Post FBI. What led to the creation of you founding the freedom shield foundation?
Rolando Lopez: Well, I will tell you that the FBI back then human trafficking, maybe you started getting, gaining some notoriety in, in 93 with the Bosnia Herzegovina.
And that’s when the UN started showing up apparently to do the peacekeeping role and think the Albanian organized crime groups started presenting, uh, um, bringing women to sex traffic. And with the UN peacekeepers, there’s a movie called whistleblower and it was about the lady. I think she was a former cop or current cop from Nebraska.
That she went out and did a piece, that role to do some contract work. And then she’s the one that uncovered it and pretty, pretty good movie. What I’m getting at is there was no human trafficking violation at the time. You know, there was human smuggling, which is not, I mean, there might’ve been people that were ending up smuggled.
There were ended up being used for sex, but, but the smuggler was a legitimate smuggling and it was getting just people across paint. Somebody gets cross, he could start a new life in America. I don’t know that there’s, I don’t know how much trafficking was involved. Really don’t know, but the bureau didn’t work it.
And even the other agencies that have that violation like immigration they always worked at is smuggling. So what we did work a lot of is organized crime. I will tell you that all the stuff I learned, tactically, investigative wise, Intel wise with the bureau, it came in handy, but I’ll tell you seeing all the new.
Then I thought, well, man, I I’d sure love to be able to use my skills, you know, me and other guys in and be able to, to do something. So 2009, I was working with bank America at the time after I left, then he and I did some kidnap ransom work for a while, then went to work for bank of America. And, um, while I was there, they gave me a lot of leeway to work my knob, the nonprofit, and in 2009 Thanksgiving days, when, uh, I got an email from a nurse friend of mine who had just been.
At an orphanage outside of Nairobi, Kenya two weeks prior to Thanksgiving. And she sent an email Thanksgiving morning, about two in the morning that 15 guys had broken into an orphanage outside of Ruby, Kenya to, to be, uh, to Rob the place. Well, they ended up beating the house mother nearly to death and they wound up gang raping a 14 year old, a 10 year old little girl.
So it was Thanksgiving morning for me here in the U S. I remember my dad was here and I remember waking up reading that email and just be brought to tears. And, and it was that righteous anger, that swells up thing, like how in the world could something like this be going on? You know, when there’s people with a heart to fight this.
And I remember telling my dad, Hey, I want to start a nonprofit. I want you on the board. And then I called a former Navy seal buddy of mine. I asked him to join the board. He did too. So by Monday that was a Thursday, Friday and filed the paperwork Monday. We had filed the paperwork with the state, got approvals and nonprofit.
And by Tuesday we were filing our nonprofit work where the government had it a couple months later. So we started, the organization is orphan secure, and our goal is just to secure orphanages around the world. First couple of months for three months was putting them on money to do stuff in Africa and stuff.
And then we figured out that. Maybe we should just do work here on the Mexican side of all the orphanages in her harm’s way of the cartels and come in and secure them, provide safe rooms, crisis management, upgrade locks, windows, alarm systems, cameras, the whole deal that holds kind of stuff. Uh, do it pro bono.
And today we support. Over 5,500 orphans in about 14 countries. We handle all their crisis management, all their kidnappings or extortions, things like that. Pro bono
David Hirsch: it’s been around for about 10 years. Um, you’re the founding executive director. You pass the Baton to this, uh, Carrie girly. She’s doing a fabulous job.
I’ve watched many of the videos that she’s prepared. They’re almost like PSA’s. I understand the program sort of break into what I think of is three or four categories, rescue, restore resources. And then more recently we started a feeding program and that really caught my attention. Cause at first I was like, well, what does feeding have to do with human trafficking?
So maybe you could explain what each of these sort of components of the organization.
Rolando Lopez: Absolutely. Well, I’ll tell you the go work it backwards. Well, obviously we, for about nine years, we were fully a rescue organization. They all it’s, uh, you know, the bureau is a thankless job just to be with the military.
