Anti-Slavery Activists Raise Awareness by Biking and Hiking to the Grand Canyon

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A group of cyclists are riding from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and back. The 450-mile ride and 20 mile hike will take 8 days, from March 24th - 31st. The event is intended to raise awareness and money to fight against human trafficking, or modern day slavery. Organizers spent 2007 traveling around the world working in over a dozen impoverished countries. They saw global issues firsthand. Upon returning to the U.S., they were compelled to help those in need.

Although slavery was outlawed more than a century ago in the States, a modern slave trade industry is flourishing around the world - and a group of twenty-somethings who have seen it firsthand is doing something about it.

"I will never forget their eyes," said 26-year-old Stephanie Fisk of Milford, IA. "They are no longer the nameless and faceless. Their stories are etched on my heart and into my mind."

Fisk, who worked with marginalized women and children in Thailand and Cambodia, along with Eric Hanson, 24, of Phoenix, AZ, have teamed up with several anti-slavery groups to raise awareness about the 30-billion dollar a year industry. By helping coordinate a 450-mile biking and 20-mile hiking event, the duo also expect to raise money for nonprofit groups that are working to end a practice called, "human
trafficking."

"When you see that these are real people - people who you can talk to and laugh with - then something in your heart is changed," said Hanson. "You start to see the world in a new light, and you realize that you can do something to help change these people's lives."

The two cyclists are coordinating a long ride for the week of March 24-31 that culminates with a hike through the Grand Canyon. "Both the ride and the hike are open to the public - for either the whole event or a portion of it," said Hanson. Both he and Fisk were participants of The World Race, a volunteer experience that took them to a dozen countries in one year. Today, they are staff members of Adventures in Missions, an evangelical organization that serves the poor around the world.

They are calling the ride "Team Up, Gear Up" and hope to win more advocates to the cause of abolishing slavery. Social justice organizations such as NightLight, ALERT, Not For Sale Campaign, Make Way Partners and others are sponsoring the event.

Nearly 27 million individuals are caught in the global slave trade. Vulnerable individuals are often tricked into becoming sex slaves, bonded servants, or child soldiers. Many are trafficked across borders and live in a state of hopelessness. This is taking place in developing countries, but also in America. According to Fisk, the U.S. not only fuels the rising demand of this industry, but aids in supplying the appetite abroad. Hanson and Fisk, so moved with compassion that they can not forget what they have seen, are compelled to share with others to bring this tragedy to an end.

Participants are encouraging those interested to join a nation-wide informational call from Mar. 23rd through Mar. 31st, at 8pm CST. Each night, a guest speaker from one of the sponsor organizations will share more about the effort to end slavery. Everyone is invited to join the calls, but there is a limited number of spots available. To call in, dial 1-218-486-1600 followed by the access code 472085#.

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Eric Hanson

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