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ECPAT UK Row for Freedom

Debbie Beadle reaching dry land2012 saw an amazing event for ECPAT UK, a team of women rowers crossed the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness of human trafficking and raise funds for ECPAT UK and to highlight our campaign for a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking. The Row For Freedom team was skippered by none other than ECPAT UK's own Youth Participation Coordinator Debbie Beadle (pictured) who led the team to win two world records: ‘The fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by an all-female team’ and ‘The first five-woman team to row any ocean’. Please see below for blogs posts and updates from throughout the gruelling 45 day trip!

PRESS RELEASE 21st January 2012
Five women storm into the record books with Atlantic row for ECPAT UK

At about 8.20pm today (GMT-4), Row for Freedom, a five-woman rowing team fundraising for two anti-trafficking charities, arrived in Barbados after spending 45 days crossing the Atlantic Ocean unaided – setting two new world records.

The women were welcomed into Port St Charles Marina by friends, family and race organisers following their 3,000-mile journey, which begun on 7 December 2011 in the Canary Islands. Watch the video of their arrival here.

Debbie Beadle, Julia Immonen, Kate Richardson, Katie Pattinson-Hart and Helen Leigh are now proud holders of two world records: ‘The fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by an all-female team’ and ‘The first five-woman team to row any ocean’.

The women have overcome many challenges throughout their trip, including 30-ft waves, the failure of their steering system and automatic water-making system, sea sickness, salt sores, cramp and sleep deprivation, in order to, successfully take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, known as ‘the world’s toughest rowing race’. More people have climbed Everest or gone to space than have ever rowed an ocean.

Through sheer determination and human spirit, the Row for Freedom team, who had no previous ocean-rowing experience, crossed an ocean that has defeated some of the world’s hardiest and most experienced adventurers – six out of 17 boats have already dropped out from the race suffering snapped oars, capsizing and debilitating sea sickness.

Row for Freedom’s aim is to raise money for two charities that work to fight human trafficking: the children’s charity ECPAT UK and the A21 Campaign.

Skipper Debbie Beadle, who runs a Youth Group for ECPAT UK, helping young people who have been exploited in the UK, said: “We’re exhausted and relieved to have made it. We’ve seen nothing but the sea, dolphins and each other for 45 days so it’s overwhelming to now see our family and friends.

“Our bodies are falling apart – we’re waking up with our hands cramped into the rowing position and our backs aching. We can’t wait to have some proper food and an ice-cold cocktail! Not to mention a proper bed!

“We are blown away to have achieved two world records. These are an added bonus to our initial and most important goal, which is to raise awareness of the horrific crime of women, men and children being sold, exploited and trafficked around the world.”

The women of Row for Freedom spent 45 days on the ocean in a boat measuring 7mx2m, sharing incredible sunsets, visits by dolphins and a Christmas Day under the stars. Theirs was an arduous and dangerous journey - along a route that was once used to transport slaves from the UK to the US - but one they hope will inspire others to fight against the modern slavery of child trafficking.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “This is a fantastic achievement and highlights the level of commitment this organisation and others put in to fighting this terrible crime.
“Human trafficking is an awful crime where people are treated as commodities. I am determined that Britain becomes more hostile to traffickers, and at the same time more compassionate to victims.

“I’d like to extend my warm congratulations to Debbie Beadle and her brave team of four in rowing across the Atlantic and commend their efforts to raise the awareness of human trafficking and, in doing so, breaking two world records.”

Christine Beddoe, Director of ECPAT UK, said: “What these women have done is totally inspiring. They have recognised the urgent need to stop the trafficking of children and adults, and have acted to raise awareness and money to do just that.

“What Row for Freedom has achieved is an opportunity for the UK and the rest of the world to take notice and take action to stop the exploitation of children and young people in Britain and abroad. I applaud and thank them for their tremendous efforts in helping ECPAT UK continue its vital work to protect children everywhere.”