You know, you can say the world on Monday and on Tuesday. Hey, what are you doing in the office? You’ve got to work, you know, no parades over rewards. Like good job. Go back to work. So that’s kinda the mindset of the organization as a whole is, Hey, let’s go do what we do best and, and just, you know, raise the money privately as we can with individual donors.
So rescue wise, we’ve been, we start off in, we’ve been in Thailand and we’re in the Philippines. Uh, we do work and then work in Libya, uh, Egypt. Uh, we spent three years in Iraq and Syria, recovering disease are being held by ISIS. We had a couple of deaths in that process as well. I mean, it’s not a, it’s not a feel good type job.
It’s, you know, there’s risk involved with doing the work we’re doing. Uh, and then we do work domestically. We do work in Mexico, so we’ve just launched in Pakistan to do rescues. And there’s, we have a thought methodology on how we do these things. So. We have a lot of former FBI guys they’re involved for, uh, agency guys, a hundred plus military special operations types, a lot of cyber guys, a lot of analysts, we can throw more analytical power counter human trafficking than any government in the world.
Can we have over 45, we have between 45 to 60 analysts. You know, most of the guys that traveled with us abroad have been with us. I won’t take anybody abroad that hasn’t been with us for at least a year or more. You already know where they’re at with their families. I know where they’re at, you know, with their marriage.
I know where they’re at, you know, with, with just more morals, you know, not to take as a broad, you know, go to the Philippines. And then at night they’re going to massage parlors and strip clubs and brothels and have defeats the whole purpose of being in town. Right. So we’re real careful how we, that we do our background checks are pretty thorough with everybody and.
So we did that for about nine and a half years. We’re still doing rescues even now. Uh, we just had 60 kids, a Monday, the child soldiers that we pulled out of, uh, the Philippines, all young fighters, young fighters that, uh, and we, you know, we used former rebels that are working with us to, to be able to come in and, uh, it is really cool.
So, um, we added the trauma care piece. Um, when, uh, Carrie started coming with us to Iraq. And she was doing counseling with these EDIS that allow me to focus more on the international work. And then we brought in another retired FBI agent to head up the domestic investigative work. So it’s kind of cool to just have a guys who speak the same language, you know, it it’s, it runs seam seamlessly.
And then the trauma care, her programs that she’s written had been fantastic. Our goal is to, to branch out to about 35 safe houses in 35 cities across the us. And that would come with advocates and that would come with security elements surrounded by it. So there’s a lot of work to do. And when we do that, plus the money we need to bring in to, to sustain that kind of operation on any given night, I think there’s anywhere between 250,000 to 300,000 people that are being trafficked in our country.
David Hirsch: Wow. That number the two 50 to 300 is obviously a big, one of the things that really caught my attention row was the scope and scale of this problem. And in our prior conversations, you had mentioned that it’s different in the U S than it is outside the us inside the U S that has more to do with the breakdown of the family, which ties into our work at the 21st century dad’s foundation, making sure dads are present, but outside the U S it has to do with more abject.
And that the demand for trafficking is really driven, which is embarrassing, but really driven by what’s going on here in the United States. And I think I remember I wrote this down 70% of the most heavily trafficked people come from the us 50 to 60% are from foster care in the U S, which is different here.
Um, because foster care, um, ends at age 18 versus places like say Ukraine where it ends at age 15. So it’s putting younger people in Ukraine at risk versus the U S 99% of the victims are women and children, 90 to 95% of the traffickers are African-American pimps. I don’t know what the term Romeo pimps mean, but I remember you’re using that.
And I’m wondering are the numbers really that bad? Is this sort of, it seems like a. Overwhelming. Right. You know, when you look at some of these statistics.
Rolando Lopez: Sure. Um, I will tell you, um, I will say this, that, um, my pump has, uh, you know, had a state department, um, earlier this year, basically that, you know, they, we do the trafficking in persons report every year, the tip report and the United States is number one in the world for track.
