13 October 2011
Row for Freedom
A woman from a south west London church is leading a rowing expedition across the Atlantic to raise awareness of human trafficking.
Julia Immonen and a team of five other women will row the Atlantic unaided in a double world record attempt and hope to raise £1 million as part of the Row for Freedom Challenge campaign.
With International Anti-Slavery Day happening next Tuesday 18 October, Julia hopes to gain further support on the awareness day for her challenge.
The challenge is already sponsored by global recruitment company Manpower, and backed by adventurer Bear Grylls and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Celebrity supporters include James Corden, Kimberly Walsh and Kirsty Gallagher, Ugo Moyne and Dermot O'Leary.
However, it still needs £25-30,000 in order to buy the necessary equipment for the voyage.
A Director at Sky Sports News, Julia founded Sport Against Trafficking the charity behind the challenge after she heard about the problem of trafficking at church: "I was inspired to set up the organisation when I heard about a21 [ a charity working to end trafficking] and I thought how come I know nothing about this? I asked God: 'How can I make a difference?'"
Running some marathons to raise money for other charities, Julia realised that using sport against trafficking could be a powerful tool in inspiring people to help to raise awareness of the injustices of the modern-day slave trade. "It is such a positive thing to do and people's response to raising funds for the campaign has been amazing," she says.
It is estimated that 27 million people, half of these children, are modern day slaves and victims of human trafficking, which is one of the world's largest organised crimes and generates £20 billion each year. 700 victims were indentified in the UK last year.
The all girl rowing group made up of Helen Leigh, Katie Pattison-Hart, Kate Richardson, Debbie Beadle and Julia, have been training hard for the challenge that they will leave for in December, where they will be rowing 24 hours a day, two hours on - two hours off for 40 days. A typical day of training lasts for 3 hours on the water and then rowing machine exercise in the evenings as well as extra training on other days.
Says Julia, "Unless we raise awareness the world won't know about this and it should know that slavery is rife, on our doorsteps. Whether someone can raise money by rowing or by making cakes it's all inspiring and helping the cause."