LIMA — Garrett Zambrows pedaled his bike up Hope Sanders’ driveway on a sunny afternoon and knocked on her door. Sanders had never met the 26-year-old man, but she had agreed to let him stay in her home overnight.
“I never met him until he walked up to the front door,” Sanders said. “I thought for a young man to be doing this, well, that was really something, and I wanted to help out.”
Zambrows, who graduated from Purdue University in May with a major in film studies, is riding across the United States to raise awareness about human trafficking which affects an estimated 27 million people worldwide, most of whom are women and children, according to the U.S. Department of State. His trip began on June 3 in his home town of West Lafayette, Ind., and he plans to end it in Washington, D.C. sometime in November, covering more than 12,000 miles during that time.
Sanders heard about Zambrows at her church First Baptist Church from missionary Debbie Kelsey who works to help women get out of trafficking situations. After checking out Zambrows’ site, www.ridingagainsttraffic.org, Sanders realized he would be in Lima on July 29, and organized a time for him to speak at her church.
About 30 people showed up to listen to Zambrows speak for an hour that evening. “The people who came were blessed by what he had to say,” said Sanders.
Zambrows speaks at almost every stop.
“I’m not an expert on trafficking,” he explained. “I’m riding to raise awareness, to start a conversation. I’ve talked in churches to groups; I’ve talked in homes to just a few people. It doesn’t matter because God seems to bring the right people to that conversation who will then go out and do something.”
While Zambrows had heard about trafficking, his passion for this issue did not hit until college.
“When I went to film school, I wanted to get into documentary work because I love real stories,” said Zambrows. “I got connected with two groups that deal with this. The issue became real to me.”
Zambrows, who averages 85 miles a day on his bicycle, said that his faith is what prodded him to do something about the problem of human trafficking.
“As a person of faith, knowing that God created us to love Him and each other, this idea of trafficking someone — of exploiting someone either for sex or labor is the grossest extreme of not loving others,” he said.
He came up with the idea of riding across the country by looking at his talents and passions.
“One of my track coaches told me that our destiny lies at the crossroads of our passions and our talents,” he said. “My passion is trafficking, and my talent is riding my bike.”
While Zambrows carries a sleeping bag and tent, he said he has not had to use them yet. Everywhere he has stopped, people have welcomed him into their homes.
Zambrows’ home church, Federated Church of West Lafayette, donated the funds for his equipment and necessities. His local bike shop, Virtual Cycles, donated his bike, a Kona Sutra which is a standard touring bike. His nightly hosts put him up and provide dinner and breakfast for him.
“I now have a month’s worth of snacks,” he said of the beef jerky and fruit snacks he eats on the road. “Everyone I’ve stayed with has loaded me up with them.”
Besides his tent and sleeping bag, Zambrows travels lightly with only a few outfits in which to ride and speak, as well as, snacks, toiletries, a first aid kit and his cameras.
Unfortunately, Zambrows is down to only one camera. “One melted,” he said, “and the other one broke when I fell.”
Zambrows relies on a group of friends who have volunteered to act as his dispatcher. They look up routes and send him the GPS coordinates via his cell phone.
“All I have to do is follow the purple line,” he said. “They get me to my destination each night.”
Any money he raises goes toward two things.
“About 90 percent of any money I raise goes toward two missionaries I support: Mylinda Baits and Debbie Kelsey who do work against human trafficking,” he said. “The other 10 percent goes to the CASA for Kids Fund which is a volunteer group that provides court appointed special advocates for kids in neglect or abuse cases.”
While his parents support his project, they were not enthusiastic at first.
“Their support sort of evolved,” he said. “They are terrified for me, but very proud.”
As Zambrows travels alone, they have reason to be afraid; however, for Zambrows the biggest challenge is also the reason he finds fulfillment in doing this.
“The hardest part is that I spend many hours alone on the road. That’s difficult,” he said. “Discussing human trafficking is hard, especially every night. Nobody rides 85 miles a day. No speaker speaks every night. I do both. It’s exhausting, but I end each night completely fulfilled.”
To read more about Garrett Zambrows visit his website at www.ridingagainsttraffic.org.
Pedaling for a cause