So that that’s a fact that isn’t what you, you know, you can agree or disagree, but nobody’s doing the work that they’re doing to find that out. Um, yeah, I’ve heard a number. I mean, when I started 10 years ago, the number was 27 million slaves in the world. And now everybody’s saying 40 million and I’m going, what did we do?
A survey globally? It asks me to third slate. I mean, who really knows my point is these, these stats are. How do we really know right. The exact amount. I mean, how do we know we have 40 minutes? I will, again, I’m not going to argue with that because to me, if even one, even one is enslaved, then somebody somewhere needs to be doing something to teach to free that, to free that one.
Okay. So it doesn’t matter as for Ford and it’s 40 400,000 whatever for 40 million it’s it’s, uh, it’s still, those people are worth going after.
So, um, I will tell you the, even if you look at the runaway stats, the stats of runaways yearly, Um, I’ve seen numbers as low as 400,000 as high as 800,000 in a given year. So the question is one, do we have that many runaways, you know, who’s keeping track of that. Then you hear the staff that within 48 hours, 50% of those runaways will be contacted by a pimp or a trafficker because they know to pick them up bus stations, they know to pick them up at malls.
They know how to do that. The only thing that I have to say to all that is that we’re busy. So we’re, you know what I mean? It’s not like we’re sitting around and looking for work. Okay. I will tell you that. The family breakdown is, is the, the, the crux of the issue here. Um, so with, with our, we don’t do prevention awareness with, that’s not what our organization does.
We focus on the, on the, the, the rescue and the trauma of care, immediate deal. We’re not even in the restorative care space, which is where, you know, the, the girls are actually brought back to. Some form of normalcy is, is, is whatever that means. You know, I mean, the trauma that these women go through and they’ve been trafficked is equivalent to a soldier coming back from war with PTs.
And that’s, that’s, that’s a fact. So, you know, if our soldiers come back the way they’re coming back, these girls, there can imagine how much trauma care or, or restorative care they need to bring them back to, to some form of normal. So we get a lot of calls daily for women that other agencies have picked up and, uh, they need a place to put them for awhile.
And, uh, we do the, we handle the short-term care, the short term, 30 day type safe house, truly a safe house till we can put them into long-term restorative care. So many girls may be testifying for the federal government. So maybe we test on for local police. It varies, but this is a bad, it’s a bad thing. I will tell you that when you look at the 1860s at the height of the civil war, population of the U S is about 9 million at the time you had about at the height of that time period, you had about 800,000 slaves.
And, you know, that’s roughly 8%, eight, half percent maybe of the population were slaves. We went to war over that. Okay. With war over slavery over there’s not 800,000 slaves. Let’s fast forward now 150 years on many what the math is on that. But, um, to 2020, and let’s say we do have 40 million slaves. Let’s say even in the U S we have 300, let’s go 250,000 people a night traffic on the streets of America.
We have a population of 330 million. What’s at another. Eight and a half percent of the population and slaved. Okay. And all we’re doing our hashtag campaigns that says a lot about where the American psyche is when it comes to this. You’re either going to find people that are passionate about this. Like we are, or you’re going to find people that are emotional, meaning that they’re just moved by a one conversation.
And he listened to it’s a big deal for that moment tomorrow. They don’t, they forgot. You know, because it is an emotional thing. We’ve, we’ve had infant trafficking cases. We’ve had, we’ve seen Oregon trafficking around the world. Um, we’ve seen child soldier cases, eight year old seven-year-olds being killed, uh, take, because they’re in, you know, indoctrinated to fight against the military, that country.
Um, we’ve seen 6, 7, 8 year olds had been raped by ISIS, you know, recover whether nine or 10. You know, it’s a life regardless where we’re at, whether it be American or be a child as a child. And, you know, I, I get a lot of, I’ve had a lot of guys that have come to us and say, well, you know, you’re not you’re are you really making a difference in.
