I get a lot of voice messages from Raquel Heckert, and they are always pretty entertaining. She seems to hate typing out her texts, so instead she records lengthy, melodramatic messages in her distinctive Brazilian accent, laughing at herself as she stumbles over English words, her voice and manner of speech so sleepy that it almost lulls you into a catatonic state.
But every now and then her voice becomes animated as she talks about things that really excite her. The other day, I got one of these animated messages—one that went on and on, probably for five minutes.
She wanted to tell me about a cause that she is especially passionate about, one that is much darker and heavier than the topics we typically discuss. It’s a problem that is pervasive within our society, but that we largely turn a blind eye to due to the fact that speaking out and doing something about it would require many of us to reevaluate our own priorities and purchasing habits.
While human trafficking and child exploitation is largely invisible for the majority of us, it is a massive issue that touches nearly every industry. Depending on the definitions and metrics you use, it is believed there are between 30 and 40 million victims of these atrocities in the world in 2021—more than at any other time in history.
The International Labour Organization estimates that as many as 24.9 million people are in forced labor, with nearly 5 million of these being victims of sex trafficking (including a heartbreaking 1 million children). Modern-day slaves work in virtually every industry, and many of the products that we regularly consume involve unethical labor at some point in the supply chain. Cell phones, flowers, clothing, food, wine, coffee, and the raw materials that go into just about everything we use are powered, in many cases, by slave-trade standards, which is why it is so important to understand where the products we purchase are sourced and manufactured.
Thousands of organisations around the world are working to combat human trafficking, and one of them offers programming just miles from the centre of the surfing world on the island of ‘Oahu. Ho'ōla Nā Pua (HNP) is a nonprofit organisation that provides education, empowerment, mentorship, community awareness, a trauma-informed continuum of care, and professional training to prevent the sexual exploitation of youth (i.e., child sex trafficking). HNP has also designed personalised recovery programs that help these youth recover and reintegrate into bright futures. As part of its comprehensive community programming, (HNP) also operates its newly opened residential treatment centre called The Bromley Family Pearl Haven Campus.
Raquel has taken it upon herself to support HNP’s Pearl Haven treatment facility, and recently approached local shaper Carson Myers about a collaboration to benefit the facility’s essential work.
Raquel offered to pay for the materials for a new log if Myers would shape it and do custom artwork. The duo would then gift the board to HNP for a donation-based giveaway, with all donations going to support the Pearl Haven facility in Kahuku.
You’ve probably noticed that we think quite highly of Raquel here at MSW, and this project of hers is a great example of why. It’s easy for a well-supported pro surfer to attach their name to a trendy cause, but it’s something else entirely for an unsponsored, struggling athlete to create a fundraiser to combat an issue that is largely ignored, and then pay for the entire thing herself with the little money that she makes doing odd jobs on the North Shore. If you’d like to help Raquel support HNP’s survivors of child trafficking (and possibly win yourself a sweet new log in the process), follow this link and donate generously. Your gift could save lives.
Cover shot by Sarah Lee