She Escaped Human Trafficking — Now She Helps Others

From slave to activist, Rani Hong dedicates her life to speaking on the behalf of millions of victims.

Rani Hong (second from right) and members of the Tronie Foundation gather July 30 in New York.
Rani Hong (second from right) and members of the Tronie Foundation gather July 30 in New York. (photo: Photo provided)

The tentacles of human trafficking  has stretched across the globe: 21 million people are victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation, and 60 percent are women and children. It generates $32 billion a year.

Rani Hong is a survivor of child trafficking. She is devoting her life to making sure this scourge is not ignored.

Hong was taken from her home of Kerala in southern India at 7-years-old, forced into slavery and taken to a neighboring state where she didn’t know the language. 

“There was no choice, nothing I could do,” Hong told the Register Monday, marking the fifth annual World Day Against Trafficking Persons. 

“As a child, I didn’t understand what was going on, so if an adult tells you something, you just go with them.” Within one year, she was near death, intimidated and abandoned.

“I had been beaten, starved and tortured in order to get me to submit to the will of my owner,” she wrote in her biography. 

As she was approaching her ninth birthday in 1979, Hong was too weak to be of use to her master. She was sold into illegal international adoption where she found a home with a single mother near Seattle, Washington. 

“They painted me a great picture of the United States but I was nervous, scared of the unknown,” Hong said. 

Growing up as an adopted child, she asked the who-am-I-and-where-do-I-come-from questions, which prompted her to go back to India. Hong’s biological family was told that she was dead after being sold into slavery, but 21 years later, she was fortunate to reunite with her birth mom in India. 

“It’s one of the most rewarding feelings in the world, being reunited with the woman who brought you into the world,” Hong said. “I am definitely one of the lucky few who get to be reunited with their families, and I am thankful every day for that blessing.” 

At that moment, she finally put it all together and decided to be a voice of the unknown voices. “I couldn’t believe people were getting away with this criminal activity,” she said. 

From slave to activist, Hong dedicates her life to speaking on the behalf of millions of victims. 

“As a survivor of child slavery, I know firsthand the desperation and hopelessness experienced every day by those who aren’t free,” Hong wrote in her biography. “It is my responsibility to stand up and represent the voiceless, the anonymous, and the powerless victims throughout the world.” 

Hong began her own enterprise, Rani’s Voice, to provide economic means to those without a voice. It’s active in 50 international agencies across 25 countries. 

Through this nonprofit organization, she co-founded the Tronie Foundation, a U.N.-accredited organization to end slavery and human trafficking, and Freedom Seal, a global social compliance program that aims to accredit, recognize and verify companies operating ethically in their sourcing and supply chains. 

On July 30, Hong announced at the U.N. in New York City that Freedom Seal has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS), one of the first projects of the International Social Enterprise Observatory supported by the Scottish Government.

“By fusing support for ethical supply chains with consumer advocacy, we can make significant inroads to diminish the demand for slavery,” Hong said. 

Hong never thought she would be a part of a coalition to fight against the biggest obstacle she overcame and inspires others to achieve the impossible. 

“We are bigger and stronger with this network to accomplish our goal,” said Hong. 

Hong was awarded India’s Woman of the Year in 2018 and was interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006 with her husband, Trong Hong, a refugee who escaped Vietnam’s communist army. 

Hong hopes to continue networking to improve strategies of ending slavery, with Freedom Seal being her main focus to help companies succeed in meeting national guidelines when it comes to human trafficking. 

The Church has continually stretched out her hands to guide displaced refugees and victims fallen under human trafficking to safety. 

This has been seen through the efforts of the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development’s new section for Migrants and Refugees since January 2017, whose solitary mission is to accompany those who have been forced to flee by supporting many Catholic initiatives and NGO’s.

One of these include the Human Corridors project, carried out by the Community of Sant’Egidio, that facilitates the legal entry and integration on Italian territory, with the possibility to apply for asylum.

“Mediterranea” is another initiative, launched at the beginning of this year, to give asylum seekers purpose by allowing full-reins to cultivate produce in the gardens of the St. Vincent de Paul headquarters in Rome and sell it for donations.

“If it were not for God, I would not be alive today, because I’ve been through so many hardships to get to where I am today. So I thank God for his help in my life,” said migrant, Edobor Haka. 

Pope Francis instituted the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking on St. Josephine Bakhita feast day, Feb. 8 and addressed the issue in a July 30 tweet. 

“Hear the cry of our many brothers and sisters who are criminally trafficked and exploited. They are not merchandise. They are human beings, and they must be treated as such.”

During Sunday’s Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, he called us not to remain “detached and calm spectators” of this epidemic but to live in proximity to it, by which verifies the quality of our faith, personally and in community.