Order of Malta

Knights Hospitaller

Order of Malta, American Association

Anti-Human Trafficking Ministry

At the Board of Councillors Meeting on September 22, 2021, President Peter J. Kelly, MD, GCM, announced to board members the funding of a new anti-human trafficking ministry. Dr. Kelly stated that this new endeavor fulfills one of the key initiatives he had challenged the Order of Malta, American Association to develop upon beginning his role as president. 

A gift of $250,000 has already been received from Deborah O’Hara-Rusckowski, RN, DM, and her husband, Steve Rusckowski for this effort. In addition, they have pledged a matching grant of $250,000 for gifts received from other donors for this effort; commitments for $150,000 have already been received. These specific gifts from Deborah and Steve are in direct response to the Order of Malta, American Association’s Called to Serve Capital Campaign. We hope these funds will encourage and support the involvement of American Association members in this ministry to eradicate human trafficking, which Pope Francis considers a crime against humanity. 

Deborah O’Hara-Rusckowski, RN, DM, Speaks on EWTN About the Evil of Human Trafficking

It is estimated that there are approximately 40 million persons worldwide who are trafficked.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), there is $150 billion in illicit profits as a direct result of human trafficking. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a recent spike in child sex trafficking. Traffickers moved their “business” from the streets to social media, where young children continue to spend their time due to being isolated and bored at home, while parents deal with illness, job loss, and financial stress as a result of the pandemic. The funds raised for this new ministry have been restricted within the Malta Human Service Foundation’s 501(c)3. We hope to see these funds jumpstart the following activities throughout the American Association.


Focus is on the training of healthcare providers. Training will also be provided to anyone who wishes to learn more about human trafficking, especially Order of Malta members who wish to volunteer in this area. Education is key to knowing best approaches to communicate with those who have experienced trauma.


Victims of human trafficking have unique needs to heal and recover. There is a SEVERE shortage of safe homes for human trafficking victims. We will work with churches and dioceses to repurpose some of their unused properties and buildings to create more safe homes for trafficked victims.


We will work with the Homeland Security’s Center to Counter Human Trafficking (CCHT) in Washington, DC, which provides training to the FBI and local and regional law enforcement.


No one organization can do it alone! We need help from many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and others with special expertise.

We expect these initial funds raised for the Called to Serve Capital Campaign to soon amount to $1 million. Over time, we expect to create a long-term endowment that will not only be sustainable, but have the potential to replicate the model of Catholic healthcare clinics, which provide resources for human trafficking victims and their children in safe homes.

A small Advisory Committee will oversee all work and grant recipient requests.

Dr. Peter Kelly, MD, GCM, President of the Order of Malta, American Association

Deborah O’Hara-Rusckowski, RN, DM, Delegate and Special Advisor on Human Trafficking to the Ambassador for the Order of Malta Mission to the United Nations

Heather Fischer, current Senior Advisor for Human Rights Crimes for Thomson Reuter Special Services; former Human Trafficking Czar and Special Advisor from the Department of Justice to the White House; Senior Policy Advisor on Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation to the Executive Office of the President, including Office of Economic Initiatives and National Security Council; former Special Advisor to Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking in Persons at the US State Department

“As we step out of the quiet phase of our Capital Campaign and introduce the campaign to all American Association members. I am excited about this type of leadership-driven giving, which addresses chronic needs in our society on a major scale. This is possible only through the passionate interests of Knights and Dames and their philanthropy. We fully expect this new ministry to enable hands-on work in all of our communities, as we live our charism of serving the sick and the poor.” President Peter J. Kelly, MD, GCM

Order of Malta, American Association, U.S.A.

American Association, U.S.A
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