Nov 11, 2016
Christopher Schrader’s first expedition was a 600km walk across England in support for a childhood friend who passed away. Since then, he’s walked the Gobi Desert, cycled across Canada and lived with Kazakh nomads in Western Mongolia for three months, and always in support of causes that are dear to him. He started the first 24 Hour Race in Hong Kong in 2010 to give local youths a taste of endurance sports. The students chose to tackle the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking.
More than HK$6.4 million has been raised for grassroots anti-human trafficking charities since 2010. Today, the 24 Hour Race is the largest student-led movement in Asia. This year, the race has expanded to include more than 2,600 student runners and volunteers from over 80 schools in four cities.
We speak to the extraordinary man himself on the reality of human trafficking, the aim of the race and how we can do our part to help the meaningful cause.
The 24 Hour Race supports charities against trafficking. Why was this cause chosen?
By accident. I had no idea that slavery existed today, but was introduced through a teacher to a British gentleman, Philip Holmes, who ran an NGO based in Nepal fighting the trafficking of young Nepalese Children into circuses in India, where they were physically and sexually abused. Learning about circus trafficking opened the doors to the global problem of slavery. The rest is history.
Who are the charities you are raising funds for this year? Do the students themselves choose which charity to support?
Funds raised through our events go to the 24 Hour Race, a Hong Kong registered charity, which advocates for the fight against slavery through fundraising and advocacy events led by students in Asia. Part of our work is to partner with students to allocate funds to projects run by charities that specifically impact child slavery. By involving students in the diligence process, we are also propelling our mission of education and advocacy, as often how these charities operate to solve complex problems like child slavery is a bit of a black box to the general public.
Is the race 100 per cent student run?
99.9 per cent student-run. We have an operational team led by our CEO, Paul Balluff, and our Board of Directors are all experienced professionals. The races themselves are organised by students for students, with a little guidance and a framework. This includes everything from race marshalling, sponsorship, permits, catering and cleaning up trash!
The race first started in HK and has now expanded to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and South Korea. Do you plan to make it a worldwide movement?
Our vision is “Millions of Young People. 24 Hours. The End of Slavery”. Given the enormous population of slaves (over 36 million slaves today) and its pervasiveness (not a single country is free from slavery) we’ll need to achieve our vision to seriously address the problem and that will involve expanding to hundreds of cities across the globe.
You started endurance training when you were quite young and it led to this. What attracted you to endurance racing in the first place?
Lack of success in conventional sports. You can always win the race if you are the only participant. But on a serious note, I had a childhood friend pass away and consequently his mother set up a foundation in his memory (the Joshua Hellmann Foundation for Orphan Disease). I wanted to do something to support the memory of my friend, and with a classmate decided to plan, train for and complete a 600 km walk across England. After this, most expedition opportunities came my way by coincidence. Since that first walk in England, I have walked across the Gobi Desert, cycled across Canada and lived with Kazakh nomads in Western Mongolia for three months. Always in support of causes that are important to me, my family and friends.
How can adults get involved?
The easiest way to help right now is to donate! We also host a corporate race in Hong Kong, Peak 24, which takes place annually in March/April. It’s an amazing event and supports our work with students to fight child slavery. Fortunately, it is not a full 24 hour race, but a single or double marathon you complete relay-style in teams of 4.
How can other student groups get involved?
If you are in one of the countries where we host a race, organise or join a team for 2017. For those who want to join the movement and organise the race, visit our website 24hourrace.org to become a director or get a license to start an event. All the information about race updates, applications for directorships or team registration are posted on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/24hourrace.