Cave Creek woman will bike from Calif. to Fla. to help kids
by Philip Haldiman - Sept. 3, 2012 10:20 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com
A Cave Creek woman is using her love of biking to shine a light on child trafficking.
Amanda Larson will bike more than 3,000 miles from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., today through Oct. 16.
She will be biking alongside Alabama resident Deb Hoenig, hoping to raise more than $10,000 on the ocean-to-ocean ride.
Larson, who will turn 40 on the ride, said along the way they will bring awareness to children who are trafficked for cheap labor and sex.
Funds will go to Melor Vinyewo, a group home in the village of Tafi Atome that will be built for child slaves rescued from Lake Volta in southeast Ghana.
The name translates to "I love all my children." The new home will sit on about 7 acres of land in Ghana, and Larson said the goal is for it to be completed by the end of 2013.
Initially the home will house 16 children, offering them a safe place to sleep, three meals a day, psychological and medical care as well as vocational training and arts education, Larson said.
She said she hopes the home will be an impetus for change.
"We wanted to name it something the children would recognize as a safe place, something from their culture that they could embrace," she said. "We don't want to raise these children to be regular Ghanian children, we want them to be Ghanian leaders."
Larson said officials estimate anywhere from 7,000 to 20,000 child slaves work on and around Lake Volta, most in the fishing industry. She said the government in Ghana is cracking down on slave owners, but many continue to exploit and abuse children.
"These children are sold by poor parents to masters, beaten, malnourished, and frequently die under dangerous working conditions," she said. "But there are about 150 children in one village whose masters say they will release them if they have a place to go."
Larson and Hoenig met in Ghana less than a year ago while on a mission trip to teach basic first aid to villagers on Lake Volta. Since then, they have secured land for Melor Vinyewo.
In the past year, Larson has spent about four months in Ghana preparing for the project.
"We've lived in mud huts, so we figure we can do this," she said.
Through their organization, Compassionate Journeys, the women have helped fund the completion of a medical clinic in the village, which opened in May.
She said doctors and other volunteers have seen more than 1,000 patients from the area, treating many different ailments and providing public-health education on issues such as teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and nutrition.
"Now it has a full-time nurse, two assistants and accepts government-issued medical insurance, which is pretty much an amazing thing," she said. "But for me, it's not just about what is accomplished on the ground ... It's a beautiful thing to be a part of, all around."
About: Compassionate Journeys is a non-profit registered in Ghana and the United States dedicated to providing volunteer opportunities for people of all ages, experiences levels and skill sets in Ghana, specifically with the goal of spreading awareness and creating opportunities for trafficked children and those villages actively trying to stop the cycle.
The ride: Today-Oct. 16, San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla. Larson is scheduled to ride through Phoenix on Thursday and Friday. A press conference will be conducted at noon Thursday on the State Capitol lawn. representatives from StreetLight USA, the O'Connor House, Arizona Interfaith Movement as well as the governor's and attorney general's office will speak about child trafficking.
More info: compassionatejourneys.com/Compassionate_Journeys_Volu.html, babesblockingtraffic.com.
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