Women embark on climb against modern-day slavery
Celia Shortt, OM USA Publications Editor | United States
Today, a team of 45 women from all over the world begin their climb to Mt. Everest Base Camp and then summit Kala Patthar Peak. They are climbing to raise awareness and funds for women and children throughout the world who are enslaved, oppressed or trafficked.
Modern-day slavery is real. Twenty-seven million people today are trapped in bonded or forced labor or human trafficking. Every minute, two children are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
For the next 12 days, the women will face cold temperatures, high altitudes and exhaustion. Each knows this journey will not be easy, but they are united in their purpose of helping the women and children living in slavery.
How does this group of women climbing a mountain benefit women and children enslaved, oppressed and trafficked around the world? The Freedom Climb, an initiative of OM, benefits them by raising awareness of their horrible circumstances and directly impacts them by raising money for more than 20 OM projects fighting slavery and oppression by giving women and children new opportunities through rescue and rehabilitation, prevention and development.
Last year, the first Freedom Climb—to Uhuru Peak at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa—raised 500,000 US dollars, helping 3,000 women and children.
GS/OM India Ministries works in India where slavery and human trafficking are prevalent. Half of the world’s human trafficking victims live there, and many more live as Dalits or “untouchables”. GS/OM India Ministries provides opportunities for them that restore dignity by providing education, job opportunities and life alternatives. Rev. Bama K Raman, a climber from India, is excited about the Freedom Climb and that she can be part of it.
“I work every day with young girls and with women, who, if not for the work of our schools and economic development programming, would be trafficked into bonded labor or the sex trade,” said Bama. “Freedom Climb is a great way to show the world that everyone can make a difference.”
Marleen van Oers first heard about the Freedom Climb when she joined OM’s staff in Africa last year. She was touched by the ladies climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro during the first climb and by the size of the human trafficking problem. While on an outreach in South Africa, Marleen met a girl working as a prostitute. Even though this girl was smart, she had been tricked and ended up in a brothel through no fault of her own.
“I was deeply touched and felt I needed to do something, but I didn’t know where to start,” said Marleen. “I prayed and told God that I was willing to do whatever He thought I could do for this girl, but also for all people who have the same problems.”
Some of the women have done this kind of trek before—some climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro last year. For others, however, this experience is completely new and outside their comfort zone. Regardless, each climber has intensely prepared for this climb.
Sally Ababa, who works with OM in the Philippines, has been running with a co-worker who is a professional marathoner. She also has friends praying daily for her climb.
“I integrate Freedom Climb as part of my daily tasks—it makes me cognizant about it on a daily basis,” said Sally. “Thus, I have been prepared about this mentally, spiritually and physically.”
Many of the climbers prepared through practice hikes, running, walking and other aerobic activity. In September 2012, about half of the North American climbers met in Colorado for a weekend retreat, which included two hikes in the snow, equipment shopping, prayer and Bible study.
For Marleen, preparation has been a challenge, especially since she has never been interested in sports. She hikes as much as she can where she lives in South Africa and builds as much aerobic activity into her daily life as possible. She also participated in a preparation weekend with the other African climbers.
“Most of all, I want to be prepared spiritually,” said Marleen. “I arm myself with God’s Word and His promises. I have a team around me praying for me and some Christian friends to encourage me.”
The Freedom Climb team knows this experience will be difficult, but all are confident that through it, they can help give women and children freedom in their lives.
“If we can provide a hope, an opportunity and a chance for women who are enslaved to climb out this oppression, then we will do it,” said Cathey Anderson, founder of the Freedom Climb.
To follow the climbers’ progress and receive updates from the climb, go to www.thefreedomclimb.net.
Published: Tuesday, 09 April 2013
Credit: Celia Shortt, OM USA Publications Editor