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Together 16 9

Climbing With Purpose

Slav­ery around the world is still real, not a left­over mem­o­ry of decades past. Moun­tain Mad­ness is hap­py to work with Res­cue Free­dom, a non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that is work­ing to bring aware­ness and action to this very mod­ern prob­lem. Read more about the founder of this orga­ni­za­tion below. 

And con­sid­er fill­ing one of the last spots on our fundrais­er climb for RF. Learn more about Mount Bak­er climb and July 23 – 25 date.

I grew up in a small town in West­ern Wash­ing­ton in the foothills of the Cas­cade Moun­tains. My ear­li­est mem­o­ries are of climb­ing trees, catch­ing fish, and explor­ing in the out­doors. Many of my ear­ly adven­tures are col­ored by expe­ri­ences with poor­ly per­form­ing gear.

I remem­ber shiv­er­ing through the night the first time I slept in a tent with a sleep­ing bag that was designed more for slum­ber par­ties than for camp­ing. The first back­pack­ing trip I went on I car­ried my grandpa’s exter­nal-frame back­pack with no waist belt and no padding on the shoul­der straps. My first rain jack­et was about as breath­able as a ziplock bag and did lit­tle to repel mois­ture. I quick­ly began to under­stand the impor­tance of hav­ing high-qual­i­ty gear. I’ll nev­er for­get when I got my first GORE-TEX jack­et, a blue Arc­teryx XCR with a stow­able hood. It was such a huge upgrade from any­thing I had expe­ri­enced before. To this day my favorite piece of cloth­ing I’ve ever owned is an updat­ed ver­sion of that jack­et — the Arc­teryx Beta AR. 

Grow­ing up, my par­ents opened our home to a refugee fam­i­ly of five who moved in until they could get their feet under them. Even when it seemed like we didn’t have a lot of extra”, we always had room for one more at our table. For most of my life, it seemed there was always some­one in tran­si­tion or in need of a hand stay­ing with us.

In my mid-twen­ties, I was spend­ing most of my time in the moun­tains and had just become a GORE Moun­tain Tech­ni­cian. I had recent­ly returned from spend­ing four months hik­ing and climb­ing in the Aus­tri­an Alps, and I was itch­ing to trav­el again. I decid­ed to join a friend of mine on a trip to India. I had no idea how that trip would change my life.

On the tail end of our trav­els, my friend asked if I’d be inter­est­ed in vis­it­ing a human­i­tar­i­an effort he was famil­iar with that was res­cu­ing chil­dren from broth­els. Human traf­fick­ing was not even on my radar at the time, and I was shocked to meet the faces of mod­ern slav­ery in person.

The first home we vis­it­ed was for res­cued chil­dren under the age of 12 who need­ed spe­cial med­ical care. As we drove up to the home, I expect­ed to encounter a depress­ing insti­tu­tion­al envi­ron­ment for kids who had expe­ri­enced the most unimag­in­able forms of exploita­tion. When we walked in, the atmos­phere was so full of joy and hope that I was over­come by emo­tion. Those chil­dren grabbed my hands and taught me the Indi­an ver­sion of pat­ty cake” and duck-duck-goose.” I instant­ly felt a con­nec­tion and a desire to get involved. From there we went to a home for teenage girls. I’ll nev­er for­get meet­ing three teenagers who had been res­cued from broth­els. They had expe­ri­enced hor­rif­ic exploita­tion, yet they had so much hope, con­fi­dence, and ambition. 

As these chil­dren shared with me their dreams of going to col­lege, I des­per­ate­ly want­ed to help but had no idea where to start. I returned home to Seat­tle and start­ed telling my friends about what I had expe­ri­enced while look­ing for ways to get involved with orga­ni­za­tions fight­ing human trafficking. 

In June of 2008, I was on a train­ing hike with a group of friends who were prepar­ing for an ascent of Mt. Rainier. That’s when the idea hit me — we could use our climb to raise mon­ey to fight human traf­fick­ing. Our climb was sched­uled for Inde­pen­dence Day, so it seemed like the per­fect day to high­light fight­ing for the free­dom for oth­ers. I pro­posed that we try to raise $14,410 — one dol­lar for every ver­ti­cal foot of Mount Rainier — and in that pur­suit, Climb for Cap­tives was born.

We sum­mit­ed Mount Rainier and exceed­ed our fundrais­ing goals. A friend called and asked when the next Climb for Cap­tives was going to hap­pen. We planned anoth­er climb and raised more mon­ey to sup­port women and chil­dren; Climb for Cap­tives con­tin­ued to grow. 

Four years after our first fundrais­ing climb, I decid­ed to launch an orga­ni­za­tion called Res­cue: Free­dom Inter­na­tion­al, a glob­al non­prof­it that is cur­rent­ly fight­ing slav­ery in 20 coun­tries. Climb for Cap­tives remains a key part of our cam­paign and con­tin­ues to expand; over the last 11 years, our climbs have raised over 1.5 mil­lion dol­lars to con­tin­ue the fight. This aid has pro­vid­ed schol­ar­ships, voca­tion­al train­ing, coun­sel­ing, safe hous­ing, and holis­tic care for women and children. 

Climb for Cap­tives isn’t a guide ser­vice, so we’ve part­nered with world-renowned guide ser­vice, Moun­tain Mad­ness, to offer our first-ever guid­ed Climb for Cap­tives cam­paign on Mount Bak­er, July 24 – 26, 2020. Now, any­one who wants to climb a moun­tain and make a dif­fer­ence, but doesn’t have enough expe­ri­ence, can take part in this pro­gram. We’ve also cre­at­ed cam­paign tools so that any­one can fight slav­ery by turn­ing their exist­ing climb into a Climb for Cap­tives campaign.

The moun­tains have made me who I am today, and I am for­tu­nate enough to have found a way to com­bine my love for the moun­tains with my desire to help others. 

To get involved, vis­it www​.climb​for​cap​tives​.com and www​.res​cue​free​dom​.org to learn more. 

Author: Jere­my Vallerand

Jere­my Vallerand is the Founder & CEO of Res­cue: Free­dom Inter­na­tion­al, a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that works around the world to pre­vent exploita­tion and aid in the res­cue and restora­tion of those in human traf­fick­ing. Jere­my has lived in 6 dif­fer­ent coun­tries and has a grad­u­ate degree in diplo­ma­cy from Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty. He is an avid out­doors­man, out­door gear tester, a mem­ber of the Gore-Tex Moun­tain­Tech team and the cofounder of Climb for Cap­tives. Jere­my lives in Seat­tle with his wife, Maren, and their three young children.