Monday, September 12, 2011

Challenging the 'cycle' of child trafficking

Ride2Rescue: Around the world on two wheels

Published: September 11, 2011

Four Australian men try to break the cycle of child trafficking by cycling for this cause.

ISLAMABAD: What does cycling around the world have in common with child trafficking awareness? Not very much, except that it’s an innovative way to garner public attention towards a largely neglected cause. At least, that’s the purpose of Ride2Rescue (R2R)’s maiden mission. This group of four young Australian men, consisting of Daniel Seehusen, John Clark, Tim Holman and Aaron Turner, pledged to cycle 28,000 kilometres (km) from London to Melbourne over a 14-month period. With 8,586 km behind them as they reached Islamabad on August 31, R2R is determined to spread awareness and raise funds for the cause.
R2R claim that child trafficking is the world’s “third largest industry” after weapons and prostitution. Stories of violence, kidnapping and dengue fever in Pakistan haven’t deterred the cheery, determined group from cycling through the country. “Pakistan is a place of interest for us, as it is a nation that faces the affects of human and child trafficking,” says Clark. “Children are tricked and forced into a variety of dangerous circumstances, used for cheap labour, sexually exploited or used in more unique ways such as jockeys for camel racing.”
Proceeds raised from funds will go towards child counselling centres in various countries in Asia, Africa and South America through World Vision Australia, their major supporter. Musician Sting and his wife Trudie are among recent celebrities to endorse the cause (Seehusen worked as a caregiver to their boys in London) and in a statement on the R2R website, the couple have stated, “We are proud to be able to support the amazing Ride2Rescue London to Melbourne cycle trip. Child trafficking is a global problem and one of humanity’s most terrible crimes, and one which should be exposed and tackled as a matter of urgency.”
Instead of crossing over to Balochistan (the group was rigorously interrogated at the Iran-Balochistan border and advised not to enter) as was their original intention, the cyclists had to catch a boat from Bandar Abbas in Iran to Dubai, where they caught a flight to Islamabad — a city they smilingly describe as “a different world”. Their three days in the city have included playing sports with underprivileged children, a visit to a school in a slum area and meeting local activists.
Interestingly, the group ran into a group of Dutch cyclists along the Karakorum Highway. R2R then departed on a three-day bike ride to Lahore via the Grand Trunk Road, camping along the way. They plan to remain in the city for a few days, where they are scheduled to visit a child trafficking centre, before entering India via the Wagah border. The cyclists will continue their journey through Nepal, Tibet, China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, and then continue by boat from Bali to Australia for the final leg of the cycling tour ending in their native Melbourne. Seehusen, who stopped shaving from the first day of R2R’s journey, plans to get rid of his substantial beard once they reach Melbourne to mark the occasion.
Dressed in navy polo shirts with sponsors’ logos, atop worn-out Turin bicycles (25 punctures since London and counting) laden with trusty camping gear, the cyclists have attracted curious crowds while passing through local villages from Switzerland and Serbia and across the Middle East. Clark describes the unbelievable hospitality they experienced in Turkey and Iran, where civilians “invite you to their homes for food or to sleep.”
Despite this welcome, the majority of their nights have passed cheerfully under a tent, as well as in mosques, and alongside rivers. The cyclists have no idea where they are spending their next night and remain undaunted. “Most people are blown away that we’re riding so far, it’s a bit of a laugh really. They get pretty impressed,” says Clark modestly.
Ride2Rescue receives support from World Vision Australia and welcomes donors to contribute online at

Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th,  2011.

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