As they struggled to pedal up horrendous hills along their 1,700-mile route, Cameron Ciambotti from Virginia said that a fellow cyclist recommended remembering the why — ending sex trafficking.
Pedal the Pacific’s 12 team members, who have spent several weeks shining the spotlight on human trafficking and raising funds to help victims, arrived in Lompoc on Wednesday afternoon.
“One time Kasturi (Bandyopadhyay) was like, ‘Just remember the why.’ Anytime it gets hard, we need to remember who we’re doing this for, and I think that’s helped me grow a lot,” Ciambotti said. “I think it’s cool to be able to be thrown into the thick of it with a bunch of people you just met, and every time it gets hard you just remind yourself why you’re doing it and that’s just so much bigger than any little thing that goes wrong every day.”
Anna Rhodes from Arkansas said she was drawn to the ride after working with disabled people and learning how many of them and others become vulnerable to domestic sex traffickers.
“It just made me really passionate about the issue,” Rhodes said, adding that the ride gives her a chance to learn more about human trafficking. “The most affected populations are people of color, foster youth, members of the LGBQT-plus community and indigenous communities.”
The ride, covering about 50 miles per day, began June 11 in Seattle and will wind up July 31 in San Diego.
A coin from Space Launch Delta 30 at Vandenberg Space Force Base says “Believe Survivors.” The coins were presented to Pedal the Pacific riders during a Lompoc stopover. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
Ciambotti said she joined the ride to combine two things she loved and has a connection to — cycling and advocacy.
“It’s just a really unique way of protesting a system that is so set in place that oppresses so many different types of people,” she said.
Pedal the Pacific is a Texas-based nonprofit organization that operates under the theme “Cycling for a world where people are not for sale.” Participants now come from multiple states.
So far, the 2021 team has raised more than $122,000. Donations may be made on the organizaiton’s website by clicking here.
On Wednesday, a team of 10 riders, plus the pair taking their turn traveling in the van, rolled into Lompoc for some rest, but received more — including a group cheering their arrival.
Upon learning that the riders would overnight in Lompoc, the North County Rape Crisis & Child Protection Center’s Ann McCarty quickly mustered forces.
Members of the Lompoc-Vandenberg Branch of the American Association of University Women provided the potluck dinner, making sure to accommodate various diets. Trinity Church of the Nazarene agreed to offer up showers and a place to sleep.
“We are so happy to welcome you to Lompoc,” McCarty told the riders.
Teresa Loya, the sexual assault response coordinator at Vandenberg Space Force Base, surprised the riders with a special coin — with the words “Believe Survivors” — on behalf of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
“Ladies, I think that the work that you’re doing is something that not only is something difficult, but you truly are making a difference in the world. In the military we like to recognize a really good effort,” said Loya, a veteran. “I wanted to coin you guys.”
Pedal the Pacific riders pose for a group photo before resting for the night in Lompoc. They will head to Santa Barbara on Thursday to raise awareness about sex trafficking. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
“This is amazing,” one rider said.
“This is so cool,” another added.
The stopover also helped highlight that human trafficking exists in Santa Barbara County and drive home McCarty’s message that everyone plays a role in combatting human trafficking.
“Anything we can do as a society to draw attention and to better address this problem is important,” Capt. Kevin Martin of the Lompoc Police Department said. “For you taking the time to educate and draw attention to this is invaluable.”
It’s not the only time that Pedal the Pacific riders have stopped in Lompoc, but it marked the first time they had a welcoming party.
Riders will leave Lompoc on Thursday, traveling to Santa Barbara.
On Friday morning, they will meet at the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office for a roundtable discussion with Megan Rheinschild and other members of the county Human Trafficking Task Force.
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