It was in 2006 at Creek Valley Middle School that a mutual friend introduced me to the lanky girl from Littleton, Colorado with teeth protruding every which way. I almost instantly noticed that Savannah Lovelace was different. She had an unconditional joy and compassion that she lavished on those around her. Her loyalty, steadfastness, and abounding grace rang true throughout the next 10 years and allowed me to experience the power of hope through our friendship. Our relationship has been the catalyst for both of us to realize our passion for ushering freedom and hope to people that have none.
Little did we know, it was also in 2006 that human trafficking became globally recognized for the first time. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) created the first global report on human trafficking (Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns), occurring within 137 countries. The transportation of men, women, and children for the explicit use of sex and labor in the modern day is done underground. It is totally hidden, and is therefore extremely difficult to track and measure. This 2006 report was monumental because it was the first time the world attempted to fill this knowledge gap and started taking strides towards awareness and change. They estimated that 600,000 - 800,000 people were being trafficked. While we were running laps around the gym and making awkward videos on iMovie, an unspeakable horror was occurring in the crevices of our world and slowly creeping to the surface.
As our friendship progressed over time, so did the issue of human slavery, but it wasn’t until we pursued separate collegiate experiences that we both realized the magnitude of it all. After seeking counseling through a previous experience with sexual abuse, I started researching how this injustice exhibits itself throughout the world today and found a horrific amount of information and statistics on exploitation the industry of sex. Savannah, through her studies of International Relations and trips abroad, developed her heart for poverty-stricken individuals. As she studied the causes and effects of poverty, she discovered that unfortunately, the victims of modern day slavery are most often those who are in the most vulnerable positions. Those who must flee their homes due to crises, are stateless, face discrimination, or are religiously or sexually persecuted. It is due to their lack of security and opportunity that traffickers exploit their situations. Although our stories are different, our stance is one in the same. We will no longer be passive about this injustice.
It is 2017 now - just over 10 years later - and the global estimate of trafficking victims varies between 20 and 45 million people. In just a decade, the number of victims grew from thousands to millions. Now, this very well could be because the information on the issue has grown exponentially over the years - in which case the 2006 victim report was an underestimate. The numbers are gut-wrenching and heart-breaking no matter the case.
"In just a decade, the number of victims grew from thousands to millions..."
If the numbers have multiplied that greatly, where will they be another 10 years from now? How many more will be victimized until people start paying attention? These victims are not strangers. They are mothers, fathers, children, friends. They are someone's best childhood friend from Creek Valley with crooked truth protruding every which way.. and if they were yours, wouldn't you want someone fighting for freedom on their behalf?
These numbers can be extremely discouraging, but we have to refuse to let them grow. To this day, raising awareness is one of the most crucial steps to any anti-trafficking strategy. This is the point of Pedal the Pacific. Our bikes are just accessories; shiny objects that cause people to squint their eyes, raise their eyebrows, and ask us questions. They allow us to quickly get to the root of what we’re really riding for: to shed light on an issue that is happening in the shadows. Alongside other passionate individuals, local governments, NGO’s, and dedicated non-profits (like the two incredible organizations we’ve chosen to financially support), we want to help secure the foundation of a movement that turns heads and shifts policies.
You don’t have to ride. You don’t have to donate. We just ask that you join us in refusing to let this issue go unnoticed. Join us in refusing to let the numbers rise.