I was introduced to the reality of sex trafficking during a trip to India in 2008 with a mentor of mine. At the tail end of this trip, we were invited to visit an Indian NGO that was helping women and children escape from brothels and start new lives. We visited several of their safe homes as well as their vocational training center where we learned about the work they were doing to combat this pressing global issue. It was truly inspiring.
A few months later, in the summer of 2008, myself and a group of friends decided to turn our summer mountain climbing trip into a fundraiser to fight trafficking. We called it Climb for Captives. Much to our surprise, our campaign exceeded the goal, and others asked if they could do a Climb for Captives campaign. What started as a one-off campaign has become a global movement that has continued to grow in impact. Each year, a growing number of friends use their mountain climbs to raise funds and awareness to fight trafficking. Collectively, those climbs have raised over $2 million dollars to combat human trafficking.
In 2012, after years of raising funds and diving deep into the issue of human trafficking, a group of us decided to launch Atlas Free (formerly Rescue:Freedom).
In the eleven years since, we have seen thousands of women and children set free from human trafficking all around the world. What started with a small group of friends deciding to take action with a simple summer adventure has continued to ripple around the world. We’ve seen thousands of individuals—who don’t necessarily want to climb mountains—use their passions, hobbies, and talents to join the fight. From hikes, bike rides and marathons, to bake sales, boutiques, and birthday parties, everyday abolitionists are rising up and joining Atlas Free in opposition to the exploitation of others.
This year marks the 15 year anniversary of Climb for Captives where it all began. And after all these years, I’m still constantly inspired by three things: the courageous survivors who overcome all odds, live bold and beautiful lives, and pave the way for so many to live in freedom. The incredible people who dedicate their lives and careers to combatting this injustice with unrelenting faith, boldness, and hope. And the radically generous souls who leverage their day jobs, resources, passions, skills and creativity to advance the cause of justice and to become modern day abolitionists.
It’s true that human trafficking remains a massive global problem. In fact, it is still said to be the fastest growing criminal enterprise on the planet. But amidst the daunting and sinister nature of this global crime, there are incredible stories of hope and beauty. I have a statement on the wall of my office that says “It is not the injustice that drives us; it is the magnitude of hope.” We are a passionate bunch… and we are filled with hope. Our mission is gaining momentum all around the world. But we can’t do it alone. We need people willing to link arms to fight human trafficking and push slavery into the shadows of history. We need you.