This is my husband John.
He’s sitting in our RV the morning prior to a huge trip that I’m about ready to tell you about.
But first, let me say this. When I started writing my blog last year, I had the pre-conceived notion my posts would revolve around our RV experience.
That has not proven true.
March Madness, 2018
Instead, I get to write about what our life is really like. Yes, we continue to live day to day in our RV…dumping tanks, monitoring our amp usage, buying biodegradable toilet paper, doing the usual it’s-what-you-do-when-you-live-in-an-RV.
But March 2018 brought a new madness to the Emmerich coach.
John. Is. Climbing. Mount. Kilimanjaro.
He’s doing it with a purpose.
On March 1st I dropped him off at the airport where he eventually met up with 10 other men who are hiking to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa. This hand-selected group has teamed with WE International, Inc. to advocate against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
The term “sexual and other forms of gender-based violence” (or GBV) comprises not only rape and attempted rape but also sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, forced early marriage, domestic violence, marital rape, trafficking, and female genital mutilation.
John faces this challenge head-on. Actually, he is taking two challenges head-on;
- The physical challenge of the climb
- But more importantly the challenge of speaking out for women and children trapped in the dark world of sexual slavery and violence.
A Climbing Statement
Here’s what John wrote on Facebook five months ago.
“How many women and girls throughout the world say #MeToo? As a man I’m standing up to say, #NoMore to end sexual violence and harassment against women and girls. Please support me in this effort through WE International Mount Kilimanjaro Advocacy Climb as I raise funds to help women throughout the world.”
David Lippiatt, WE International Founder & President sums up the Challenge Climb this way:
“Men have a crucial role to play in addressing gender-based violence — as fathers, husbands, brothers — as public advocates in both speaking against violence against women and girls, and in defying the destructive stereotypes that have normalized gender-based violence.
It is a moral issue that beckons all of us to respond. The climb is a chance for a group of men to put a flag in the ground, making a very powerful statement that gender-based violence is wrong.”
David also said this-
“Perhaps the greatest assault against women is that more is not being done to address gender-based violence.”
Gender-Based Violence Facts
1. Around the world, as many as 1 in every 3 women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way – most often by someone she knows, including, but not limited to, her husband or another male family member.
2. 1 in 5 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
3. At least 130 million women have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation.
4. “Honor” killings take the lives of 1000’s of young women every year, mainly in Western Asia, North Africa, and parts of South Asia.
5. At least 60 million girls, who would otherwise be expected to be alive, are ‘missing’ from various populations as a result of sex-selective abortions or neglect.
6. Worldwide, women are twice as likely as men to be illiterate, limiting their ability to demand their rights and protection.
7. Each year, an estimated 800,000 people are trafficked across borders – 80 percent of them being women and girls. Most of them end up trapped in the commercial sex trade.
Sacrificial and Stinky
John’s North Face bag holds items he’ll need to complete this challenge. However, when I peered deep inside – I found treasures John metaphorically packed.
Buried between his smart wool socks and toothpaste I found gems. Gifts that only a woman who lacks safety and needs support would appreciate. These gifts aren’t pretty and perfumed. They are sacrificial and stinky.
I’ve watched John work tirelessly this past year. His quiet sacrifices personify his resolve. His gift box to survivors contains;
- Six months of giving up weekend activities to train.
- Sweaty socks that cover blistered toes from long hikes.
- Expensive immunizations of typhoid, yellow fever, cholera.
- Nausea causing anti-malaria drugs.
- Months of fund-raising letter writing.
- Hours of reading, educating himself with books defining realities of sexual violence toward girls and women. Please read “Half the Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof.
- Over 100 solo miles of hiking hills and mountains to gain cardio/muscle strength.
- Over 60,000 feet of elevation gain/loss in his training.
- Many sleepless nights awakened by the seriousness of planning/requiring a post-it notation.
- Dozens of private conversations shared with those who care for the cause.
- Wearing out old boots/buying new boots in order to continue training.
- Handing out KJ Challenge information cards to educate others about the cause.
- Purchasing expensive necessary personal items/gear for the two-week trip.
- Sacrificing two weeks of income.
- Relinquishing a family reunion vacation- since all his vacation time is going to the trip.
- Even avoiding large groups of people in the final weeks of training so as to not become ill and need to cancel or not attain his goal.
As John’s wife, these are jewels. If his recipients knew of his sacrifices, it would be like receiving one of these:
Each one of the eleven men who has joined the WE International KJ Challenge Climb has their own version of a gift box to present to the world. These men carry their unseen gifts up KJ honorably, without fanfare. Because….it’s not about them. It is all about the women, young girls, and yes, even young boys whose voices need to be heard.
This really happened
In November of 2017, John and I stopped at a Truck Stop just outside of Phoenix to fill up our RV.
I drove separately, following John in the Jeep, since our drive distance was only 120 miles that day. As I found a place to park and wait for John to fill our RV diesel tank I noticed three young Hispanic girls walking out of the truck stop being motioned by a man in a pickup truck to come to him.
My mama bear alert
I tried to call out to the girls but they didn’t hear me (or ignored me), so I took a photo of them and snapped a close-up of the black pick-up truck-making sure I caught the license plate number.
My heart raced as I watched the girls hop into the man’s truck and drive off. Helpless to do anything else I called 911. The operator connected me to the local police dispatcher who quickly took all the information I had (including an email address to send the photos to) and thanked me for calling. The dispatcher stated “every minute counts in these situations”.
Those words haunt me…
Do I know what happened to these three girls? No. Were these girls victims of exploitation or trafficking? I have no idea. What I do know is what I was observing just didn’t feel right.
Five things you can do to help
None of us has to look far to identify human trafficking and abuse. No matter what state you live in there is a young woman or child close by who needs to be free from abuse.
1. Gather information about the multi-billion industry of human trafficking. Here are some sites to get you started:
2. Donate to WE international
4. As RV’ers, we visit truck stops, rest stops, Walmart parking lots, and many places where victims of trafficking may be exploited. Trust your gut and report what if you see.
To report a tip or connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, contact:
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
If you have information about a missing child or suspected child sexual exploitation, call to report it or visit their website.
National Human Trafficking Hotline
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a national, anti-trafficking hotline and resource center serving victims and survivors of human trafficking and the anti-trafficking community in the United States. The toll-free hotline is answered live 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For more information, visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.
The National Runaway Switchboard
For more information, visit www.1800RUNAWAY.org The National Runaway Switchboard serves as the federally-designated national communication system for homeless and runaway youth. NRS, with the support of more than 150 volunteers, handles an average of 100,000 calls annually – more than 3 million calls since the organization’s inception. Through hotline and online services, NRS provides crisis intervention, referrals to local resources, and education and prevention services to youth, families and community members throughout the country 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
1-866-347-2423 (U.S. & Canada)
1-802-872-6199 (International Calls)
ICE’s hotline to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity.
Call or complete an online tip form.
5. Sponsor a child at World Vision. Educating and feeding children in programs like this protects them from becoming victims.
This blog post is dedicated
to my husband John
and the other ten men
who are currently summiting Kilimanjaro
to shed light on
Love from your Unlikely RVer,