Row for Freedom named their ocean rowing boat ‘The Guardian’ in honour of ECPAT UK’s campaign call for a system of guardianship to be introduced in the UK for child victims of trafficking - because that is what every child victim of trafficking in the UK needs.


For pictures or further information please contact Danielle Spriggs at Captive Minds
Tel: 020 7422 8260 or
Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK
0207 6072 136

World records in sight as Atlantic rowers make huge final push to help ECPAT UK fight child trafficking

Into the sunsetRow for Freedom - the team of five women who are rowing the Atlantic in order to raise money for ECPAT UK - have moved into fifth place in what has been described as 'the world's toughest rowing race'.

The women, none of whom had experience of rowing at sea before, have made amazing progress since departing from the Canary Islands at the beginning of December, and now have less than 500 miles remaining.

After more than a month on the ocean, battling fatigue, 30ft waves and seasickness, Row for Freedom looks on target to set two new world records - the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by an all-female crew and the first five woman team to row any ocean in the world - helping to raise the profile of ECPAT UK and our work on child trafficking.

New pics of the team:
Sleeping in the cabinA two-hour nap before the next shift begins

Debs and Kate rowingWorking up a sweat in the sun

Debs eatingJulia on the phone while skipper Debbie eats some packet food


Pumping the drinking waterDebbie pumping drinking water for the crew

To see more pics of the Row for Freedom team in action visit ECPAT UK's Facebook page.

Out of 17 teams that entered the race, only 11 remain - with others having to withdraw or be rescued due to difficulties.

Nonetheless, the Row for Freedom team are determined to raise awareness of the plight of child victims of trafficking. In particular, they want to garner support for ECPAT UK's campaign call for a system of guardianship for child victims.

Leading the crew is Debbie Beadle, ECPAT UK’s Youth Programme Coordinator, who helps young people come to terms with their experiences at the hands of ruthless traffickers who sell them into the UK to be abused in brothels, work in people's homes as domestic servants, beg on the streets, work in cannabis factories or be moved into and around the country for fraud or petty crime.

These children, of which there are hundreds coming into the UK each year, do not have a voice to speak out about the injustices and abuse they are suffering. 

It is for this reason that Debbie decided to do something incredible that would raise awareness of the plight of these young people who are often forgotten and lost in a country far from their homes.

The crossing, which is part of the infamous Woodvale Challenge, is a feat that is both inspiring and dangerous: more people have climbed Everest or gone to space than have rowed an ocean.

This is a challenge of a lifetime for all taking part, and one that cannot be underestimated. In honour of the ECPAT UK campaign, the Row for Freedom team named the boat ‘The Guardian’ because that is what every child victim of trafficking in the UK needs – and Debbie should know: she works with the children who adults have exploited, hears their stories and tries to help them recover from the trauma they have suffered to rebuild their lives.

It is a dangerous and arduous journey, but one they hope will inspire others to fight against child trafficking.

The small team here at ECPAT UK are so proud of Debbie and Row for Freedom and want to make sure that they raise as much money as possible. Please consider sponsoring Debbie and her valiant goal of raising awareness of ECPAT UK’s campaign for a system of guardianship.

Your donation would help fund crucial work to prevent the trafficking of boys and girls into and around the UK, as well as overseas. It is easy and secure to donate via JustGiving or it’s possible to send a cheque: ECPAT UK, Grosvenor Gardens House,35-37 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0BS.
If you need any more information on ECPAT UK, please email If you are unable to sponsor the Row for Freedom team, please tell a friend, family or colleague about the campaign, follow us on Twitter (@ECPATUK) or visit Facebook: If you would like to be kept up to date on our work, we send an e-newsletter several times a year - sign up at the top right of this page.

Watch a video of Row for Freedom setting off from La Gomera here and listen to the latest audioblogs direct from the boat here.

Thank you

RFF wavesDebbie Beadle, ECPAT UK's Youth Group Coordinator, and the Row for Freedom team are making amazing progress in their bid to row the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for ECPAT UK and to highlight our campaign for a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking.

The crew of five women are in 6th place in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, with under 1,000 nautical miles to go until they reach their end goal of Barbados.