You know, and all I, all I say to him was, Hey, bro, if that were your kid, you’d want an organization like cars going after him passionately as if it was art, it was, if it was your kid, you know what I mean? So we don’t distinguish whether it’s a Muslim boy or girl or an American little boy or girl.
David Hirsch: Well, one of the ideas to mind is the concept of the starfish, right? You know, there’s this kid at the shore, there’s piles and piles of starfish that have, you know, been, um, washed up to shore and he’s putting them back one at a time and somebody walks by and says, you know, you’re not going to make a difference.
Right. And, uh, he said, well, if you’re the starfish that I’m saving, it’s all the world you’re making.
Even though the problem is gargantuan, right? And it’s almost like, I don’t even know where to start. You just have to put your head down, stay in your lane, like you said, and do what you can do with whatever resources you have and, you know, hope that you’re chipping away at the bigger problem. And, uh, one of the things that I’m, I’m inspired by, and the reason that we met is the work that’s being.
Um, by Ashley Chapman and her organization. And this has more to do with, you know, trying to educate people, trying to empower people. And I’m wondering, what is it that you’ve been able to do together or what’s the overlap between your organization and hers?
Rolando Lopez: Let’s see I’m at Ashley. Gosh, um, it was January, uh, it was down in Virginia.
It was at a conference at Regents university. I admit I was introduced to her because of the work she was doing. I think she, she spent a lot of time in the foster care program. She’s done a lot of both consulting and enact activist work in that area and Ashley and for her organization to try and unite, you know, different groups that were doing the same thing to see if they could, you know, start teaming up and things like that.
And then she does a lot of consulting for a lot of states and a lot of their, I believe a lot of the things are enacting and just all the programs that she put together. It just, just amazing. So we, we did, we sat in a lot. Yeah. Bye conferences together, you know, as, as, as, um, uh, subject matter experts on panels, things like that.
And what I love about her is just how passionate she is about this whole deal. And she comes from it from a whole, you know, from legal perspective. Uh, we just had a good friendship and partner friendship more than anything. And then partnership, you know, is easy. She calls us whenever she thinks we can help.
And we’ve gotten, we’ve gone back to her, the same thing, everything we ever needed, she, she seems to find it. And there’s a lot of different things that we’ve asked.
David Hirsch: Well, uh, the organization has Alliance for freedom restoration and justice. The AAF RJ is what it’s known by and which is the same website, the AFR j.com.
So, um, we’ll be sure to include that in the show notes, you mentioned, um, a couple of other organizations in our prior conversations. One is rescue her and the other is a 21. And I’m wondering what’s the overlap. Why have you done work with those organizations as well?
Rolando Lopez: 8 21 is a, is a, is probably one of the largest shoots that’s out there.
Um, I mean, when you look at Polaris project and of course you’ve got IgM international justice mission, those are the, those are the big ones. 8 21 does a lot of prevention awareness. They do a lot of work around the world as well. So they did both international and domestic early on. We did some work to help them out with some things.
And we talked to them from time to time. There are certain organizations that you can, you know, they’re symbiotic and in the relationship. So that’s, that’s just someone that you can call for different resources that we may not have rescue her is a little bit smaller as a smaller organization, smaller than a 21 they’re based here in the DFW area.
There’s a lot of groups here in the DFW area. They’re countering human trafficking. They run a hotline as well. Rescue herd does a lot of the girls that they get calls from may end up with us as well in our, in our safety. So there’s always going to be some kind of overlap somewhere. Um, we, we tend to train groups like that on just protocols and for safety and things like that as
David Hirsch: well.
Excellent. So, uh, we didn’t talk about operations, zip code, but I’d like to, you know, learn more about.
Rolando Lopez: Yeah, absolutely. So from the rescue piece to then, uh, Carrie coming on board, we brought the trauma care piece, and then she brought a lot of resources to bear a lot of the programs that she’s written for organizations, even churches, to help teens that might be struggling early on with, uh, to stay away from crafty to becoming traffickers or, you know, she’s got programs to counter the demand, which is, uh, men who are suffered from porn addiction.
