It is with great excitement that we write to you about our upcoming hike-a-thon, but also with great urgency. While we hikers dream of our next National Park, peak to bag, and backcountry expedition, there are 45 million people enslaved worldwide.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which human beings are controlled and exploited for profit. Perpetrators use force, fraud or coercion to control and profit from victims through sexual exploitation and/or forced labor or services. This industry denies freedom of its victims and preys on people’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses, especially young girls in the sex trafficking industry.
While human trafficking affects human beings in every country and corner of the globe, it also impacts our neighbors in East Tennessee.
We see that our community is plagued predominantly by sex trafficking. 85% of counties in Tennessee have reported at least one case of sex trafficking while 71% of counties in Tennessee reported a sex trafficking case involving a child. CCAHT, our partnering anti-trafficking organization, served a total of 23 HT survivors in 2015. So far in 2016, they have already served 27. This is an amazing feat by an even more amazing organization; however, there are so many more victims in East Tennessee and in the world to be freed and served.
The statistics are alarming and modern-day slavery is a reality. Our hearts are heavy.
However, we are hikers.
When it rains and our feet are covered in blisters, what do we do? We walk.
When we must conquer our fears and wrestle with our souls, what do we do? We walk.
When we need to remember what it means to be human, what do we do? We walk.
When 45 million people worldwide, including those in our hometown community, are enslaved, what do we do? We walk.
On July 23, 2016, we will journey to Minta’s sacred place–Mt. LeConte–to continuously hike 36 miles on the 5 approach trails. However, we will not hike not alone, nor simply as two friends, but as a community of hikers dedicated to putting an end to human trafficking worldwide–especially in Knoxville, TN, the city that stands as the gateway to these beloved hills.
We will HIKE UNTIED, not with loose boots, but with big dreams of an East Tennessee and a world where the chains of slavery are no more. When we untie our boots on top of Mt. LeConte and free our weary feet, we hope to look back and find a great multitude standing with us, both on the trail and financially, committed to freeing not feet, but human beings.
Please do consider walking with us–in boots, in spirit, in prayer, in finances, but mainly in mission.
Minta & Taylor