• Sally Maeng

Move for Freedom

Joel's Story

 

Sometimes we describe people as "interesting" because they're strange or weird; we don't know how else to define them. Other times, a person is genuinely interesting, the opposite of boring and vanilla. I think I would characterize Joel characterizes as the latter.


About 1 week into his bike trip

A couple of years ago, when Joel was 21 years old, he and his friend, Brad, biked from Belgium to India to raise awareness for human trafficking. In six months, they raised $35,000, built relationships with locals, and learned meaningful lessons along the way. (Now, Joel is writing a book about this adventure...stay tuned!)


Then last year, Joel participated in Ally Global's first annual Move For Freedom fundraiser. The idea is you engage in a physical activity that's challenging and "uncomfortable" for you to help those who are living in constant "extreme discomfort" -- trauma, assault, slavery, and etc. -- due to human trafficking. It's a fundraiser to prevent human trafficking and aid survivors in Nepal, Cambodia, and Laos.


Brad and Joel at the end of their bike trip at the Bay of Bengal

Well, Joel unquestionably got uncomfortable! He and 4 other friends biked from Fort Langley to Golden Ears Provincial Park (~24 km), went on a 40 km roundtrip hike, then biked back to Fort Langley. It was a 100km excursion that took them 17 hours, from 6 am to 11 pm. Alongside 150 participants, they helped Ally Global raise $300,000.


Last year at the peak of Golden Ears during Move for Freedom

Shortly after, Joel and his wife, Sofia, went to Nepal for three months to help the locals on behalf of Ally Global. They are a nonprofit organization that empowers locals in developing Asian countries to provide safe homes and education for human trafficking survivors in their communities. Unfortunately, Joel and Sofia's trip was cut short because the airports were about to shut down. The pandemic was tragically getting worse, and as foreigners, they had to leave.


Now in the coming fall, Joel is moving from BC to Ontario. He will go to law school, and Sofia will be getting her Masters of Health Sciences.


Interesting guy, right?


Joel is passionate about being part of the solution and healing, even if that means he needs to get a little uncomfortable. During this season of his life, he is doing crazy activities to help those caught in human trafficking. In fact, this year for Move For Freedom, Joel is going to bike 12h non-stop. Then he's going to keep biking as long as he can to encourage more donors.


Joel and Sofia in the Himalayas during their recent Nepal trip

Joel first learned about human trafficking when he was 16-years-old. It was shocking to discover that people his age and much younger are living as slaves. Many of us don't go around purchasing trafficked sex workers. But Joel learned that savoring in unethical porn and female objectification -- choices we are more likely make -- can encourage human trafficking.


So if we can make choices that harm others, why not make choices that can heal them instead? Maybe Joel is dramatic, crazy, or unequivocally determined. Nonetheless, this passion led him to engage in incredible projects like the ones I previously described. Besides, if you think about it, the world's most outstanding changemakers were or are dramatic, crazy, AND unequivocally determined. I say that Joel is on the right track.

 

To contact Joel and learn more about this story, follow @joelbfriesen on Instagram. Also, check out @allyglobal on Instagram and visit their website to see how you can join Move For Freedom on August 7, 2021.

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