VALPARAISO | Kerith Ackley-Jelinek never thought she would find herself hiking to the Mount Everest basecamp this coming April.
But when she felt a calling to help end human trafficking, she decided to climb to action.
Ackley-Jelinek, 34, of Valparaiso, will join a team of 44 women from around the world in a trek known as the Freedom Climb. The climb organized by Operation Mobilization is intended to raise awareness and funds.
“I’m not outdoorsy at all. Oh my goodness, no! I’m not an exerciser or a particularly physical person. I work out of my home, and I like to crochet and sit down and do things,” said Ackley-Jelinek, who became involved in the project in October while traveling to Cape Town, South Africa.
“A friend of mine said she was planning on applying with the Freedom Climb, and I got curious. She explained how a group of women do this trek to raise awareness and funds for victims of human trafficking, and I felt compelled to garner attention for this cause,” she said.
That cause is to combat human trafficking.
“There are more slaves today than there ever have been in the history of the world. There are 27 million people enslaved for labor and in the sex trade. If we pull our resources together, we can open our eyes to this evil and we can be the generation that decides it ends now,” Ackley-Jelinek said.
Even though she may be attracted to the trek because of the cause and not the adventure, she said she is looking forward to working side by side with other women who are committed to ending a wicked business.
“We get on the ground in Kathmandu on April 9 and hike through April 25. We will trek to the base camp, just over 17,000 feet. We are going to scale a small summit there that will be over 18,000 feet, so we will be in some serious altitude. But hiking is the last reason to do this. For me, this adventure is for women and children around the world that are in horrifying situations that make up my worst nightmare,” she said.
In addition to raising the funds to travel to Mount Everest, Ackley-Jelinek had to raise $10,000 for the cause, which goes toward rehabilitation and rescue projects for women and children through Freedom Climb. She just accomplished that Friday and she hasn’t stopped.
“The more money we raise, the more children and women we can help,” she said.
To donate to Ackley-Jelinek’s fundraising efforts, visit thefreedomclimb.net/sponsor/climbers/77-kerith-ackley-jelinek or to follow her progress visit www.facebook.com/KerithGoesToEverest.
To follow all Freedom Climb trekkers, visit facebook.com/freedomclimb.