David Rice, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and his cycling team are on a mission: to raise awareness and funds for local groups working to end human trafficking.
The Tour Against Trafficking, an 18-day, 750 mile ride throughout Central California, made its way into Turlock on Friday, stopping at St. Francis Episcopal Church for rest and refreshment before the group of bicyclists set off on day 13 of their trip towards Sonora.
As a veteran team cyclist, Rice thought a bicycle tour was a great way to get people involved in the cause and start conversations throughout the region about the growing crime of human trafficking.
"I'm from New Zealand, and there we have a word, 'hikoi,' which means intentional physical movement with purpose. Like a protest march, this is a protest of the crime that is now a pandemic," said Rice.
One of the many people joining Rice on his mission to raise awareness about human trafficking is Michael Fagans, chairperson of the St. Paul's Social Justice Working Group in Bakersfield and director of strategic communication for the United Way of Kern County.
Fagans directed and co-produced the documentary "The Trafficked Life," which the tour team showed in a series of pre-tour events held from San Andreas to Modesto and Avery.
"In California, we have three of the top 10 worst cities for trafficking," said Fagans.
Fagans said that many of the people he and others of the tour team have talked to about human trafficking were unaware that the crime is one of the fastest growing in the world and an issue in the Central Valley.
Although the tour is making its way across the communities in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, Rice said the cause is being supported by a number of different faiths, nonprofits and businesses.
Along with donations from 20 Episcopal dioceses across the country and the world, the Tour Against Trafficking has also received support from the Catholic diocese, Lutheran church, Muslim community, the United Way of Kern and Merced counties and local businesses like Motor City in Bakersfield, which donated the use of a van for the tour.
As of Friday, the Tour Against Trafficking had raised close to $50,000 that will be donated to the following groups working in Central California to end human trafficking: Magdalene Hope, Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Central Valley Justice Coalition, Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, Fresno EOC's Central Valley Against Human Trafficking, Without Permission, Family Services of Tulare County, Center for a Non Violent Community and Breaking the Chains.
"We're so supportive of the Bishop and his quest to raise awareness of human trafficking; it's oftentimes overlooked or pushed underground," said Rev. Kathie Galicia of St. Francis Church in Turlock.
For more information about the Tour Against Trafficking or to donate to the cause, visit www.touragainsttrafficking.org.