She’s read programs. For parents of traffic victims. And then she’s written programs for girls that are, have left the sex industry with great success to, to not go back. Uh, I think one of the programs she ran the, it had like an 85% success rate where these were girls that did not return back to the industry because there were people, resources that we had that could come alongside these people and help them not go back.
Then the feeding piece is a big deal. We’ve been using feeding for some time. Now, you know, when you meet one of the basic needs that every one of us needs, right. To be fed, it’s a game changer. Uh, we first started using it in Thailand. 20 12 20 13. We were seeing that there were these villages up along the Chiang Mai border, uh, with my Mar when the rice crops were down in October, November, December nine hours away in Bangkok traffickers knew that, Hey, I can go up to the hill country where the rice crops are down.
I can offer 600, 700 us dollars today. Who at that point has, you know, six, seven mouths to feed and he’s going to sell the oldest daughter for the 700 bucks, 800 bucks, whatever it was at the time, so that, you know, dad would do it. The, the girl would sign a contract thinking like, oh, I’m going to go back, you know, go do this for a couple of years, come back home.
And they will, they never come home. We must’ve interviewed about 200 plus girls in Bangkok at the time when we were there. And none of them were from Bangkok. They were all from the outskirts, the same area that they, they, you know, they left a $6. Job or $4 job a day to a $8 job in the city or whatever, whatever their promise.
Of course he never got any of that money. And, uh, so we realized that if you’ve got 40 families in the village, you could feed them during those 90 days of their crops. Right. Not only are you going to the root cause of trafficking, which is abject poverty, but you’re, you know, you’re in theory, you’re feeding the hunger hungry and you’re disrupting trafficking at the same time.
So I’ve met a lot of donors that are very root cause driven. Like how can we give towards that? Cause
David Hirsch: that’s where the roots for this, a feeding program that we know is operation zip code started, but is it just in poor countries or what we might think of. Um, poverty, uh, oriented countries or is it here in the U S as well?
Rolando Lopez: So what we’ve seen over the last several years, and then of course COVID was a big one. That’s where it became really blown out of proportion is when you look at the zip codes across America, Uh, you know, there’s stats that come out on cities. So this is a hungry, hungry city in America, the poorest city in America, and they base it on per capita income or food insecurity, national, I think it’s around, I don’t know, 16%, you know, families, you go into bed with not enough food.
They haven’t had the full meals that the rest of his fat. If you look at infant mortality rate, if you look at crime statistics, if we break it down and look for, you know, prostitution is and all that. Go into play for us under operations, zip code. And as we saw abroad that when you come into village to start providing food, you also start learning.
You also start gathering what the military calls atmospherics. It could be information collection. If you want to call it and you start learning who the bad guys really are. Is there a little shadow government going on? You know, who’s really, is it organized crime who runs the city? Is it really the mayor?
You know, those are, those are just things that you learn. And then if you start providing medical meet and medical needs, that’s another thing that, you know, that we, that we, that people do. So all that’s part of, kind of the civil affairs program that the military rest, when they’re abroad, it’s a hearts and mind kind of deal, right.
That we, that we do everywhere we go. Um, we took a little bit of that similar type type program. And we started looking at zip codes here in the Dallas area. Now during COVID, we kind of pivoted from counter human trafficking operations to feeding because of all the need, you know, people without cause they’re losing their jobs and their hourly wages and all that stuff.
And. You know, I’m not, I’m certainly not making, it’s not a political statement, but it’s common sense to me that when we start telling the masses to come from every country into our country, you know, just come in, we’ll open borders type deal. W whether we mean it, whatever the attentions are, because we want to help people, or because it’s politically motivated, I will tell you that the end result is it.
