Photo Credit: The FreeTHEM Walk
Meet The Woman Walking 902 Miles To End Human Trafficking, After Her Own Close Call
Kelly Diane Galloway was walking out of Himalayan Java Coffee, a popular restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal, when she was approached by two men. They asked whether she wanted to go to a club but Galloway declined. That’s when things got uncomfortable.
“When I gave him resistance, he was like ‘Who do you think you’re talking to? You’re coming with us.'” recalled Galloway.
She immediately ran back into the restaurant and called the hostel where she was staying. They promptly sent someone to accompany her back to the accommodation. As she recounted the story, Galloway asked who these men were.
“They said, those are the men that buy and sell women. And if you would have gone with them, you probably would not have ever seen your family again.”
Human trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
It is a $150 billion industry. The issue is not exclusive to overseas. Since the global COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been an increase in the number of human trafficking cases in the United States. California has consistently produced the highest human trafficking rates in the United States, with 1,507 cases reported in 2019.
Galloway is a traveling missionary and founder of the international humanitarian organization RAMP Global Missions, which rescues and offers safe homes for exploited sex and labor victims. Part of the RAMP initiative is Project Mona’s House, western New York’s first and only human trafficking restoration home for women. Project Mona’s House and the new FreeThem Center have partnered to raise funds and awareness for human trafficking victims with a 902-mile FreeTHEM Walk. The goal is one million dollars. The walk started on May 3rd in Lynchburg, Virginia, and will culminate in Buffalo, New York on June 19th.
The selection of Buffalo as the final stop was intentional and a nod to Black history.
“Freedom seekers in the past knew that if they could get to Buffalo, that they could be free,” Galloway explained to Travel Noire during the walk, just outside of New Jersey. “They knew that because, they knew that Canada was right within walking distance. I can walk to Canada from my house. And so I think that Buffalo has the rich legacy of being a beacon of light to those who are enslaved.”
Walking is the method of choice because Galloway says that fighting human trafficking is not a solo mission. It’s akin to the abolishment of slavery in which everyday people banded together in opposition and stood firm in their conviction.
“We know that network to be called the networks of freedom, aka the Underground Railroad. Right now, my team and I are walking 902 miles on the Underground Railroad, as an attempt to light up the path to freedom and as an attempt to say, ‘listen, we need to resurrect a new Underground Railroad.'”
Together with 14 official freedom walkers, Galloway has had some powerful experiences on the journey; particularly at The Johnson House in Germantown, Philadelphia.
“Harriet Tubman slept in that house,” said Galloway. “She walked on these floorboards. They haven’t changed much in there and when you walk in, you feel a sense of safety and peace.”
Movements like these have been Galloway’s life calling ever since she felt “led to go to India” after about 40 days of prayer and fasting. There she established a children’s home for orphans and victims of religious persecution. As of right now, they have housed 100 children in India, 270 in Nepal, and 17 in Guatemala at no cost. Galloway started working with adults after participating in a program in Thessaloniki, Greece. There she met Ramona, a victim of human trafficking who left the Dominican Republic in search of a better job in Turkey. Instead, she was forced to work in a brothel. Her unwavering faith and positivity in the face of adversity is what prompted Galloway to start Mona’s House. She also received help from an unlikely source. One of her best friends, celebrity hairstylist Derick Monroe, connected her to his client Whoopi Goldberg after a visit to The View. Goldberg instructed her assistant James to give Galloway the support that she needed.
“I contacted James, and we arranged something to happen. My father and I got in a big truck, and we drove to New York City, and Whoopi Goldberg furnished almost everything minus the beds. She furnished our very first Mona’s House. And then even after that, we just get random boxes. Sometimes it’s just little things. Whenever I call Derick, and she’s around, she always says things that are just super encouraging, like ‘Kelly, just let me know if you need anything and keep up the good fight.'”
And Galloway certainly has a lot of fight left in her.
Even as she makes the trek to Buffalo, she is thinking of a future that includes plans for more specialized houses. Each will be named after people who have had a profound impact on her life. Archie’s House will be named after her grandfather who fought in World War II. Dorothy’s House will be a tribute to her aunt who was afflicted with cerebral palsy. Diane’s House, named after another aunt and namesake will shelter people who are unhoused. Bobby’s house will be a restoration home for those suffering from PTSD and substance abuse like her uncles did after serving in the military. And finally, Kelly’s Port will be a home for children within and aging out of the foster care system.
In the meantime, she is continuing to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk as well to combat an ongoing social scourge.
“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Kelly, do you feel like this journey is worth it?’ It’s more than worth it. I mean, there are so many people that have been asking, how can we help fight human trafficking? How can we join a network for freedom? How can we be a part of this underground railroad? And what can we do? Those are the questions that we want people to start asking because I’m telling you together, I really believe that we can end modern-day slavery. We can end human trafficking.”