Running For A Cause

It is always a pleasure to welcome Mainers when they visit Washington, DC. Recently, it was an honor to welcome Moninda Marube, a relatively new resident of our State, to our nation’s capital during his amazing 3,700-mile run from Auburn, Maine, to Santa Barbara, California, to raise awareness of the evils of human trafficking.

Moninda left his homeland in Kenya in 2010 to escape poverty and violence and came to America to find freedom. Instead of freedom and opportunity, Moninda was met with exploitation and poverty. He and other top athletes from Africa had been tricked by an unscrupulous agent who took nearly all of their winnings and who controlled nearly every aspect of their lives.

Why run from Auburn to Santa Barbara? It was after winning the Santa Barbara International Half Marathon in 2011 that Moninda met Dan Campbell, a legendary Maine high school track coach who was working at that event, and told him about his desperate situation. Dan helped Moninda come to Auburn early the next year, opened his home to him, and trained with him.

That marked the beginning of the Moninda Movement, a 3,700-mile cross-country running tour designed to educate the public and policymakers about the scourge of human trafficking, as well as to demonstrate the importance of fitness and physical activity in combatting the problem of childhood obesity.

Moninda set off from Auburn on July 1. Averaging some 25 miles per day, he reached Washington, DC, on July 27, a distance of nearly 600 miles. When he reached the grounds of the United States Capitol, coach Dan Campbell and his wife, Shari, were there to meet him. It was truly inspiring to see many young athletes from Maine, runners Moninda and Dan have coached, sprint onto the Capitol grounds with Moninda.

The people of Auburn have welcomed Moninda with open arms and truly have made him part of the community. Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell deserves the highest praise for his efforts. He has been a strong advocate for Moninda and an effective voice against human trafficking. In addition, the fitness component of the Moninda Movement is having a tremendous impact -- under the leadership of Dan Campbell, Moninda Marube, and Chief Phil Crowell, the Auburn Police Athletic League running program has grown to more than 50 young athletes.

Moninda’s stop in Washington represented a detour of hundreds of miles from Maine to California. I am grateful that it was made in order to bring more attention to the urgent issue of human trafficking.

In my work on this issue, I have learned that no place – including Maine – is immune from the horror of traffickers luring vulnerable victims into sexual or financial exploitation with the promise of a better life. As Moninda told the crowd on the Capitol grounds, “Traffickers have the sweetest tongue you will ever meet. They promise you heaven, show you chocolates, show you everything of the sweet things. But when it comes to delivery, they deliver hell.”

Congress must do more to provide law enforcement with the tools it needs to pursue trafficking and to support those preventive programs that help vulnerable girls and boys, as well as women and men, who fall victim to trafficking. This is one reason why I was proud to cosponsor the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which was signed into law in May.

Maine is doing its part to end this scourge. The “Not Here” Justice in Action Network brings together law enforcement and service providers to raise awareness about trafficking. Maine’s Sex Trafficking Action Response Team and the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Workgroup also provide statewide platforms for sharing resources. Those efforts, along with further work underway in Congress, are shining a bright light on some of the darkest stories imaginable.

Moninda Marube is more than a world-class athlete. He is a person of remarkable courage and commitment to others. As his inspiring journey now turns westward to California, the people of Maine are with him every step of the way.