It’s a similar to COVID it’s now we’re bringing all these people in that. They can’t work. There’s need. When the kids aren’t in school, they don’t have enough food now at home, you know, there’s a lot of school programs here in Texas. It’ll send backpacks home to get people through the holiday. Cause you know, the kids aren’t in school and the only food they get is when they’re in school.
So when you start bringing in all these masses, they’re in need, when, so we kind of stepped up and said, we need to pivot to run the feeding program. And we partnered with an organization called kids against. And a lot of the product is, uh, it’s a soy rice based, you know, 21 minerals and vitamins, and then dry vegetables in a one pound bag.
And there’s six meals as a casserole. And it’s very, it literally brings people, kids out of starvation. That’s what’s been used abroad. So we started bringing in churches here over 2000 volunteers, even with all the COVID restrictions, we’re able to package, um, almost a million meals through. And we’re getting that out to food banks and different organizations that were doing the distribution.
So it impacted probably 30, 40,000 families. We did that for several months, the very last feeding event, my entire team, including myself, we ended up and we’re all wearing masks. We all got COVID all, all eight of us got real sick. I ended up in the hospital for eight days with COVID. Oh my God. Yeah. So we had another, one of our other girls got pneumonia and then.
Um, even the ones that have to have less issues several months later, we’re feeling, you know, we’re having lung issues, breathing issues, things like that. So, you know, no good is that towards that same and no good deed goes unpunished. So that was kinda kind of funny, even looking back, well, you know what, here’s the deal.
We do it again. Cause that’s just how we’re bent. There’s a lot of people in need and, and look over there and stop. So.
David Hirsch: Pretty impressive. And what I remember about, uh, a million meals sounds like it would be really expensive, right. And at least by traditional standards. But from what I remember, you’re doing this for.
Almost no money to speak up. It’s not really that much
Rolando Lopez: money. It’s we’re I think right now we’re trying to, we’re worried about 25 cents per meal, but I think even when we started doing this back in 2011, we were probably at 10 cents, 11 cents, 13 cents at the most for meal. Cause there was no overhead in it.
And again, Yeah, it goes a long way. One of those packages has six meals in it. So you’re talking about times that we’ve, we’ve used the food for other other purposes, internationally for negotiations, with, you know, with certain groups that are holding certain hostages. Uh, we don’t have ransom, but we can, you know, um, of course we don’t give any, any groups, the food directly, we always have other, not in the non-profits that we’re working through, but, but there’s feeding food is I tell churches and I tell people never.
Underestimate the power of feeding. And again, this operation, zip code is for us to go into the zip codes and most need. And we’ll probably get into identifying houses where women are being held against their will, they’re being trafficked and things like that. So, um, it’s feeding is a very powerful.
David Hirsch: Yeah, it’s a, it’s a brilliant strategy.
Um, and I’m hoping that you’ll be able to continue to expand on that. Um, so I don’t want to focus on the negative, but I’m wondering what seem to be some of the bigger challenges that you face. Uh, the organization faces.
Rolando Lopez: Uh, well, I’ll tell you a relationship wise. We’re pretty, we do pretty well. We, we can go into any government in the world and offer training and that’s usually our currency to get them to then help us with everything.
Both from the military, from the national police, from the government or federal police, you know, whoever like the equivalent, the SCIA or the FBI, so that we don’t struggle with relationship or connections. Funding is eyes obviously gotta be number one for us because we don’t publicize every single operation.
Like the one I told you about here recently that we had with these 60 kids and stuff, always child soldier. It’s not something that we’re going to put out on social media or things like that. So it usually with our donors, we can give them one-off briefings and just say, Hey, here’s where your money went.
Cause we’re very project driven. I may have a project in Pakistan that, you know, my run is 5,000 to start in 1200 a month. And a lot of people that, well, that’s nothing their donor, you know, but, but we’re not going to put it on social media to ask for that kind of. You know, and if we do, it’s going to be very vague.
You know, it’s like this interview without you trying to be vague with, with everything.
