July 30 Paddle Against Human Trafficking!



Instructions for participation as a paddler are on our Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1525361534164889

Below is a press release for you to be more fully informed, and to share with media who might care about this issue and our community involvement. Thanks! 



HarborLAB: Erik Baard

Beauty for Freedom, Monica Watkins

Paddle Against Human Trafficking!
Survivors, Advocates, Students Launch East River Tour in View of United Nations
An Event for the UN World Day Against Trafficking in Humans

When:            Sunday, July 30, 2017 (8AM in LIC, 10AM in Dumbo)
Where:          Gantry Plaza State Park (50th Avenue and Center Blvd, LIC, NY 11101)
Dumbo Cove (between Main Street Playground and Jane’s Carousel)

On the 2017 UN World Day Against Trafficking of Persons (July 30) HarborLAB, Beauty for Freedom, other women’s advocates (UN Women Metro NY,WomankindMentari), survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and students will launch what will become an annual kayak tour to raise awareness and funds to combat this crime against humanity and to help its survivors heal.
8AM in LIC: Shandra Woworuntu, Founder and Executive Director of the Mentari Human Trafficking Survivor Empowerment Program and a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. Ms. Woworuntu is a survivor of human trafficking and forced prostitution.
10AM in Dumbo: TBA (City representative)

We’ll launch from Gantry Plaza State Park, across from the UN, and land in Dumbo, across from City Hall and One Police Plaza, and then return. Following through on this event, HarborLAB will provide special programs to human trafficking survivors based on the therapeutic value of time in nature and the confidence-building opportunity of mastering aa novel challenge like kayaking. Beauty for Freedom continually empowers these women through art.

“HarborLAB sums up its mission up as ‘Paddling for environmental and social good.’ When volunteer kayak instructor Steven Chu, a wonderfully creative person, shared this idea with the group, it was a natural fit,” said HarborLAB Executive Director Erik Baard. “Waterways have carried people to slavery and exploitation, but waterways can also carry people to healing and growth. Kayaking is one of the best ways to experience nature in New York City, and research has shown great psychological benefit from that.”

“The crisis of human trafficking is a global issue that affects us all and we can all be a part of eradicating slavery. Educating ourselves on the implications of sex trafficking and labor trafficking by advocating for stricter laws and knowing where and how our clothes are made and our food is cultivated is a good start, but we can all do more. Supporting incredible organizations like UN Women, Womankind and MENTARI are paramount to supporting the modern day abolitionist movement and it is an honor to take part in the “Turning the Tide on Human Trafficking” event with HarborLAB supporting survivors on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.”

Float Plan/Schedule:

Launch: Gantry Plaza State Park.

Schedule set by tidal currents:

715am: Leave HarborLAB with boats and gear.
730am: Gather at Gantry Plaza State Park (South Pier/50th Ave). Load in boats, fit life vests, etc.
8am: Remarks by Erik Baard, Monica Watkins
805am: SPEAKER: Shandra Woworuntu of Mentari Human Trafficking Survivor Empowerment Program (http://www.mentariusa.org/).
820am: Safety talk.
830AM: Launch for Dumbo!
Photo op: Students in kayaks, possibly with banner, with UN in background.
930AM: Land at DUMBO Cove.

Brunch, speaker from NYC government. Remarks by Giselle Bowyer (UN Women), Yinan Xia (Womankind)

12PM: Launch for return.
130PM: Land. Load boats and return gear.
3PM: Done!

About the sponsors:

HarborLAB is a student and volunteer organization affiliated with Open Space Institute dedicated to environmental service, education, and social good. HarborLAB provides free boating, field trips, and classroom programs, especially for communities underrepresented in local maritime life and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.  HarborLAB  has two kayak and canoe fleets, one on New York Harbor and another on the Neversink Reservoir, to provide comprehensive experiential learning of NYC’s water systems. www.harborlab.org

Beauty for Freedom (BFF), a 501(c)(3) Non-profit foundation, whose mission is to battle the crisis of human trafficking and empower survivors, raises revenue for survivors in the developing world with a fresh approach of self-worth and empowerment through the arts. We engage the industries of Beauty and Fashion as powerful allies in the fight to end human trafficking through public campaigns, our travel-abroad arts therapy workshops for survivors and events. www.beautyforfreedom.org

Liberty Over the Waves!


