Queens residents, cross-country cyclists raise awareness of human trafficking

By Tom Momberg

Members of a new nonprofit advocacy organization, led by Dr. Santhosh Paulus of North Shore LIJ and several Queens residents, finished a 3,400-mile cross country bicycle ride last weekend to raise awareness of global issues of poverty and human trafficking, passing through Queens on Saturday.

As the founder of Cycling For Change, Paulus came up with the goal of sponsoring at least 100 children through World Vision, which seeks to implement agricultural and social solutions to world poverty and hunger.

In partnership with the NOMI Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing economic opportunities for victims and survivors of human trafficking across the world, Paulus recruited several bicyclists to train over the last 15 months to prepare for the coast-to-coast effort.

“They cycled across the country in an effort to break the cycle of world poverty and human trafficking,” said Paulus’ wife, Rajdeep Paulus, who escorted the dedicated cyclists in an RV as they biked about 100 miles a day for 34 days straight.

“It was truly fascinating—going across the country to so many different small towns—and to see how many people were supportive of our cause and how many people were affected by the issue,” Rajdeep Paulus said.

Paulus said human trafficking is something that does reach as far as the United States fairly often, and people are able to identify with victims because it is a human tragedy that follows poor populations around the world.

Often, defenseless and impoverished populations around the world are most vulnerable to kidnapping and forced slavery, and many are sold to human traffickers by members of their own governments or family members out of desperation, Paulus said.

There were eight bicyclists that went the whole 3,400-mile distance, two of whom are Queens residents: Team captain Julian Valencia, a Baysider and student at Queens College, and Daniel Severino, a Jamaica resident, EMT and aspiring medical student.

Santhosh Paulus, an avid bicyclist and Locust Valley resident, had been training for the long trek across the United States until he was diagnosed with a severe heart condition that made him change his plans. But still, as the founder of Cycling for Change, he joined his riders for their final stint through New York, along with about three dozen additional riders from New York.

Through the use of crowd funding, a golf outing and by collecting pledges from people in towns the riders visited during the trip that started in Seattle, Wash. and ended in Long Island, Paulus was able to raise $40,000 so far this year to go toward sponsoring hungry, vulnerable children in third-world countries.

Cycling For Change is planning a final fund-raising gala of the year this October, and plans to continue its efforts next year. Visit c4c2015.com for more information on the cause or to learn how to donate.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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