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Saskatoon Polar Dip Gives Slavery the Cold Shoulder: Interview with Ben Bernard

The days are getting longer and the temperature is, slowly but surely, creeping up above zero. But a few weeks ago, a brave Saskatchewanian invited over a dozen people to take an icy plunge in an outdoor pool to end human trafficking. Ben Bernard, founder of the Saskatoon Polar Dip shared with us about his experience.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself, Ben!
My name is Ben Bernard and I founded and organize the annual "Saskatoon Polar Dip to Fight Human Trafficking.” The event we just had on Feb 11th, 2017 was our fifth annual event. The Polar Dip is about raising awareness for human trafficking and raising money to help stop it.
2) How did you learn about IJM Canada?
Someone told me about IJM a number of years back when I was first learning about human trafficking. I was so impressed by IJM's approach of working with local justice systems to actually stop human trafficking from happening again. I wanted to get involved and to do what I could to be a part of it.
3) What inspired you to start the Saskatoon Polar Dip?
I wanted to find a way to raise money to help support IJM as well as other groups working to stop human trafficking. I had also wanted to try doing a Polar Dip just for fun and a friend suggested I do both at the same time. Thus the Polar Dip was born.
4) How many people generally participate?
It varies year to year. 24 people took part last year and we had 18 this year.
5) How cold is the water--really? And how does it feel?
The water is close to freezing. We fill the pool with snow and ice to make sure that it is really, really cold. When we put the thermometer in this year, [the water] was right at zero degrees. When you jump into the water you just feel pain, it's like being stabbed all over your body. As soon as you come up out of the water you just gasp for air because of the shock to your system.
When you jump into the water you just feel pain, it's like being stabbed all over your body. As soon as you come up out of the water you just gasp for air because of the shock to your system.
6) What do you think about before you jump in?
I just try not to think about it [laughs]. I know if I think about the cold I'll just psyche myself out. It's not until I'm on the stand ready to jump in that I really realize what I'm about to do.
7) How do you and the other participants warm up afterwards?
In previous years, we have just had to wrap up in towels and blankets. It took a long time to warm up.
This year we had a sponsor provide a hot tub for us, which was super nice-- although, you might not want to jump in right after the cold because the shock is almost too much. We actually kept the temperature in the hot tub down so that it would not be such a shock to the plungers.
8) Has anyone ever refused to jump at the last minute?
Actually, no! We've definitely had people with second thoughts, though. Lots of people sign up for the Dip and don't follow through, but no one has shown up and then refused to jump. This is impressive since we had an 11-year-old boy do the Dip this year, and we had a 12-year-old girl do the Dip last year.
9) Describe one of your favourite or most memorable moments from the event.
My favorite part is when people walk by in the morning while we are setting up for the event and say, "You guys are doing what?!?" People can hardly believe what we're doing.
10) Why are you passionate about issues of injustice?
Well, it really bothers me that in this age of technology and in an era that has a heightened respect for human rights, that so many people are victimized and mistreated. I believe that the only way the world gets better is when ordinary people stand up and say, "this isn't right", and then go and do something to make it better.
Many of the freedoms and rights that we enjoy today exist because ordinary people in the past stood up and took action and paved the way for a better future for us.
11) What is your number one tip or piece of advice for anyone looking to run a fundraiser?
First off, you need to be determined. Not everyone will get on board right away. The longer I've been doing the Polar Dip, the more people take it seriously and want to get involved. Also, ask for help and get feedback. Be firm about your mission and goals but flexible about how you carry that out.
12) Who had the biggest impact on the person you have become?
I think I'd have to say my parents. They had a big impact on who I am today. They taught me to care about others and to try to be selfless.
13) Of any person in the world, who would be the best person to be stuck in the elevator with?
I think I would want to be stuck in an elevator with Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX. He has so much vision and so many ideas. I think he would be really fascinating to talk to. I'm also on a bit of a space kick right now.
14) What is your strangest talent?
Well, a couple years ago I tried wood burning and found that I am actually quite good at it! I used to doodle a lot when I was younger and with a wood burner it's like doodling on wood, it's great!
15) Which do you prefer – being too hot or too cold?
Neither [laughing]. Maybe too hot. I like being warm, I like summertime. Kind of ironic I guess since I plan a Polar Dip...
16) Tell us an item from your bucket list.
I would love to go into space! It's very unlikely that I ever could. It costs about $200,000 right now to be a space "tourist".
17) Anything else you’d like to share with the readers?
Don't be afraid to try new things, and if you have a vision to do something, take some steps towards actually doing it. Even if it's unusual or if it's never been done before.

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