13 October 2014
Cycle challenge begins to tackle trafficking
A team of cyclists are beginning a 5-day challenge tomorrow to end slavery, cycling from Liverpool to London.
Cycle for Freedom is fundraising for the work Sport for Freedom does in the rehabilitation of trafficking victims in the UK and education programmes.
The route is a gruelling five-city challenge, touring slave ports of past and present day trafficking hotspots, via Birmingham, Bristol and Oxford. In each city the journey passes, educational events are planned to fight modern day slavery with students, charities, athletes, MPs and celebrities taking part.
In 2012, 25 per cent of trafficking victims found in the UK were children, 70 of which were aged up to nine years old.
Emmanuel Akinluyi, one of the 14-strong team, revealed he had little choice about participating, but realises what a worthy challenge it will be.
"I was volunteered to take part in the Cycle for freedom before I even heard about it," Emmanuel, known to all as Didi, said. He was attending a concert at Holy Trinity Brompton, where two of his friends were speaking to the founder of Sport for Freedom about the Cycle for Freedom challenge.
"When I joined the conversation, David and Ollie had already told Julia that all three of us would join her core team! At first I ignored this, but as we talked about the CFF project, as a keen sportsman the idea of a challenge appealed to me (despite being far from a cyclist)."
Following prayer and seeing Julia's passion for change in the UK on trafficking, he accepted the offer and purchased a bike.
Training for this week's ride has been far from easy, though. Didi suffered a burst laceration ("Google it, if you have a strong stomach," he said), following a fall while out training.
"The cut was to the bone, but thankfully the wound narrowly missed cutting either of two nerves –that would have caused me to lose the use of a finger. This put a big pause on my training for a few months, and means I have to wear a splint to protect some healing ligaments in my thumb."
To ensure he can keep up with the rest of the team despite this major setback, he has also been circuit training, running, using a watt-bike and training in special, oxygen-deprived conditions. Didi is a stone lighter and ready to begin his epic journey tomorrow.
"I've been motivated by some of the amazing testimonies of my teammates, that highlight the severity of trafficking here in the UK, and abroad - in particular Hazel Thompson," he said.
Some of her work as a photojournalist has been featured on the Channel 4 news recently. It documents her 12-year investigation into human-trafficking in India.
"To be honest, she's a far more interesting and exemplary member of the team. I'd challenge anyone to look at her work or hear her story and not feel like they should do something.
"Sport –even cycling –is something we can participate in that can hopefully have an impact in this area."
On Saturday, 18 October, Anti-Slavery Day, 300 riders will join the team for the finale, cycling 130km along the Olympic route. You can still sign up to participate.
For more information about the ride and to donate to the challenge, click here to visit the website.
To sponsor Didi, visit his Just Giving fundraising page, here.
Interview by Amelia Abplanalp