See the latest pics from the team here:

RFF at ChristmasDebbie takes a breather on Christmas Day 2011

RFF Debbie laptopSkipper Debbie plots the team's route

RFF at ChristmasThe Row for Freedom crew post for a picture on Christmas Day

RFF JuliaJulia with the manual hand pump that produces the team's drinking water

The gruelling 3,000-mile race has taken its toll - The Guardian's front seat has broken, as has the team's desalinator, meaning the girls are having to pump all their drinking water by hand. Many of their clothes have also been washed overboard, meaning the women are being forced to row naked for much of the time!

Still, the women are rowing hard, two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours a day, in order to raise awareness of ECPAT UK and its campaign.

Please consider sponsoring the team and help ECPAT UK to continue its vital work in preventing the trafficking of exploitation of children in the UK and overseas. Giving is easy and secure - just visit the JustGiving page or send a cheque made payable to ECPAT UK to:

4A Chillingworth Road, London N7 8QJ

Theirs is an arduous and dangerous journey - along a route that was once used to transport slaves from the UK to the US - but one they hope will inspire others to fight against the modern slavery of child trafficking.

Listen to the latest audioblog straight from the boat by Debbie here. Listen to older blogs or the team's appearance on Radio 4 below...




30 December 2011

The Row for Freedom team are making excellent progress in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and are currently in 7th place with less than 10 miles between themselves and the boat in 6th place.

The team, which includes ECPAT UK’s Youth Programme Coordinator Debbie Beadle, are about as far away from land as they can be at the moment and are now just over 1,300 nautical miles until the finish line in Barbados, battling fatigue, salt rashes and blisters.

While continuing to row 24 hours a day, the women managed to have a Christmas celebration of sorts at sea: singing carols and allowing themselves a Christmas Day treat of washing their hair! They also enjoyed the much-deserved and emotional treat of their first phone call home to their families.

 Debbie also recorded a message to ECPAT UK and its supporters – please listen here. And to hear more about what it’s like on board, hear Kate’s message about life on the open seas.

Ever busy, the girls even managed a phonecall to BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour - you can listen to the interview here (it starts about 30 minutes in).

 However, despite the festive boost, the team’s spirit has been tested in recent days: the water maker has broken so they are having to hand pump all of their drinking water. With hot weather forecast, this is a vital for their health. In addition, the front seat has broken, meaning only two women can row at one time, instead of the usual three. This is a blessing in disguise as it has freed up one crew member to pump the water, but may slow their progress.

 So while you consider shedding a few pounds after Christmas, please do think of the Row for Freedom team rowing hard out on the ocean. Their courageous mission is to raise awareness of human trafficking and the campaign for safe accommodation and a system of guardianship for child victims.

Along the way they are raising much needed funds for to fundraise for ECPAT UK’s work - please do what you can to spread word of their amazing world record attempt on their boat called ‘The Guardian’ and give what you can to support them and prevent the trafficking of children and adults in the UK and abroad.

 If you want to follow their progress, there is also now a Row for Freedom iPhone App available on iTunes. It’s free to download and will help you track the team and leave comments for them.

 Thank you for following the Row for Freedom team. Please check the website or sign up for the ECPAT UK e-newsletter (on the home page) for updates.

Row for Freedom team

At 07:55am on Wednesday 7 December, the Row For Freedom team left the shores of La Gomera to start their 3,000-mile voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in order to raise awareness of ECPAT UK's call for a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking.

As well-wishers cheered along the shoreline, all the crew members were in high spirits as their boat, aptly named 'The Guardian', left the marina in San Sebastian to begin their double world record attempt and raise awareness of the global issue of human trafficking.

After a busy week preparing for their departure, there were a few changes to the Row For Freedom crew. As a result, the team has not been joined by skipper Andrea Quigley. Instead, ECPAT UK’s own Youth Programme Coordinator Debbie Beadle has taken on the mantle of captaining the boat.

