June 1, 2012 Volume 26, Number 06
Business venture aids trafficking victims
Former pastor provides source of income for former sex workers
By Aaron Epp | Senior Correspondent
Photo credit: slambo_42 via Flickr
WINNIPEG, MBA pastor-turned-businessman is helping in the fight against human trafficking with a new business venture.
Gerhard Rattai launched Two and One Half Miles in May. The business sells products made by victims of human trafficking so that they can make an income after leaving the world of sex slavery.
Two and One Half Miles works as a middleman between consumers and what Rattai calls "R3 organizations" organizations that rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate human trafficking victims. R3 organizations produce the products, and Two and One Half Miles is aiming to get those products in mainstream retail stores, increase the market for these products and raise awareness about them.
Before working on this business venture, Rattai worked with his father's construction company. Prior to that, he was a Pentecostal pastor for 20 years. Rattai is also involved with Mobilizing Men, an organization dedicated to stopping the demand for human trafficking and the sex slave trade.
"Our main goal with both entities is to platform R3 organizations and parade the amazing people who lead these organizations," Rattai says. "Without those leaders there is no hope for sex slaves. But with these organizations and these leaders risking their lives…and risking their own safety, they are rescuing and drying the eyes and bandaging the wounds of these abused people."
Human trafficking is an annual $30 billion industry, says David Martin, the communications director for Two and One Half Miles. The idea behind the business is to "harness the power of commerce" instead of asking people to give donations. Consumers are given the opportunity to buy products whose sale directly helps trafficking victims.
"When you go to buy a shirt for example, you can maybe go buy a polo shirt, a Tommy Hilfiger shirt or a Two and One Half Miles shirt," Rattai says. "When you buy [our] shirt, you know that you are employing a survivor of the sex slave trade, and 80 per cent of the net proceeds from the sale go back to the R3 organizations." The remaining 20 per cent goes to "product and market development."
Two and One Half Miles takes its name from the length of a petition that began in England in 1885. More than 393,000 signatures were collected and delivered to the British House of Parliament, demanding an end to human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Victorian England. It took eight men to carry the petition into the House.
Rattai has already partnered with organizations in Bangkok, Thailand and the U.S. He is planning to have products available by the end of July.
"This can make such a global difference for those organizationsthat's what it's about. For us, our focus is R3 leadership and workers," Rattai says. "We're not focusing on the perpetrators or the pimps or the slave masters, and we're not concentrating on the victims. Our concentration is on the leadership of the R3s, because they are the ones that save the victims."