June 19, 2024

Run for a cause: Phoenix Phase Initiative hosts 5K/half-marathon Saturday at Legacy Plaza

Nonprofit is raising money for women affected by human trafficking

The Phoenix Phase Initiative held its second annual Run For Her Life 5K/Half-Marathon on May 7 in Newton.

Three years in, the co-founder of the Phoenix Phase Initiative, Collin Barnes, feels the nonprofit’s annual half-marathon and 5K is beginning to pick up steam in the running and fitness communities, who not only want to test themselves in the event but also help the organization fulfill its goal of ending human trafficking.

“Especially from the first year I noticed more people getting engaged in what we’re about,” Barnes said in an interview with Newton Daily News. “We’re hoping to make it bigger every year. We keep finding out what people liked and what people didn’t, and we’re constantly trying to improve.”

The Phoenix Phase Initiative’s Run For Her Life 5K/Half-Marathon kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 29, at Legacy Plaza. There will also be live music, food trucks, swag bags, medals and a free beer/pop/juice for each in-person participant. Runners and walkers can register at runsignup.com/runforherlife.

Using the feedback from the previous two runs in 2021 and 2022, Barnes is adding an official timer to the run, provided by True Time Racing. There are a total of nine water tables throughout the route, too. Plus, the number of volunteers for the run have skyrocketed this year to about 50 people.

“Sign up!” Barnes said. “We’re taking registrations until that Saturday morning. If Saturday doesn’t work, they can sign up for the virtual option.”

WHAT IS PHOENIX PHASE INITIATIVE?

Phoenix Phase Initiative is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help women who are trapped in the sex industry all over the world. Specifically, the Newton-based group wants to raise $180,000 to construct an occupational training center in Arua, Uganda, to house women for up to 10 to 12 months.

At which time the women will be learning specific job skills — counseling, fiscal management and basic agriculture — that they can implement to create a new life for themselves. Barnes said oftentimes the women in these regions are held back from leaving a life of human trafficking because they don’t have job skills.

“That’s where we come in,” he said. “We invite these women in and while they’re with us they learn a specific job skill so they can go out and get a job right away. Along with that we teach financial management and incorporate a lot of trauma counseling because of the things these women have gone through.”

Barnes said the nonprofit has raised more than $30,000 thus far. When the nonprofit establishes its first training center in Uganda, it opens up more opportunities to grow and construct other centers where human trafficking and sexual exploitation are huge issues.

“We want to help these women wherever they are, be that in Africa or the U.S. or Asia — wherever,” Barnes said.

To learn more about the Phoenix Phase Initiative, visit the nonprofit’s website at www.phoenixphaseinitiative.org.

HOW DID FOUNDERS DECIDE ON THIS CAUSE?

What drew Barnes and his wife — fellow co-founder Danielle Barnes — to make a nonprofit centered around combating human trafficking was partly due to their faith. When visiting a gala for Garden Gate Ranch, a nonprofit with similar goals, they learned more about the travesties of human trafficking.

“Then we were doing devotions together and we were reading about a woman in Judges 19 that gets raped so many times and so aggressively that she dies,” Barnes said. “It was jaw-dropping. Then we did some research. This is not something that happened in biblical times. This is happening today.”

In the passage from the Hebrew Bible, the woman is thrown out by her husband against her wishes to a mob of men. Barnes said the subject of sex trafficking or human trafficking often feels taboo, or makes people uncomfortable to talk about it freely. But discussing it raises awareness.

“If nothing else, we’re informing people that this is an issue and that this is something that exists,” Barnes said of human trafficking. “It’s kind of a taboo thing, but it’s becoming less so, which is good! People are talking about it more … They realize these things are happening.”

Whether or not they donate money or participate in the marathon, Barnes just hopes people become more aware of this global issue.

“If we can get people to open their eyes to the issue and become aware — even if they aren’t supportive the Phoenix Phase Initiative — maybe they can find another local nonprofit and support that, or tell your kids, your daughters that they need to be aware of this real issue.”

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.