The United Nations defines child trafficking as the recruitment, transportation or receipt of children with the purpose of exploiting them. Victims of child trafficking are often sold for as little as $10 into prostitution, factory labor or servitude in private homes or as soldiers in war zones.
An estimated 100,000 children and women are trafficked each year in Indonesia, according to Unicef. United Nation statistics say the underlying causes of child trafficking include poverty and lack of economic opportunities, the low social status of girls, high demand for commercial sex and cheap labor, weak law enforcement, discrimination and conflict. Child trafficking has been called one of the most profitable industries worldwide, ranking alongside the gun and drug trades.
In an effort to increase global awareness and raise money to fight child exploitation, abuse and trafficking, four young Australians have embarked on the “Ride2Rescue” project, riding bicycles from London to their homes in Melbourne. The group started the Indonesian leg of its journey on Saturday.
“It’s for a good cause while traveling back to Melbourne,” said Ride2Rescue cyclist John Clark at a recent gathering at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.
Over the course of their epic ride, Clark, along with friends Aaron Turner, Daniel Seehusen and Tim Holman, will collect donations for World Vision Australia’s Child Rescue Program. Child Rescue raises funds for both the rehabilitation and support of children who are either at risk or have been victims of exploitation.
The program also supports the rehabilitation of child soldiers in Central America, provides health support to homeless children throughout South America and educates children in war-torn regions of the Middle East.
“After working overseas and locally for aid agencies, this is the issue that has moved me the most,” Holman said. “To be given the opportunity to make such a difference is a privilege and I will do everything I can to draw attention and education to this issue.”
The group also intends to make a documentary chronicling both its journey and the harsh realities of child trafficking around the world.
“[My purpose is] to undertake a massive physical challenge and promote a cause in Child Rescue that underlines how lucky we are in some countries to be born into relative safety and opportunity,” Turner said. “Plus, I will be able to eat as much as I want for eight months.”
The Ride2Rescue route will ultimately cover 26,000 kilometers through 27 countries before participants reach their final destination in Melbourne. The epic ride kicked off in London in late April last year, and is expected to cross the finish line in June.
So far, riders have cycled through France, Belgium, Austria, Slovakia, Serbia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal and China, as well as several countries in Southeast Asia, where the team recruited three additional riders.
Nick “Kaney” Kane rode with Ride2Rescue from Laos to Cambodia; Kathryn Audsley rode from Cambodia and ended in Singapore; and Karina Ottosen cycled from Cambodia to Thailand.
The different time zones, adjusting to the local climate and efforts to document the trip by updating their Web site and Facebook page are among the challenges the group has had to overcome.
“We went up the hills and the high cliffs in India, and cycled in the extremely hot weather in Iran,” Turner said. “Every country has their own challenges. In Bangladesh, traffic is crazy.”
Despite the challenges, the group just arrived in Indonesia, the 26th country on the trek before they reach Australia, where they will ride almost 4,000 kilometers from Darwin to Melbourne.
“We are and have been pretty fit in general, and long before we started this project,” Seehusen said. “We have had no serious problems so far.”
When asked whether they quarreled during their long and exhausting travels together, the Ride2Rescue team amazingly answered no.
“Not really,” Seehusen said. “Even if we did, we pretty much were able to take it easy.”
Indonesia was one of the most anticipated destinations for the group because it is still rife with child trafficking issues. Heavy tourism regions such as Bali and post-conflict regions and resettlement villages for refugees who fled war-torn areas are among the areas most vulnerable to child exploitation. Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Kuta in Bali are included in the group’s route through the country.
“In Kuta the riders will be meeting with several contacts who have offered to show them a side of Bali that is much darker than the one the average tourist will see,” the Ride2Rescue Web Site said. “The world of child sex trafficking is still rife in Bali, and it is here that the team will try their most daring attempts in order to gather footage to take to Australia.”
Ride2Rescue has gained remarkable support from people across the globe, including superstar couple Sting and Trudie Styler.
“We are proud to be able to support the amazing Ride2Rescue London to Melbourne cycle trip,” Sting and Trudie said on the team’s Web site.
“We have known Daniel Seehusen for almost a year now, and for him to be part of such an ambitious adventure comes as no surprise, because he has such tremendous drive, energy, self-assurance and a genuinely big heart.”
Child trafficking, the couple said, is a global problem, and one of humanity’s most terrible crimes that urgently needs to be exposed.
“We applaud these guys for their commitment to this cause, and wish them all the luck in the world,” they said.
Donations can be made to Child Rescue directly for logistical support for the Ride2Rescue odyssey. Funds will cover costs for transportation, emergency services and basic daily expenses. Any unspent money will be given to Child Rescue upon completion of the project.
For more information on the project, go to www.Ride2Rescue.org.
Upon completion of the journey, Ride2Rescue expects to have reached 20,000 “likes” on its Facebook page. Please visit the group’s Facebook page and “like” it at www.facebook.com/ride2rescue.
Donations for Child Rescue can also be made via the Web site.