David Hirsch: Well, I’m starting started thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering, thinking about our listening audience, which are mostly dads, families, raising children with special needs. And these are some of the most vulnerable, um, children and young people in our society.
Those with special needs, I’m wondering if there’s any advice that you can offer. Uh, this audience and then just overall, well,
Rolando Lopez: I, I will tell you staying engaged, um, is obviously, you know, it’s one thing I think when you have to be engaged for the physical needs right. Of your child. I think that the mistake now is our, our age group, you know, as we’ve used the TV and social media and the telephone now is kind of the babysitter.
And I think some of the mistakes that men are making with their own children is not staying engaged in seeing, you know, where, what, what, who they’re talking to, why are they shutting their phone? The moment you walk in the room and it’s, and we don’t want to, we think, oh, they’re happy. So let’s just let it go.
And that’s when we find out we’ve got even the girls that we don’t expect that would ever be trafficked, have been lured into something otherwise. So it’s, I would say number one is staying engaged. Now speaking to the men, it’s men themselves. I will tell you that what I tend to tell men when I speak it organization, uh, you know, other conferences and things like that, where it’s all men, I tell them, look, I’m not going to give you, how am I going to make any kind of religious or political statement when it comes to pornography.
But I will tell you that the U S is number one for demand in this country for, for this type of things. Sex-related things. And. For every man that’s out there that has a daughter between the ages of six and 18, or even a little bit older than that. I tell men that every time that they click on a, on an image, a pornographic image, they’re creating a demand for their very own daughter because it’s, it’s a constant need for somebody else on the other side to the, okay, that picture is not enough.
I need. And it’s not a victimless crime, as many people think that, well, I’m just on the web surfing porn. And I don’t think they understand the full damage of what they’re, what, what, what, what the ramifications are to that. There’s no woman in this world that wakes up in the morning and say, oh, I think I’ll be a prostitute today.
No woman chooses that. And, um, uh, Carrie can tell you there’s. I think she said, she says that I think the stat is a 96% of all women out there that are involved in this kind of trade in, in the, in the prostitution or sex. The three, you know, were, have some form of abuse. Early on in their childhood and in, and she even says, she says, I have yet to meet the other 4%.
You know? So, you know, everybody we deal with has some form of abuse in their, in their lives. So again, it’s not a victimless crime and there’s no woman that wakes up saying, this is what I want to be tomorrow. It’s usually out of need. It’s out of necessity. It’s out of something that’s occurred in the back and their background, their.
I would just tell men, I was told men that each are or boys to be men of honor.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, simple advice. Um, and I think that, uh, what you’ve done is you’ve emphasized what the consequences are, right? It’s not victimless. Um, and we all have a role to play, right? Whether we’re men or women for that matter.
And whether we have typical kids. Atypical kids or maybe no kids at all for that matter. And it’s really powerful stuff. So let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend, Ashley Chapman of the Alliance for freedom restoration and justice organization for helping connect.
Rolando Lopez: Absolutely. T’s awesome. Or we talked as regularly as regularly as we can, but she’s just very impressive.
David Hirsch: there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up,
Rolando Lopez: I want to share one story, you know, I’m trying to see if I can, uh, tie back in, uh, it was in the middle of something that we’re talking about in terms of the emotion versus passion, you know, to do something. And, you know, I’d always told my kids, you know, look, if you’re going to be this or that, be the best.
You know, don’t have bake it. Don’t just go all, go all out wrong for wrong, or for, or for good be even if you’re gonna be a bad guy, be the best bad guy out there that you can be. You know, I sounded like put, put that effort into everything you do, but I will say this, um, one of the victims we had in Syria, Uh, back in 2017 or 2018, uh, one of the networks that we were working with that we had funded and gave them operational planning and technology and equipment, all that to execute this rescue, they were out in, um, I think Iraq, Syria, and they were looking for a particular Yazidi, young girl.
