On October 8th through 16th, Playa Venice Sunrise Rotarian, Rob DeCou, took on Uberman, “the World’s Toughest Ultra-Triathlon”, in partnership with Rotary International District 5280 (Los Angeles Region), swimming 21-miles from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes Peninsula, biking 400-miles to Death Valley, then running 135 miles through Death Valley before ascending 8,360 feet to the portal at Mt. Whitney with the dedicated purpose of raising awareness and funds in the fight against human trafficking.
Los Angeles is among the top three high-intensity child sex-trafficking regions in the nation. Many people believe this to be an issue “somewhere else” in the world, and it is. But, what many do not realize, it is also an issue right here, right in our own neighborhoods. According to the U.S. State Department, ”dollar-for-dollar, human trafficking in America is far worse than it is overseas. It is an underground epidemic that is growing exponentially and is happening in our own backyards.”
And, again, yes right here in our neighborhoods. It is estimated that 150,000 victims are currently held as commercial sex slaves in the U.S., and 50% of these trafficked victims are minor children, with an average age of just 12 years old. Children are being lured in and “groomed,” through social media and the internet, from all socio-economic populations.
So, Rob DeCou, took on the 556-mile Uberman course to bring attention to this issue. “I was gifted with an ability to persevere through extremely long endeavors and this race aligned with the way I have been nurturing that gift for over half my life,” shares DeCou. “This fight against human trafficking is dear to my heart and it continues to touch my soul as one of the greatest injustices we face as a society, with millions enslaved by human trafficking around the world today.”
Rob almost didn’t finish the race. He ended the 21-mile Catalina swim a few miles shy of land due to a health scare. On Friday, October 16th, he returned to the same location to finish the final 4-mile stretch. Rob received a hero’s welcome as he reached Terranea Beach at 10:14am, surrounded by his family, friends and fellow Rotarians as the 7th ever Uberman finisher since the race was founded in 2016.
Rob’s efforts, in partnership with Rotary International District 5280, helped raise over $50,000 to support advocacy, prevention and rescue programs benefiting HOPE61, IN OUR BACKYARD and Los Angeles-based 1736 Family Crisis Center. His triumphant story is an example of how all of us, at every level, can make extraordinary achievements in the fight for what we believe in.
Visit www.RotariansFightingHumanTrafficking.org to learn more about how Rotary is collaborating with Law Enforcement, Governmental Agencies and Nonprofits to work towards rescuing and protecting children from their predators, as well as providing assistance in their recovery.
Additionally, District 5280 is excited to announce a new Rotary Club has been charted as the 60th Rotary Club in the Los Angeles region, the Rotary Club of D5280 Rotarians Fighting Human Trafficking, with the focus of tackling head on this human injustice, together.
Starting his training for Uberman, the world's toughest endurance race, Rob DeCou competes in the 24-Hour World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs, California. In 2016, Rob rode 3,000 miles across country to complete the Race Across America. Now, he is focused on a more ambitious goal in fall of 2020 – a running, swimming, and biking Uberman event to continue raising awareness of this critical issue.
Rotarians Bob Deering, PDG from the Rotary Club of East Sacramento; Dr. Brian Gladden, AG from the Roseville Rotary Club; and El Dorado Hills Rotarian Ashlie Bryant came together in Rotary District 5180 as part of a Reverse Global Grant to develop a project combating Human Trafficking. The project not only educates people in the area but educates students as to what to look for so as not to fall into the grips of traffickers. To learn more about 3 Strands Global Foundation, click here.
A few years back, Westchester Rotarians attended a Human Trafficking awareness event at Loyal Marymount University. After learning that human trafficking happens in our city, Westchester Rotarians knew we had to help. After meeting with Journey Out, we received a better perspective on how Westchester Rotary could support Journey Outs’ clients, those who are victims and survivors of the brutality of sex and labor trafficking, impacting hundreds of children throughout the local region of Los Angeles. In 2019, Westchester Rotary started our first annual Journey Out backpack project giveaway. We created hygiene backpacks that include donated items such as soap, shampoo and conditioner, lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste, feminine products, tissues, wet ones wipes, socks and deodorant. As humanitarians, we strive to help our community and live by the motto “service above self." The project was organized by Vocational Service Director Vanessa Galvan.
The Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club created this new YouTube PSA to combat Human Trafficking.
Please share to raise awareness.
Friday, March 13, 2020
The Museum of Ventura County had an important and influential event, March 7, as the 13th Annual STOP Human Trafficking Walk came off without a hitch and raised awareness about the problem throughout the world.
The event featured survivors, resources for people who need them, and a voice that said “We do this, so others don't have to go through the crime.”
The group left the museum and went to Main Street in Ventura, proceeded to California Street, and stopped at all the different intersections with their signs to get a good response from the motorists.
From there, the group crossed over and returned to the museum on Main Street.
Local Organizer Debbie Gohlke from the Oxnard Soroptimist Club said the idea for the walk to STOP Human Trafficking came from the Soroptimist International of the America's, which is their federation.
"We're in 22 countries, and they launched this program 13 years ago," she said. "They introduced it to us in Philadelphia, and they asked all the clubs to go back to their communities and put on an event."
At the first event, she was a committee of one, and she had it at the Oxnard Transportation Center with about 20 people.
"Every year, it has grown, and now we have five clubs from Ventura County, including Oxnard, Ventura, Filmore, Camarillo, and the Conejos," she said. "We all collaborate and work on this together. You can do better things with a bigger team."
This is their third year at the Museum of Ventura County.
"We've moved around, but I think this is our final home now," she said. "It's a central gathering place, and everyone knows the museum."
The Soroptimists focuses on improving the lives of women and girls through programs that lead to economic and educational empowerment.
Thanks to leadership from Sheri Polak and Dale Barnes of Woodland Hills Rotary and Susan Renick of Calabasas Rotary, the Rotary Clubs of Woodland Hills and Calabasas have joined forces in the support of a new program assisting victims of trafficking, in partnership with Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services Pacific Lodge https://www.oyhfs.org/plys.html.
Pacific Lodge Youth Services was acquired by Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services on January 1, 2017. Given the similar histories and populations served, this has proven to be an excellent match for both organizations.
Optimist envisions a world where all children, young adults and families will have the opportunity to receive the care and support they need to succeed. The Pacific Lodge division is located on a beautiful 10-acre campus in Woodland Hills, California, and serves children in need of support in their journey toward a future of opportunity.
Recently, Woodland Hills and Calabasas Rotarians visited Pacific Lodge Youth Services for “Valentine Cupcake Wars,” bringing cakes mixes, icing, food coloring, candies, sprinkles and more. The residents of Pacific Lodge practiced their culinary skills in creating colorful cupcakes, competing for awards in “Most Colorful,” “Most Creative,”, “Best Theme,” “Best Technique” and “Most Whimsical. Rotarians “judged” the competition, with a tasty spirit, presenting colorful certificates to the winners and decorative pillows to all who participated.
It was a win-win for everyone!!!
Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services (OYHFS) is a nationally accredited
non-profit 501(c)3 corporation. It is one of the oldest and largest agencies of its kind in Southern California. Referrals are accepted from throughout the state of California.
OYHFS serves 500 at-risk youth and their families every day.
Courtesy Peninsula Daily News
It was the currents — not the cold or distance — that prevented Port Angeles native Rob DeCou from completing his swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca over the weekend.
Currents Saturday forced DeCou to swim 31.25 miles instead of the planned 18.3 miles and as he came within 670 feet of the Canadian shore currents swept him back.
Still, DeCou said he met all of his goals with the swim, aside from reaching land. He said the swim pushed his limits but he now knows he can more than swim the distance and that he can swim for at least 17 hours.
“Safety is always No. 1. I feel good about making the call,” DeCou said Sunday. “Even though we came up ever so short of landing on solid ground, I feel like we were successful in our efforts and have no regrets of making the calculated decision to call it a night.”
DeCou started his swim from Dungeness Spit at about 6 a.m. Saturday and at 11:30 p.m. he was still in the water well past dark fighting changing currents. His team attempted to find alternative landing sites but decided to call off the swim.
The 37-year-old athlete graduated from Port Angeles High School in 2000. He taught business and entrepreneur classes through Peninsula College at the Clallam Bay Correction Center from 2012 to 2014, and is now an executive producer working with video and animation in Los Angeles.
DeCou said he didn’t understand the tides and currents as well as the thought he did, something he’ll look at closer before crossing any other bodies of water.
