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February 28, 2012
JOHN DONVAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Neal Conan is away. You've heard the story before of human sex trafficking as a form of modern slavery. It is real, and it is widespread, and it is not going away. But neither is a much broader category of industries known to use enslavement in order to make profits, and it's not just brothels, it can be a nail salon, a restaurant, a farm.
It can even be and has been that young person knocking on your door selling magazines. He's pleasant, he's clearly working, but he's also making no money, and he cannot escape that situation; he is a slave.
Law enforcement and state legislators are working on the problem. They have bills to strengthen penalties against traffickers on the move in West Virginia and in Florida, but it's actually so prevalent that they need other eyes and ears, like yours, to spot this happening, not that it's necessarily an easy thing to do. And who is so sure that they can actually recognize slavery of this type and then go and report it?
Well, we're going to start with the story of a woman who did just that in just a moment, but have you seen this in your community, and if so, what did you do? Tell us your story. Our number is 800-989-8255. Our email is email@example.com. And you can also join the conversation at our website. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Later on in the program, Laura Vanderkam joins us. She wants you to know that you're not really quite as busy as you say you are. But first, we're joined by Sandy Shepherd. She is a resident of Colleyville, Texas, and she picked up the phone one day after she suspected something fishy in a very unlikely place: a boys' choir from Zambia performing in her community near Dallas. She joins us on the phone from her home in Colleyville, Texas. Sandy, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.
SANDY SHEPHERD: Thank you very much.
DONVAN: So Sandy, a boys' choir performing, and you suspect something, something is very wrong there. What did you see?
SHEPHERD: Well, I was associated first of all with a choir that was from 1996 to 1998, and we recognized that the boys had been promised to be paid for their work, that their families were going to be getting money, that they were going to get an education and that the money that they earned was going to be building a school in their community in Zambia.
And what we realized was that none of this was happening, and they had not had any TB of HIV testing at that time, and one of the boys actually came down with active tuberculosis. And so we began to notify people and try to get help for these kids, even talking to the FBI.
DONVAN: And did people want to hear you on this? Were they hearing you on it?
SHEPHERD: They were listening, but even the FBI said, you know, they weren't shackled, they weren't chained. They were free to walk in the area out in the country where they were being housed while they were on tour. But we knew that they were being exploited and couldn't get anybody to believe that in 1996 through 1998.
DONVAN: Well, one of the young men who was in that choir, who actually with your help escaped that situation, and we'll get into that, but one of those young men is actually able to join us now. Given Kachepa is online with us where he is now actually in a life that has evolved dramatically for the better, in dental school. Given, welcome to the program.
GIVEN KACHEPA: Thank you for having me. I'm glad to be here.