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Breaking the cycle

NGO donates bicycles to victims of human trafficking

Photo provided by 88 Bikes

Photo provided by 88 Bikes

SAIT students may have an opportunity to help those less fortunate by volunteering for, or donating to, 88 Bikes, a non-governmental organization focused on helping survivors of human trafficking.

88 Bikes provides bicycles to girls who have survived the horrors of human trafficking as a way to bring them back into society and to elevate their happiness.

By donating $88, you can provide one girl with a bike that they can use to help move on with their life. 

“You give them a bike, and you give them a chance to move forward,” said Dan Austin, co-founder of 88 Bikes. “You see their resilience and it’s pretty remarkable.”

According to the International Labour Organization, an estimated 1.2 million children around the world are put into forced labour and slavery every year, with many of them being sexually exploited.

“It never ceases to amaze me just how young they are,” said Austin. “To have that kind of experience when you’re that young is just devastating.”

Austin created 88 Bikes 10 years ago after biking across Cambodia with his brother, Jared.

“We wanted to give our bikes away at the end of the ride to a couple of kids,” said Austin.

The brothers found an orphanage with 88 kids, and rather than just giving two of the children bikes, they decided to help provide the entire orphanage with bikes.

“It was just this amazing scene of happiness, and we decided to keep doing it,” said Austin.

88 Bikes now provides around 1,500 bikes a year to girls in need, mostly in Southeast Asia. They hope to raise their capacity to 5,000 annually within a few years.

Lesley Matthews has been volunteering with 88 Bikes since 2011. That year she travelled to Cambodia where she visited three schools dedicated to helping trafficking survivors. She worked with 88 Bikes to provide each survivor with their much-deserved wheels.

“I actually got to sleep at the school, spend a few days living there with the girls eating and celebrating with them,” said Matthews.

“Nobody dwelt on how they got there or why they were there. It was really about moving forward and what’s next.”

Matthews said while the bikes are great for helping the girls in their everyday lives, they represent much more than that to their recipients.

“Bikes are really essential for getting around to school, to work [and] just  travelling from village to village,” said Matthews. 

“They’re also symbolic after going through a traumatic experience, to have something that is theirs and that they own and that represents freedom. I think that’s also a big thing for them.”

Austin goes on roughly five trips a year to locations around the world, and brings volunteers with him to help with what he calls ‘joy-based philanthropy.’

“We go as many times a year as we can,” said Austin. “Just drop us an email.”

To donate to 88 Bikes, you can email donations@88bikes.org, or to find out about volunteering opportunities, contact Austin directly at dan@88bikes.org.

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