She thinks she was 10. And they located her in of course we had funding for, for that particular rescue. They came across a Russian journalist who I think was 20. And I think she was out of the Ukraine or, or Moscow. I’m not sure. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember the network getting ahold of our guy in Iraq, in country and saying, Hey, we found this girl.
ISIS had her as well. We think that we can pull her out with us. They said, but we don’t, you know, but they want, of course the money they’re saying, Hey, can we get the funding to pull her out? You know? Cause we’ve got to cover her meals, uh, rescue. To bring them back out of Syria. It usually took two to three weeks because they had to avoid ISIS.
They had to void checkpoints. They had to, they had to go from safe house, a safe house. They had to go smuggle them back in the car. I mean, it was, it was not a, not a simple thing. It wasn’t just pick them up and drive home an hour. So there was funding involved with that. There was money that had to be spent.
So these networks are going to pay out of pocket or whatever. They wanted to know if they had the money. And, um, we had the funding for this Zevi girl. And I remember that. My guy in country got the call. And then he calls me here in the U S and he says, Hey, the network came across a Russian journalist is being held captive.
Do we pull her? They want to know if they can pull her. And it was a no brainer for me because I was putting myself in the position of a father. And I thought if that were my daughter and I was the data in, in the Soviet in Russia, would I want a group like ours to be out there to do the right thing? And for some reason that that whole decision was the right decision to make was of course pull her and we can worry about the money later.
You know, if you know, we didn’t have it, we said, we’ll worry about it later. But I remember that that feeling as a father, that we’re going to do everything we can for. I believe that as dads, it’s not just about doing anything for our own kids. It’s about doing everything we can for anybody that’s in need, that we have direct that we can impact directly.
And that’s it. That’s the only thing I would share with dads is it that, you know, our kids, you know, uh, I mean, and again, with special ed kids are gonna rely on dad even more. You’re right. Dad and mom. But, um, anyway, it’s at that same part, if we had that hard around for anybody in need, then that would be, that would make it, that’d be a game changer.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing it. Uh, when you asked the question, you know, do we pull her, it sounded like a rhetorical question. Why wouldn’t you,
Rolando Lopez: you know,
David Hirsch: it’s like, uh, the question is sort of being framed as an economic question, you know, do we have the verses right. And the sad reality, right?
It’s just that, you know, it costs money to do these things and there’s some risk involved. You don’t think about those things. The average person doesn’t think about it in those terms, because like you said, of course it’s the right.
Rolando Lopez: The more, the more, the more men that are doing that to stand up for the vulnerable, you know, and the weak and the defenseless assist, you know, uh, I think, uh, evil is put down when, when we have more gas Stanhope,
David Hirsch: Yeah, well from your lips to God’s ears, um, and God does have a special place for people who are doing his work right.
And, you know, taking the risks and not being focused on what is in their best self-interest, but in the interest of others. So thank you for the work that you do, sir. If somebody wants to learn more about the freedom shield foundation, AFR RJ, uh, kids against hunger, uh, contact you. What’s the best way to do that.
Rolando Lopez: Uh, our, our website is, is freedom. Shield foundation.com. They can get ahold of us directly through there. They can reach us on Instagram, Facebook, the same, the same way, you know, anything that comes our way for AFR, JV kids against hunger. We were a satellite for kids against hunger. So we kind of parked that under our nonprofit as well.
So we can make sure everybody gets w we can set it where it needs to go, whatever. RO
David Hirsch: thank you for taking the time in many insights. As a reminder, rose this one of the dads who’s part of the special fathers network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation, your own, please go to 21st century dads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the special fathers network data dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know. The 21st century dads foundation is a 5 0 1 C. Not-for-profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free, to all concerned.
Would you please consider making a taxable contribution? I would really appreciate your. RO. Thanks
Rolando Lopez: again. Thank you, David. Pleasure to be here
Tom Couch: and thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the special fathers network. The special father’s network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process.
New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great one. Bothers to support fathers go to 21st century dads dot.
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