STOP is lead by its founder, Celhia de Lavarene.
Celhia is a journalist by training and a humanitarian worker by conviction.
For nearly two decades, she has worked as a UN correspondent for Jeune Afrique, and for RFI (Radio France Internationale). She has interspersed her journalism with service on seven UN missions in places as diverse as Cambodia, South Africa, Eastern Slavonia, East Timor, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Liberia.
In 2001, the head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Bosnia, Jacques Paul Klein, hired Celhia to fight the sex slave trade, which was then, and still is now, rife in the Balkan region. She created the Special Trafficking Operations Program – also known as S.T.O.P. and built a unit of 250 local and international police officers, which she led for nearly two years, until the UN mission ended. It was the first-ever such operation by the UN. S.T.O.P. identified more than 3000 victims, most of them from Eastern Europe, and was able to rescue about 300 of them. The program shut down hundreds of bars and clubs used in the trade and provided victims with counseling.
Celhia de Lavarene
A Visa to Hell
In March 2004, Ambassador Klein hired Celhia, this time in Liberia where he was running the peacekeeping mission. Once again, she was brought in to fight human trafficking. She found young girls from across Eastern Europe, Asia and North Africa. Their passports had been confiscated and they had been locked up in rooms, drugged, beaten and forced into prostitution. The youngest was a 14 year old girl from Sierra Leone. She had been kidnapped and sold to serve as a sex slave.
Celhia’s book about her experiences fighting human trafficking, “Un Visa Pour L’enfer” (‘A Visa to Hell’), was published in France in October 2006 by Fayard, and in April 2008 in Brazil. A new version of the book was published April 9th by Flammarion in the collection “J’ai Lu”.
The book is currently only available in French. Stay connected with us to be the first to hear about when other languages become available.
Celhia de Lavarene
The Stars had deserted the sky
In October 2016, Célhia published "The Stars had deserted the sky" to Balland editions. The book is a travel diary in which the author leads the reader behind the scenes of several UN peacekeeping missions. She recounts her disappointments, points out the excesses, the nonsense and the absurdities she was confronted with during some missions. But she also talks about her encounters with some unusual characters who have deeply moved her.
HISTORY OF STOP
STOP is an outgrowth of a United Nations anti-trafficking unit that went by the same acronym (Special Trafficking Operations Program). The experiences in Bosnia and Liberia led to the realization that sex trafficking across borders is a global problem, and that rescuing victims is not enough as local authorities frequently treat many of those rescued, as criminals or immigration law breakers.
Celhia and her team found that without effective support networks once they return home, rescuees are extremely vulnerable to being re-victimized by the same criminal organizations that first captured them. Upon the cessation of the Liberian operation, Celhia and two of the senior international police officers decided to build on this experience by launching Stop Trafficking Of People Inc, an organization that would tackle the issue comprehensively.
Our staff is comprised first and foremost of groups of international police officers- from countries as diverse as the UK, China, France, Ukraine, Ireland, Jordan, Russia and the United States- who gained on-the-ground experience combating human trafficking in their native countries and as members of the United Nations teams that deployed to the Balkans and West-Africa.
They stand ready to take a leave of absence from their national police forces to work with STOP for two years or more. They have seen the damage to victims first-hand and have been inspired to dedicate themselves full-time to combating human trafficking for sexual exploitation and to helping victims after their rescue.