My name is Keaton Calhoun and I am currently a junior at the University of Arkansas! Some of my favorite things include art, rock climbing, and my dog, Shadow.
Now, as you may have guessed, my new favorite thing is fighting sex trafficking.
Before hearing about Pedal the Pacific in the summer of 2018, I had no idea that sex trafficking existed. My dad runs a non-profit foundation for a living, so I grew up constantly attending volunteer events and working with local non-profits in the Dallas area. I felt like I already knew everything there was to know about service and helping others. After finding out the reality of the sex trafficking industry, I was absolutely shocked by how underserved this issue was. I was confused at how, after all my years volunteering, this one particular issue managed to slip by unnoticed.
After finding out about it, I could not sit still. I thought to myself. “I have to do this.” “These girls are worth everything. Who am I to just stand by while sex trafficking is happening right now?” I was astonished that I had never heard of this issue before but knew that I had to do something about it.
There is still so much I don’t know about this issue, but I’m learning. I am able to share what I’m learning with others, every day. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to both learn and teach, and to fight for the girls that are being exploited in this awful industry. I now take every chance I can get to inform others that this is happening.
As absurd as it might sound, I absolutely adore using a bicycle to start a conversation about sex trafficking. While training, anytime someone comments on my bike I say “Thanks! Let me tell you how I got it!” There is really nothing better. Each conversation I have makes a difference. Each conversation creates more warriors to fight this fight. The same can go for you too! Whether you have known about sex trafficking for a while now or you are just now learning like me, you can make difference every day. Start conversations and spread the word! We can create a chain reaction, ultimately working together to end sex trafficking.
If you were wondering if I’m nervous about hopping on a bike this summer and riding 1,700 miles down the West Coast, the answer is yes! I’m terrified! But that makes it all the worthwhile. This will definitely not be the most glamourous summer of my life (and most likely the least), but that’s the point. We are making a statement. We aren’t doing this for the fun of it. We are doing it to make a difference and stand up for what we believe in. The girls of The Refuge – past, present, and future – are all worth it. We ride for them and all the other girls around the world who are affected by sex trafficking. Each time I feel discouraged, I am reminded of why we ride, and I am fired up all over again. We are stepping out of comfort zones to do something crazy and get people’s attention. Shedding a light on sex trafficking and advocating for change. And I think that’s pretty special.
Fighting sex trafficking is a team effort. We should see this issue, but then do something about it by teaching others and spreading the word. The girls of Pedal the Pacific that came before me taught me of the reality of sex trafficking, and now I’m teaching you. I hope you’ll tell somebody about it too.
So, here’s to learning, then teaching others!