Worldwide statistics about human trafficking are hard to believe, but when Ryan Berg saw the reality with his own eyes during a trip to India, he couldn’t pretend it wasn’t real.
The nonprofit Aruna Project (named after the Hindi word for “bright morning sun”) was born from Berg’s desire to do something tangible to help women trapped in modern-day sex slavery.
"Aruna brings and sustains freedom to exploited women in the brothels of South Asia through employment marked by holistic care," says Berg.
The Aruna Project not only offers women freedom from slavery, but also provides resources such as traditional housing, employment, health care and counseling to the women rebuilding their lives.
In 2008, Berg planned the first Aruna Run For Their Freedom 5K race as a fundraiser for the organization's mission. This year’s race will be the ninth such event in Cincinnati, with at least 10 others scheduled around the country for this spring and summer. Over 700 people participated in last year’s Cincinnati race and Berg expects a few hundred more this year.
The run has a three-fold mission: to raise awareness about the issue of sex slavery, to raise funds used to free women from slavery and to provide employment that sustains their freedom.
Aruna 5K runners, literally “run for their freedom.” Every participant runs wearing the name of a real woman trapped in slavery and every runner receives a drawstring backpack produced by women who have been freed and are now employed in India by the Aruna Project’s partner business.
Berg says that in the past two years, through the Cincinnati Aruna 5K and others across the U.S., over 35 women have been freed, empowered and many now are now employed by Aruna.
How to participate
The 2017 Aruna Cincinnati Run For Their Freedom will take place on May 20. Registration ends May 18 and costs $30. Runners can register on the Aruna Project website and then raise extra funds through the individual fundraising page. The race will begin at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center at 9:00 a.m.
Because the cost of the event is underwritten by sponsors, 100 percent of the funds raised directly benefits the Aruna Project.
See a video invitation for the run from Cincinnati Bengal’s linebacker Vinny Rey.