July 4 weekend is our time to reward the volunteers who’ve contributed so many hours of hard work to providing free educational programs on our waters and in classrooms. We found it fitting to honor the national holiday with a paddle looping around the Statue of Liberty from our launch in LIC on the Newtown Creek. What a blast!

Our theme for the day was set by this Union of Concerned Scientists report about how rising sea levels as a result of anthropogenic (human caused) climate change will threaten our national monuments. A United Nations report agreed that the damage to the Statue of Liberty and other World Heritage Sites will be “incalculable.”

The day shared by volunteers, however, was gorgeous. We’re grateful for each day of peace and plenty before CO2 emissions’ mounting toll is gravely felt, and hope we can work to prevent the worst.


The East River was glassy as we glided on the ebb past Brooklyn, easily rounding The Battery and crossing to New Jersey and drifting down to the Statue. We were well ahead of schedule. We paused at the “Wunder Bar,” a secret little submerged island of sorts where one can stand in the center of New York Harbor. We landed in the Jersey City canal community of Port Liberté.

Our return was both fun and challenging. We stopped for a dip at a beach sardonically nicknamed “Chromium Beach” for Jersey City’s industrial legacies. Instead of retracing our morning course through much busier afternoon ferry traffic, we crossed the choppy harbor to Governors Island and scooted under its south point to ride the flood up Buttermilk Channel and then onward to Brooklyn and home to Queens.

Fireworks by Kayak!


Photo by Jeffry Lim.

HarborLAB is grateful to the US Coast Guard and NYPD Harbor Unit for their safety patrols as we view the Macy’s July 4th Fireworks extravaganza by kayak. Our volunteers work hard to provide free paddling programs, classroom lectures, seeding and greening projects, and more to the benefit of thousands of New Yorkers. One reward for this donated labor is enjoying the best seats in the house for this gorgeous display of pyrotechnics.

We hope you join us in our service, learning adventures, and these earned benefits! Visit our volunteer page (tab above) and drop a note to volunteer@harborlab.org and let us know how you’d like to help!



Swim Across America Support

Whack cancer with your paddle!

July 29
— Larchmont, Westchester County
August 5, Glen Cove, Nassau County

Join HarborLAB’s annual support for Swim Across America, a series of events to raise funds for cancer research and clinical trials. HarborLAB partners with a laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center by providing kayaks, paddlers, and other volunteers to ensure the safety of swimmers and overall event success. Please note that these events require very early starts; team team leaders or their designates will provide more information on preparation and scheduling, and will help coordinate transportation, if you’re selected.

To volunteer for these events you must register directly with Swim Across America and with HarborLAB. Kayakers must be experienced, so please include your paddling history and certifications along with your name, age, and transportation needs in your responses.

In the autumn. Memorial Sloan Kettering kindly offers laboratory tours to HarborLAB’s community of volunteers and students, which we hope will inspire further study and support. We’re particularly interested in environmental factors behind cancer.

July 29, Larchmont (Team Leader: Jeff Lim)
Long Island Sound Open Water Swim
Email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line “Swim Across America: Larchmont” with the information requested above. If you’re selected, we’ll ask you to immediately register with Swim Across America directly as well.

Aug 5, Glen Cove (Team Leader, Erik Baard)
Sound to Cove Open Water Swim
Email volunteer@harborlab.org with the subject line “Swim Across America: Glen Cove” with the information requested above. If you’re selected, we’ll ask you to immediately register with Swim Across America directly as well.

Team leaders and their designates will provide more specific information about preparation, scheduling, and help coordinate transportation.