My name is David Ryan. I am a Development and Communications Intern at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT), average salsa dancer, ultra-triathlete, car-singer, and Colorado convert. My journey to my current chapter with LCHT started with a class I took during my undergraduate studies.
Common Phrases, New Meaning
Human trafficking was not something I had really thought about until just two years ago. I was sitting in a class at Saint Joseph’s University watching a video about gender and economics. On the screen advertisements popped up, all written in Japanese. These ads were selling girls- children in fact. The words being used were familiar to me from my time studying abroad in Japan. They were common phrases I had interpreted and used as jokes when I lived there. But suddenly they had an entirely new meaning. The message was clear and this was no joke. I was angry, but even more disappointed with how little I understood the world around me.
Human trafficking, and more broadly human exploitation, are the enemies of personal agency. According to conservative estimates, there are fifteen to twenty million people experiencing this extreme form of exploitation today. Twenty million silent voices I had not known existed until I was 22 years old. So when I moved to Colorado in November of 2017 to live in the mountains and ski for the winter, I also committed to find a way to work on this issue.
A More Holistic View of the Problem
I was immediately drawn to the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking because of their work to understand the real needs of individuals within a community context. LCHT is providing insight into the gaps, strengths, and promising practices within Colorado’s anti-trafficking movement. These efforts bridge the political gap which often occurs in the methods used to address exploitation. Community-based research acknowledges that trafficking looks different everywhere, and the needs of victims and communities addressing trafficking look different as well. I have seen that this approach takes a more holistic view of the problem in Colorado, which creates a better path to a solution.
After being accepted into LCHT’s Leadership Development Program for the spring and summer of 2018, I set off on a winter of fun enjoying everything that Colorado has to offer. But I was also preparing for another event.
My Ironman Journey
Jumping into 50 degree water at 6am is not part of most people’s ideal Sunday. I promise you, it isn’t part of mine either. But that was what I started to do last year despite my fear of drowning, the claustrophobia I experience in a wetsuit, and the years of fear instilled by shark movies. An Ironman involves 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and then 26.2 miles of running all in one day! To prepare, I trained for ten hours a week, which turned into twelve, and then fifteen, and ultimately twenty. Why on earth did I decide to do this?
My Ironman journey began because I needed to find my way again and learn how to believe in myself. I wanted a challenge, and I had never done a triathlon. I also wanted to use this opportunity to fundraise and spread awareness about the cause I work on and believe in. With less than a week to go and significantly more doubts than when I started, I am still here. I’m closing in on the culmination of hundreds of hours of work, with the finish line somewhere in the distance. Hopefully I can make it without stopping or needing to crawl to the finish line (But I am certainly not above that if it comes to it!).
If you are interested in supporting me and LCHT while I run, bike, and swim over 140 miles, you can donate at combathumantrafficking.org/irondavid . Thanks for all your support!