Rainbow Railroad is Doing Life-Saving Work

Photo Courtesy © TreadRight Foundation

A Pathway to Freedom for the LGBTQI+ Community, Supported by the Treadright Foundation

In a multicultural and diverse city like Toronto, sisters Kena and Sanchia fit right in. However, their journey to living freely hasn’t been easy. In their birth country of Barbados, one that discriminates based on sexual orientation, the last thing in the world Kena and Sanchia felt was accepted. Self-censorship was vital to their very survival. Like many members of the LGBTQI+ community, the burden of hiding their authentic selves was a heavy one to carry—one that loomed over them constantly and robbed them of their joy.

“My sister, in our country, she never smiled,” explains Sanchia, looking at a photo of her and her sister the day after they landed in Canada, at Niagara Falls, with huge smiles on their faces. With tears in her eyes, Kena explains that she finally felt like she could be her true self once in Canada.

There are currently more than 70 countries that criminalize homosexuality or legally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In these countries, LGBTQI+ people are routinely arrested, denied basic human rights, attacked and brutalized, and even murdered.

Coming to Canada changed Kena and Sanchia’s lives forever, and for that, they credit Rainbow Railroad. The organization is providing safe passage and resettlement support to thousands of LGBTQI+ individuals, with a mission to help them escape persecution and violence and find safety in a new country where they can live freely. For many, the organization is a lifeline. “I feel safe within this community Rainbow Railroad offers me,” says Sanchia.

Based in Toronto and New York and operating globally, Rainbow Railroad receives thousands of requests each year for assistance. This number increases consistently, with more than 5,000 requests received in 2021 alone, and is exacerbated by the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the refugee crisis, and increased crackdowns on LGBTQI+ individuals in countries like Uganda, Ghana, and most recently, Afghanistan. Like Kena and Sanchia, many of these individuals faced dangerous and abusive home environments. Today, violence in family and domestic spaces committed against LGBTQI+ women remains at epidemic levels around the globe*.

lgbtqi+ community, 2 sisters sitting on couch
Photo Courtesy © Treadright Foundation

As an internationally recognized human rights leader, Rainbow Railroad has facilitated safe travel and resettlement for more than 1,500 LGBTQI+ individuals since 2006 through its core Emergency Travel
Support program and has provided support to thousands more.

The TreadRight Foundation, charitable arm of global travel provider the Travel Corporation (TTC) and a leader in the sustainable travel space, recently announced its partnership with Rainbow Railroad. TreadRight has funded more than 60 sustainable travel initiatives worldwide to date and, alongside TTC, shares with Rainbow Railroad a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and a more equitable future for all. For The Travel Corporation and its family of 40 brands, including Contiki, Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, and Red Carnation Hotels, increased diversity, equity, and inclusion is vital for both the communities visited and for travellers.

TreadRight’s support will further Rainbow Railroad’s ability to help an increased number of persecuted LGBTQI+ individuals find safety, help enhance partnerships with organizations working on the ground to assist migrant and asylum seekers, and provide additional support to its beneficiaries through resources including accommodation, medical care, access to essential medicines and in-country relocation.

“Rainbow Railroad was like that opening for me, like yeah, there’s hope for you. There’s hope for other people like you, you’re not alone,” says Kena.

Rainbow Railroad is working hard to provide a pathway to freedom for those living in oppressive societies. We all deserve a life that is free from violence and hate.

* Statistic sourced by Rainbow Railroad


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