“I was swimming for hours and I would look up and I wasn’t any closer than I was before,” he said. “It was the current pushing out … and your effort is holding you in the same position from land.”
DeCou said he had ideal conditions for the crossing, with flat water almost the entire way and that he appreciated the encouragement he had from the community.
He said the water was about as cold as he expected, but at times it felt like the temperature would drop about 5 degrees. He said his wet suit kept his core warm, though his hands and feet were cold.
“Emotionally this is the best I’ve done on an ultra, just getting my head in a good positive space,” he said. “There’s times when you’re cold and you have to start thinking about positive things.”
DeCou said this will prepare him for the Uberman ultra triathlon next year.
“For me, this swim was a training swim for an event next year,” he said. “After the swim yesterday, I feel I can swim the channel.”
The ultra triathlon includes swimming 21 miles from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes, a 400-mile bike ride that climbs 20,000 vertical feet and a 135-mile run through Death Valley.
DeCou, wearing a wetsuit, would have been the 14th known person to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Nine people have swum across the Strait without a wetsuit, eight of whom are recognized by the Northwest Open Water Swimming Association.
Those who have made the crossing without wetsuits are Bert Thomas, Cliff Lumsdon, Amy Hiland, Ben Laughren, Marilyn Bell, Vicki Keith, Andrew Malinak, Susan Simmons and Melissa Blaustein.
DeCou sought to raise funds for preventing human trafficking. As of Sunday afternoon, his Facebook fundraiser had 193 donations totaling $9,719.
Donations can be made at playavenice.org or to his Facebook fundraiser “Rob’s Swim to Help End Human Trafficking.”
Donations can be made at playavenice.org or on Rob Decou's Facebook fundraiser “Rob’s Swim to Help End Human Trafficking.”
The Children for the Great Commission (CGC) is a school and church made to spread the gospel in areas where there is little hope. Numerous Vietnamese refugees fled to Cambodia for various reasons but fell into a trap with no way to escape. Cambodia would not accept them as citizens while Vietnam would not accept them back. They were treated poorly. Many were not allowed to live on Cambodian land so they were forced to build on the polluted water. Schools and churches are sparse and many would not allow the Vietnamese to attend. The CGC was built to fill these vacancies and give hope for the future. To do this, the CGC teaches English, Vietnamese, math, computers and music but the most important teaching is the Bible. The CGC understands that in order to help people and give them genuine hope, they must know the truth of the Gospel. That is why everything the CGC teaches leads back to Christ.
Rotary Club of Torrance Del Amo has made a multi-year commitment to help the fight against Sex Trafficking and Child Exploitation in Cambodia. The club's small contribution to this school will help keep at least 250 children in school this year.
An emergency shelter, serving the greater Los Angeles region, recently opened and serves female survivors, rescued from sex trafficking. Survivors may stay for a period of 90 days and are given room and board, while they prepare to move into a two-year transitional program at another facility supported by C.A.S.T. (the Coalition To Abolish Slavery And Human Trafficking).
Rotarians generously partnered with C.A.S.T. on this project. Monies donated to the Rotary International District 5280 Charitable Foundation by 12 of the District’s Rotary Clubs were used to fund the purchase of beds and bedding. C.A.S.T. salutes and thanks these Rotary Clubs. The bedrooms at the shelter have been named after the following clubs or club members who made donations: Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Colombo Americano, Carson Gardena Dominguez, Glendale Sunrise, Little Tokyo, Northeast LA, Rancho Park, Santa Clarita Valley, Southwest L.A., Westchester and Woodland Hills.
Eight volunteers, from the Rotary Clubs of Santa Clarita Valley and Westchester, assembled 16 beds at the confidential site of the new shelter. A lot of sweat equity was contributed by Santa Clarita Valley Rotarians Alexx Rufus, Carol Chiodo and Joseph Ang, as well as Westchester Rotarians Tori Hettinger, Vanessa Galvin and Betty Virgen (friend of the Rotary Club of Westchester), led by project foreman Chris Ball, immediate past president of Santa Clarita Valley Rotary Club and his assistant forewoman, Past District Governor and Westchester Rotarian Cozette Vergari. The location is confidential, and, all volunteers signed a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the location, to protect the safety of the shelter and the victims from their traffickers.
The afternoon project was a WIN-WIN for all!!!