Speaking about the changes, Debbie said: "The team had a number of contingency plans in place, as every expedition does, and had fortunately built in time and role restraints. We still feel a world record is within our capabilities as a five person team."

You can hear about the team’s first night at sea, the sea sickness and life on board by listening to Debbie’s voiceblog from Day 1 here:

Follow Row for Freedom's progress
The ECPAT UK Youth Group, which is led by Debbie, have been able to keep track of The Guardian’s progress across the Atlantic by monitoring their route live on Google Earth. To see Row for Freedom's position in the race and check on their progress, click here:

 To make sure you are kept up to speed with all the updates from Row for Freedom, as well as news of campaigns and news from ECPAT UK, sign up on the home page (right-hand side) to our regular e-newsletter.

To support the Row for Freedom team and to help ECPAT UK stop children being exploited, sold and abused, please visit

Row For Freedom prepares for their epic Atlantic journey

Row for Freedom team

The Atlantic Row for Freedom team will take ECPAT UK’s campaign for a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking directly to MPs with an event on the Thames in London on Anti-Slavery Day, 18 October.

This December, the team of six incredible women, including ECPAT UK’s Youth Programme Coordinator Debbie Beadle, will row across the Atlantic Ocean in an epic and gruelling 3,000-mile journey in a bid to raise awareness of human trafficking and to raise £1 million for ECPAT UK and the A21 Campaign.

To promote ECPAT UK’s call for guardianship, the team will demonstrate their rowing skills in front of parliamentarians and the media in the Row for Freedom boat, aptly called The Guardian, on the Thames next month.

Practising with the Row for Freedom boat

As part of the activities on Anti-Slavery Day, MPs will view the boat, which the women will use to cross the vast expanses of the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Barbados, at the Westminster Boating Base in Pimlico.

ECPAT UK will then launch its new report, Watch over me, which calls upon the Government to introduce a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking in the UK.

The report, which is based on a comprehensive legal analysis of the UK’s national and international obligations to child victims of trafficking, finds that the UK has failed to prioritise the best interests of child victims of trafficking and to identify and subsequently provide for the distinct needs of these children.

Row for Freedom is a one-off event that takes place in December as part of the bi-annual Woodvale Challenge and sees a double world record attempt; to be the first six-woman crew to row across the Atlantic unaided, and the fastest female crew ever. 

ECPAT UK Youth Programme Coordinator Debbie Beadle


Debbie (left) and the five other women who come from the UK, Finland, South East Asia and the US to row in two-hour shifts – three on, three off – for 24 hours a day, in a journey expected to take 35 to 40 days to complete, meaning they will spend both Christmas and New Year on the ocean, away from their family and friends.

Row for Freedom has attracted significant corporate and celebrity support, from organisations including lead sponsor ManpowerGroup, and celebrities from across sport, music and entertainment including Sir Steve Redgrave, Bear Grylls, Matthew Pinsent, Dermott O’Leary, James Corden, Dame Kelly Holmes, Scouting for Girls and Kimberley Walsh.

For more information about the challenge, see

To sponsor the Row for Freedom Team see

Read Debbie's blog on her preparation for the race, blisters and all...

Row for Freedom boat


See more pics of the preparation for the Row for Freedom

Row for Freedom in the news!

Rowing record attempt - ITV Anglia Tonight (3 September)

Evening Standard thumbnailAtlantic challengers take on the traffickers - London Evening Standard
(2 September)

ManpowerGroup Fights Human Trafficking Through New Sponsorship
- PR Newswire (1 September)




Copyright © ECPAT UK 2015.

Charity number: 1104948. Company Ltd by Guarantee: 5061385.
4A Chillingworth Road, London N7 8QJ. 
Tel: 020 7607 2136. Fax: 020 7700 5435.


Want to learn more about ECPAT UK and the work we do? Sign up to our regular e-news bulletin:


ECPAT UK is the leading expert voice on child trafficking in the UK and we offer a comprehensive training programme focused on safeguarding young people from trafficking, modern slavery, and transnational abuse. To find out more visit our training page

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