EDMOND — Haley Felix is determined to raise awareness of human trafficking taking place in Oklahoma and across the U.S.
The Pedal the Pacific team member from Edmond is one of 10 college-age women planning a six-week biking trek from Seattle to San Diego this summer. Felix will be the only Oklahoma participant.
Most of the women have never ridden bikes farther than across campus. But they’re passionate about helping survivors of human trafficking. Meanwhile Felix has been training for endurance.
Felix learned of the opportunity from an Oklahoma State University sorority friend who biked last year. She had never biked much before but the mission touched her heart, said Felix, an OSU senior this year.
“Before and during the ride we are raising money for a long-term rehabilitation center (The Refuge) located in Austin, Texas, specifically designed for child victims of sex trafficking. We have currently raised over $48,000 but have a goal of $250,000,” she said.
The Refuge opened its doors last August with 48 beds for victims. There is an overall lack of care for survivors of human trafficking, she continued.
According to therefugeaustin.org, the Refuge provides long-term, holistic care in a pastoral and peaceful setting for girls, through age 19, who have been rescued out of sex trafficking. Each girl in their care has a plan of restoration that is unique to her age, situation and needs. Their comprehensive approach to long-term residential care includes on-site education services, medical care, therapeutic programs such as gardening, equine, art, music and pet therapy, along with one-on-one counseling and group therapy with licensed professional therapists. The girls are housed in cottages that not only provide safety and security, but also a sense of family and community.
“I’m in love with what the refuge is doing. Honestly it broke my heart completely learning about human trafficking, especially sex trafficking of children," Felix said.
Pedal the Pacific is a 1,700 mile bike ride from Seattle to San Diego with the intention to raise awareness about sex trafficking. Through cycling, the fundraising efforts, and engaging in conversations, riders mobilize their communities to make a change. Pedal the Pacific is dedicated to raising up advocates who believe that no voice is too small to make a difference.
Felix has had more than 45 hours of training while investigating the scourge of trafficking.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security describes human trafficking as modern-day slavery. Human trafficking is often a hidden crime. It involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. The problem is prevalent across American communities.