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Everyday Heroes 2019: Sam Wijeyakumar

Sam Wijeyakumar
Sam Wijeyakumar

The Bible tells a story of Rahab – believed to have been a prostitute from Jericho who deceived her people in order to offer refuge to Israelite spies.

Not unlike Rahab, Sam Wijeyakumar will do whatever it takes to protect the victims of human trafficking.

“In our McHenry area, kids are being coerced on games like Fortnite and at school or parents think they’re off at band camp … but they’re actually being trafficked and brought right home,” she said.

In 2018, Wijeyakumar’s organization, Rahab’s Daughters, performed 213 rescues of human trafficking victims.

Wijeyakumar knows all too well that even seemingly well-off suburban teens are at risk.

After being trafficked as a 16-year-old runaway, it took Wijeyakumar four years to completely sever herself from the lifestyle.

When she came out on the other side, however, she and her husband spent years battling sex trafficking in Europe and the United States before founding Barrington Hills-based Rahab’s Daughters in 2015. The organization rescues victims of human trafficking and offers education, rehabilitation and shelter to help them transition back into mainstream life.

“Every girl that we make an impact on brings me joy,” she said. “Every person … while they may not be ready to leave now, they may be one day and they know there’s a place that they can go. I wish they had something like that for me.”

No matter how the abuse presents itself, Wijeyakumar knows what it is when she sees it, and she’s not afraid to put an end to it, fellow volunteer Paul Ingallinera said.

“She’s a civilian who risks her life for other people, and she doesn’t need to,” he said. “She does it because that’s what her calling is.”

Through Rahab’s Daughters, Wijeyakumar and other volunteers work with the FBI and local law enforcement to meet with human trafficking victims, remove them from abusive environments and help them plan for the future.

“She’s sort of like the local Moses of sex trafficking,” Ingallinera said. “She leads people out and she helps them transition.”

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