Welcome to the first post and the “Welcome!” of The Oasis Projekt blog.
The Oasis Projekt (www.oasisprojekt.org) was officially founded in March of 2014, but it’s roots lie farther back. I’ll take a moment to bring you along on a journey of how it began…
Once upon a time in the 1960’s, a man named Richard met a woman named Janet, and they began to like each other. A while later, they were married and had a son.
OK, maybe that’s too far back. Let’s fast forward: Late November, 2008, Mumbai, India. I was on a trip with ‘Life Without Limbs,‘ Nick Vujicic’s ministry. My job: videographer. Amazing journey through several countries. But the one place that would stick with me and lodge deep in my heart was Mumbai. Specifically, the women and children that had been human trafficked and forced into the sex trade in the red light district there. The team had been briefed that we would be going to visit former human trafficking victims that had been rescued from the Mumbai sex trade. We arrived at a serene, peaceful location, almost like a retreat outside of Mumbai, and I readied my camera. I looked around…there was a covered outdoor pavilion that was surrounded by lush greenery, trees, and gentle hills. Under the pavilion were over 200 people; men, women, children, all singing, all clapping, all smiling, completely joyful.
“This can’t be the former prostitutes place,” I thought. “Nick must have felt we had time to stop at another spot on the way.”
Nick is famous for doing so. Despite being born with no arms or legs, Nick Vujicic travels the world motivating and inspiring millions of people, with an energy that is supernatural. If he feels there is a window of time to squeeze in a boys prison, an orphanage, a shelter, no matter how small that window is, he’ll take advantage of it. I thought that he must have done so in this case. These people I was in the presence of couldn’t be the same people who had been through so much hell and suffering, so much trauma in every facet of their life, a possible majority being HIV positive…These weren’t those people.
But they were.
That’s when the tears started falling. No, falling isn’t quite right; more like an avalanche, raining down on the video camera as I recorded. I legitimately feared I would short out the camera, the tears were so strong.
That began one of the most profound experiences of my life, and one that would alter my life’s focus.
Nick was allowed an extremely rare opportunity to interview some of the women who had been freed and were now finding peace, freedom and healing at Bombay Teen Challenge’s “Ashagram” retreat center. We traveled into the heart of the red light district and visited with women who were currently captive and ‘working.’ Sitting in a small room (‘brothel’), the stories flowed. Of countless men, of no chance for freedom, of diseases and illegitimate children that they loved and cared for, who would often lay under their mothers cot as she ‘worked’ to hopefully provide the basic necessities. Watching her children grow, only to know that her children were destined for much of the same fate as their mother. Looking into her eyes as she told you her story…it was heartbreaking.
The other cameraman, Steve, and I went back the next day with the founder of Bombay Teen Challenge, Deveraj, a man most street children across the city knew as ‘Uncle.’ Part Rambo, part Mother Theresa, and all passion & love for what he does, Deveraj is humble, dedicated, and tireless. He took us to their children’s shelter in the red light district, where children of sex trade workers could come to eat, learn, sing, and be loved on by people who cared for them. We visited the only health and HIV clinics in the red light district, and at one point Deveraj asked us to put our cameras down, and follow him quickly out to the waiting vehicle, and not to look around, just walk. Apparently, the mafia and criminal element were noticing our presence, and we were close to being in very real danger if we stayed.
The conditions we witnessed in the red light district haunt me still, today. Inhumane, filthy, tragically though the reality for thousands and thousands of women who had no way of escape.
I came back from that trip with a gnawing, unrelenting desire to help. What Deveraj described as a ‘spiritual discontent.’ I desired to help, but was unsure how. I was in the middle of moving back to California from the east coast, and when I returned, less than 2 months later, my father passed away. Trying to navigate through this personal upheaval, I continued to have the hum in the background…trying to work out how I, a single solitary person, could help, even in a small way.
