An Oregon-based bunch of fly fishermen have formed an organization that is reaching out to help children all over the world. The Fly Fishing Collaborative exists as a way fly fishermen can use their passion to save lives. These fishermen have formed an extremely unique method of helping out in a big way. And it’s only getting bigger and expanding its efforts all over the world.
Children are vulnerable to being victimized by the sex trafficking industry. According to UNICEF, over 2 million children are affected by sex trafficking every year around the globe. Within that large group, children may be victimized by 100 to 1500 perpetrators every year. The Fly Fishing Collaborative has a goal to end that. And I say, what better way to do so than through fly fishing, one of my favorite pasttimes? Bucky Buchstaber, executive director of the Fly Fishing Collaborative, told The Inertia, “If we are really going to thrive, we can’t just be living for ourselves. We have to be living for the good of others. I wanted to take that whole concept, and say ‘well, how can I apply that concept to fly fishing?’. When we just do stuff for ourselves, ultimately it just becomes kind of meaningless and tired. But once we apply our passions to the good of others, it opens up a whole ‘nother world that is so much more fulfilling and exciting.”
I know, it’s a little tough to visualize how fly fishing would tie into stopping human trafficking. But that is what makes this organization so unique. The Fly Fishing Collaborative has a whole arsenal of tactics to help their cause. One of which is by going to places where children are most vulnerable, and helping to improve and fund safe-homes for these children. These safe-homes are orphanages that are set up to keep youth safe. They build facilities and establish sustainable resources. The group uses an extremely clever and innovative technique to establish these resources – it is called an aquaponics farm. Essentially it is a Tilapia farm, that sends all its excess nutrients to a soil-less array of plants. These aquaponics farms are basically an extremely sustainable method of growing plants and fish at the same time, through the recycling of nitrate, bacteria, and ammonia. In essence, the plants are thriving on the healthy lives of the fish. “These aquaponics farms are insanely awesome. They are sustainable and they are environmentally economical. I thought if we set these farms up for orphanages and safe-homes, then we could really create some significant change,” said Buchstaber. “So then I thought ‘Let’s try to fund these farms through fly fishing. That will give a lot more meaning to my hobby, and it will do some really good work for these vulnerable and impoverished kids’.”
In addition to performing direct aid to the homes of these children, the Fly Fishing Collaborative is providing an excellent amount of funding for their cause, through selling hand-crafted fly fishing goods, as well as through providing guided trips. The revenue from these goods and guided trips goes right back into the cause. The money helps pay for their projects at home and abroad, as well as economically support safe-homes that keep children out of harms way.
So why is it called a collaborative? Because there are so many people, businesses, and organizations that are a part of it. Collaborators include guide services, universities, fly shops, and even much larger corporations such as Intel, Costco, and Patagonia. Even you can become a part of the collaboration – you can purchase some of their handmade products, make donations, volunteer to go on a trip with the collaborative, or even purchase a guided fishing trip. On their guided trips, you’ll get the chance to fish with and learn from some of the most experienced fly fishermen in the world, regardless of your level of skill and knowledge.
The Fly Fishing Collaborative has a tremendous record of fighting against human-trafficking. Already, they’ve had huge success with projects in Northern Thailand, Kenya, as well as right at home in Oregon. Though it seems shocking that the trafficking of children is happening so close to home, it’s a cruel reality. Which is exactly why the Collaborative exists. Sex trafficking is happening as we go through our daily lives. It rarely enters our minds. These guys are taking a real stand on the issue through their most beloved passion. Pretty frickin’ rad.