Friday, June 27, 2008

Interview: Jeremy Vallerand Climbs Mountain to Combat Human Trafficking

Christina Kilbourne's powerful forthcoming novel They Called me Red* addresses issues of trafficking and the exploitation of children. Working with Christina's book has greatly increased our awareness of this devastating issue, so when we discovered Climb for Captive's innovative efforts to combat human trafficking, we knew we had to tell more people about it. On July 4th, a team of six climbers will set out for the summit of Mt. Rainier with the hope of earning $14,410 to combat human trafficking - a dollar for each vertical foot of the mountain. You can help Climb for Captives reach its goal by donating through their web-site.

We spoke to Jeremy Vallerand, who will make the steep climb up Mt. Rainier, to learn more about what motivated this group of six to celebrate United States' Independence Day on the top of a mountain.

1. What inspired you and your team to climb a mountain to combat human trafficking?

A few months ago I had the opportunity to spend some time in Mumbai/Bombay India with an organization that works in the Red Light District trying to rescue children out of the brothels. I saw first hand how terrible the suffering is for the victims and I realized that the ones who are affected the most by Human Trafficking are children. When I heard that a majority of the girls were kidnapped and forced into prostitution before the age of 13 my heart completely broke and I knew that when I got back home to Seattle, WA, I would have to do something about it.

I started talking to a group of my friends about the issue of human trafficking and we began brainstorming ways that we could make a difference. It seemed natural to do something on July 4th since that is the day our nation celebrates its independence and so Climb for Captives was born. What better way to celebrate our Independence Day, our freedom, than to fight for those who can't fight for themselves.

2. Can you tell us more about the current state of domestic and international human trafficking?

It's pretty overwhelming to look at the numbers related to human trafficking both domestically and abroad. To give you a brief snapshot, UNICEF estimates that there are 2 million children exploited in the commercial sex trade every year. I don't even know how to imagine that number… 2,000,000. I do know that there are only four cities in the US with a population over 2 million and only 2 cities in Canada. That means that every year the number of children that are forced into the sex trade is greater than the entire population of Seattle, or San Francisco, or Ottawa. In fact, you would have to add the total population of those three cities together just to equal 2 million.

The good news domestically is that people are starting to become aware of the issue. In Seattle, where I live, the police department has formed a Human Trafficking Task force to focus specifically on this issue and other cities are following suit. According to most estimates, there are over 100,000 children in the US that are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and 20,000 more are being trafficked in every year. Though the numbers seem overwhelming, I really believe that we can make a difference…in fact, I believe we already are.

3. How long will it take to climb Mt. Rainier?

Mt. Rainier is the most glaciated volcano in the contiguous United States. At 14,410 feet the mountain is full of challenges that force over 50% of all climbers to turn back before the summit. Our group of six is hoping to climb to the summit in two or three days depending on the weather and the snow conditions. Altitude sickness is also a major factor for a lot of climbers so there is no guarantee that we will all make it to the summit.

4. How will Climb for Captives donate the funds it collects?

Climb for Captives is donating 100% of the funds received to the Home Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation dedicated to the eradication of human trafficking both domestically and abroad, and all of the donations are tax deductible. I recently met singer/songwriter Natalie Grant who started The Home Foundation and was very impressed by the work they are doing and by the way they use their resources. If people are interested in contributing to the Climb for Captives they can do so via our website at www.climbforcaptives.com. They can also email us any questions they have at summit@climbforcaptives.com.




*Christine Kilbourne's They Called Me Red
will be released in Fall 2008. Her novel Dear Jo: The story of losing Leah...and searching for hope was shortlisted for the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Awards in 2007 and has received praiseworthy reviews from School Library Journal, Montreal Review of Books, and more. Read a review of Dear Jo by The Literary Word to learn more.

1 comment:

Brendan Woodward said...

This is a great thing! Way to go and thanks Lobster Press for picking up this story.