Working through my fathers death and the reality of mortality in my own life, I decided to get back to doing some of the things that I had once enjoyed, but had become ‘too busy’ to keep doing. At the top of the list was hiking and backpacking. I began reading books on backpacking, researching new packs, gear, etc. I found some books that were first person accounts of people that had hiked a trail called ‘The Pacific Crest Trail.’ I had never heard of it. It stretched from the border of Mexico and California all the way to Canada. Crazy. Those people, I thought to myself, were nuts, but I enjoyed the books, and read several. In the midst of this time, while I was on a 6 mile overnight camping trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail, it hit me all at once: I would hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I would get gear sponsors, I would use social media to spread the news of the hike and spread awareness of human trafficking, I would raise funds and donate those to help victims of human trafficking. BAM. Just like that, literally within a mile of hiking it was all there, in a neat package, and I was not in favor of it! I had no interest in hiking the 2,650 mile long PCT, I wasn’t in shape for it, and I had never had a blog or a website or even a Twitter account. There’s no way it was going to happen!
10 months later, backed by some amazing sponsors as well as friends and family, I stepped out from the shadow of the Mexican border onto the Pacific Crest Trail, pack strapped to my back, and headed north towards Canada! Long story short, I made it 2,000 miles into the journey (you can read about it HERE), and I as I hiked I began to formulate a vision of starting a non profit that would help others do what I was trying to achieve. In Oregon I realized that the reason I was on the trail in the first place wasn’t necessarily to finish the trail, but to get away, and have proper time and focus to see this vision. I stepped off the trail 4 1/2 months, 2,000 miles and 31 pounds lighter, went back to work, and began piecing together what I had just experienced. Again, it was another life-changing experience, and there was much to be pieced together, sifted through and learned from it.
In those next couple of months was where the name, The Oasis Projekt started taking shape. I was wondering what to call the non profit. I had one song that I would listen to, sing, or have running through my head while I was hiking the PCT, especially during some of the rougher parts. Its chorus, “You are my oasis, my calm within the storm…” It would echo through my mind & heart. It fit. I wanted more than anything to help provide a ‘calm within the storm’ for these people who had been victimized by human trafficking. It would be a project…perfect….”The Oasis Project.” Too normal, it doesn’t stand out. Change the ‘C’ to a ‘K’ and…Yes. That’s it. Perfect.
“The Oasis Projekt” it is!
I began preparing a business plan, piecing together the ideas and synthesizing the vision, and also began another adventure that I would pursue while I worked on the details of the non profit. I would be the first person to ride a bamboo recumbent bicycle across the United States (or any continent, actually), again raising awareness and funds for victims of human trafficking. I started that adventure in September of 2013 at the beach in San Diego, and finished in November, 6 weeks later, in the surf in Jacksonville, Florida. Mission accomplished! (You will be able to read more about that journey in the pages of this blog soon, as well).
Four months later, March 6th of 2014, “The Oasis Projekt” became a legal non profit reality, obtaining its 501(c)3 and L.L.C. designations!
Since that time, I have been working to again focus the vision of “The Oasis Projekt,” build the website, implement social media, file more paperwork, set up the financial aspects, and think & pray over who to fill strategic positions in the non profit, such as Secretary, Finance Head, and board members. Also thrown in the mix: planning for the first-ever Oasis Projekt team trip, an off-continent adventure where six team members hike the United Kingdom’s “3 Peaks Challenge,” set for October of 2014, with much more to come in the months and years to come.
So welcome to “The Oasis Projekt!” In this blog, you’ll find stories, info on upcoming events, news on human trafficking issues, reviews of “adventure” gear that might be useful on adventures of all types, as well as videos and the as-close-to-real-time-as-we-can-get updates on any and all Oasis Projekt solo and team adventures.
“The Oasis Projekt” is committed to helping those who have been victimized by human trafficking, specifically the sex trade, and to do this through “adventuring.” Taking something like hiking a long/short trail, riding across the country, running a marathon, paddling a kayak across Lake Michigan, swimming from Alcatraz to the shores of San Francisco, or flying an ultralight plane across the country….taking activities that are so audaciously grounded in ‘freedom’ to help others secure their freedom, and along the way educate others about the issue of human trafficking…that’s what The Oasis Projekt does.
If you can dream up the adventure and want to use it to help save lives, please contact us!
Founder, “The Oasis Projekt”