When Pat Bradley set foot in the east/central African nation of South Sudan in 2000, he didn’t anticipate that the sight of its struggling communities would set his soul ablaze. However, like a spark that starts a flame, a light was created in the darkness that day – and it’s called Crisis Aid International.
“At that point in time, I had been to I don’t know how many countries, but I had never seen anything or experienced anything like that at all,” says Bradley, who founded Crisis Aid, which was officially incorporated in 2002. “I made a decision that we can’t do nothing. That led to our first trip, which was basically taking a 2-pound bag of rice to 4,000 people about five months after that trip, and that’s how Crisis Aid actually began – just delivering relief supplies in war zones. And it all started out with a 2-pound bag of rice.”
Now, nearly 19 years later, Crisis Aid not only has provided more than 17.8 million pounds of food – serving approximately 2.6 million malnourished adults and children – but also has organically broadened its umbrella of offerings.
“We do so many different projects,” Bradley says. “We have orphanages; we do pediatric clinics and large food programs; we have job-creation programs in East Africa. We are also very much involved in [abolishing] sex trafficking here and in East Africa.”
Sex trafficking is a major issue that Bradley hadn’t initially intended to take on.
“We were in East Africa, and we were talking to a guy who was helping kids who were living on the street,” Bradley says. “He told us about this whole red-light district, and I asked him if he could take us there. That night, we went down there, and it was like walking in hell.”
Bradley still remembers the specific young girl who inspired the entire arm of the organization.
“It was unlike anything any of us had ever seen,” Bradley recalls. “I looked at her, and I asked her if she wanted to leave, and she said, ‘Yeah.’ As I’m asking this question, in the back of my mind, I’m going like, ‘What am I talking about?’ because I had no plan for any of this. … As we were walking out, the thought crosses my mind – what are we going to do with her? But because this young girl said yes, the whole field of sex-trafficking [prevention] for Crisis Aid just literally exploded right there.”
Crisis Aid now has two homes for survivors of sex trafficking – one in St. Louis and another abroad – and has helped more than 1,800 victims receive services.
“Saving lives, saving souls, changing futures – that is our vision now and for everything we do,” Bradley says. “Everything we do fits under all of those things.”
Crisis Aid International, 5427 Telegraph Road, St. Louis, 314-487-1400, crisisaid.org
Click to read: Cindy Malott began as a volunteer with Crisis Aid International. Fast-forward several years later, and she is now leading its first children’s anti-exploitation partnership program.
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