◆ Tyler Schwab continues to battle child trafficking.
After seeing first-hand the exploitation that took place in Latin American countries while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints more than a decade ago, Tyler Schwab formed Gifts of Grace, a foundation to aid those victims of sexual abuse.
In recent years, Gifts of Grace has been renamed Libertas International where their mission statement is based on prevention and intervention for survivors of human trafficking in Latin America.
“I learned of the power wielded by rich men from Europe and the United States who travel to these developing countries and abuse these vulnerable women and children,” Schwab said in a recent interview with the Weekday Wakeup. “It wasn’t something I could just sit and let happen so the foundation is to help support those who had been victimized by this. Throughout time it has evolved and expanded and has been involved with the justice, prevention and intervention and our goal is to aid in the aftercare of those survivors in these situations.”
Libertas International provides aftercare and legitimate learning opportunities for these young women and girls. It has also worked hand in hand with other organizations which puts boots on the ground to find, track and bring these men to justice.
“A lot of our staff is local [to those countries] so we employ a lot of the people who live in these countries and we invest in those who can create change from the inside out,” Schwab added.
Unfortunately it is a battle that is only gaining more importance with every day. This week Schwab is flying to Austin, Texas to attend court where authorities are sentencing Michael Roberts, a man Schwab and others have been following for more than a year and half.
“This case is very special to me,” he said. “They are very brave women and girls. A young woman, 14 years old, was raped by an American school teacher named Michael Roberts. After she was raped by this man he fled the country and she was going to get sent to a shelter in Medellin, Colombia. She told a police officer and didn’t know what to do. He directed her to us once she was able to leave that shelter. She kept this piece of paper with my Wyoming area code on it between her toes and in her armpit to save it so she could use it once she left that shelter.”
At that point we got her some therapy and some medical care and some access that Libertas can offer. We also made a connection with her and the law.”
From there, officials tracked Roberts to Austin where he was working as a teacher in an all-girl school. Local government from the U.S. flew to Colombia for interviews which identified three girls including one with special needs.
“This week I’m traveling to watch his sentencing,” Schwab said. “We’re hoping for a sentence of 25-plus years. We’re hoping his assets will be seized and redistributed and I am reading a letter from this girl in court on her behalf.”
Getting involved with Libertas is easy and every dollar helps. In fact, much of what this foundation is able to do is built on small and consistent donations from the Star Valley area. Libertas has a specific goal for this Mothers Day.
“Donations are always our biggest need,” Schwab added. “We thrive on donations and monthly support. We have a Mothers Day special that is specific to survivors who are tricked into taking a job and then that job was a big lie and they are forced into human trafficking. So many of these survivors are mothers. Our goal is to reunite ten mothers with their children. Each flight is somewhere between $350 and $500 and we’re working toward providing ten of those.”
Donations can be made at libertasfreedom.org as well as on Venmo @libertasfreedom.org.
Libertas International is also on Instagram and Facebook where they share the latest news.
“A lot of generosity of Star Valley and the area keep us going and we continue to ask for that generosity,” Schwab concluded.