Proud of East Texas: Rebecca Pratt

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Starving children in the country of Benin shocked Rebecca and Tim Pratt when they arrived in the West African country for their jobs with Mercy Ships.

"What really affected us was the orphan children and how really discarded they were in the different areas, particularly in Benin. That was our biggest entrance into a country where children were starving and there were wealthy people around but no one really seemed alarmed by starving children."

If there were people who didn't notice the plight of Benin's children, Rebecca wasn't one of them. Their situation tore at her heart and she determined to do something about it.

One of the biggest obstacles to change was the culture of the area.

According to UNICEF, there are over 200,000 children trafficked annually in West Africa, and Benin is the capital of the trafficking.

"So when a child becomes an orphan, they believe it's the will of the gods that they become orphans, says Pratt."

Orphan status meant slavery by relatives and it isn't just the orphans who are used as slaves.

"What we found out was that in villages where mothers have four or five children they can't feed them all and so they will actually send away of the children to work for their keep."

While 'sending them away' may be the term used by the mothers, some as young as five, are actually being sold into slavery.

"The traffickers promise them a hundred dollars a year for that child, they usually see the hundred dollars the first year and never see it again."

The Pratt's found it shocking that the lives of these children weren't valued more and they spent many sleepless nights worrying about the situation.

"We just could not do something with the sleepless nights we were having."

The Pratts knew that to change the lives of the children, they would have to change the culture of the country. They didn't know how to do that but it finally boiled down to faith.

"God guides and leads us according to what he wants us to accomplish and do. He just brought people into our path, different friends that came into our path and said we want to help you do this and just empowered us to accomplish and do."

And so Orphan Relief and Rescue was born. Concentrating on Benin and Liberia.

In Liberia, the group worked with the government to cut out the graft in their orphanage system.

In Benin, their anti-trafficking initiative has rescued children from slavery, provided a safe place for them to heal, prevented children from being trafficked in the first place and empowered families with microloans so they wouldn't have to sell their children.

"I wrote my book about five years ago."

Rebecca's book "Inspired to Action" traces her journey in founding and expanding Orphan Relief and Rescue.

Their efforts are funded by public donations.

Although it did seem an impossible task at first, Rebecca Pratt and Orphan Relief and Rescue are indeed changing the world.

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