By Malcolm Baird, Rotary Club of Brighton North
Peter Frueh District Governor D9800, (on the far left) was an enthusiastic participant in Ping-Pong-A-Thon in Oct 2016, in the Riversdale Rovers team (from Riversdale Golf Club). He and the team raised just over $10,500, (the event raised $350,000 nationally) for projects aimed at tackling Modern Slavery and sexual exploitation in the South East Asia region. It is anticipated in October 2017 Ping-Pong-A-Thon (www.pingpongathon.com) that approx 100 communities across Australia will host an event, aiming to collectively raise $500,000 for human trafficking prevention initiatives. Taking place in and by schools, sporting clubs, workplaces, in community halls, churches and pubs, the 24-hour table tennis event will engage Australians as advocates/fundraisers on behalf of those young people vulnerable to or being exploited in forms of modern slavery. Participants commit to play table tennis for a minimum of three hours and invite their family and friends to sponsor their efforts.
Australians have embraced the Ping Pong-A-Thon movement, which has raised $750,000 since it’s inception in 2011, because of the fun, community-rich nature of the event AND the opportunity it gives participants to tangibly advocate for some of the most exploited humans on the planet.
Founder of ‘The Pong’, Adrian Rowse explains, ‘There are 45.8 million people (www.walkfreefoundation.org/)who are slaves in the world today. That’s twice the population of Australia who are being used daily like products off a supermarket shelf because their circumstances make them vulnerable to the greed of others. These are the true underdogs of the human community. “Each of these people matter and Each deserves the chance to live a life that is free”.
When most Australians hear about this issue the vastness of the problem overwhelms them. How does one person tackle a complex global issue and make a real difference? Adrian, who started The Pong after spending two years working in Thailand with teenage boys who were being exploited in the sex industry and vulnerable to human trafficking explains the ripple effect of supporting just one underdog to rise, “We forget that so much potential exists in one human life. When we support a young person to exit exploitative circumstances via alternative educational or vocational opportunities, it’s not just their life that is changed. Given the opportunity to escape from situations of slavery or exploitation, these young people often courageously go on to change the lives of their families and make their wider communities more resilient in the process. This protects future generations from being vulnerable to future exploitation”.
Ben Grieger is a teacher from Loxton High School in Regional South Australia. He ran The Pong in his school in 2015-16, inspiring them to a schools fundraising record of $10,124 in 2016. Ben explains why he got involved in the movement. “As a teacher, I love helping young people be the best they can be and it breaks my heart that there are young people in our world living lives of captivity, deprivation and exploitation. Other than the abusive circumstances these children are facing, they are just like the students I teach”.
Ben loves the obvious impact that takes place through funds raised at the event, which are used by Ping Pong-A-Thon’s seven partner organisations to combat trafficking and exploitation in South East Asia in a variety of ways. But he also speaks passionately of the impact The Pong is having on staff and students at his school. He explains, ‘The Pong doesn’t just change lives overseas; it changes the hearts, minds and attitudes of participants. They become ambassadors and champions for this cause and will grow up to be men and women of conviction who will go on to teach their children to value all people and to help those in need rather than exploiting them.”
While The Pong event can be run in any community setting, in schools and clubs, more workplaces are embracing the event in a big way for 2017. Schools like Loxton High are using the event to reinforce core values of respect and dignity, (particularly focused towards the attitudes and behaviours of boys towards girls and women). Workplaces are using the event as a fun and morale boosting way of bringing the work week to a close on a Friday afternoon/evening. A group of six lawyers in Brisbane and six accountants in Melbourne each ran a three-hour Mini Pong event as part of the 2016 campaign, both events raising upwards of $2,000 in the process.
|The Freedom Story||Thailand||http://thefreedomstory.org/|
|Hard Places Community||Phnom Penn, Cambodia||http://thehardplaces.org/|
|Home of New Beginnings||Bangkok||www.homeofnewbeginnings.com/|
|Up International||South East Asia||www.pingpongathon.com/page/up-international|
|Destiny Rescue||New Delhi, India||www.destinyrescue.org/aus/countries/india/|
Australians of all ages are invited to participate by registering online, engaging their friends and family as sponsors and committing to play table tennis for three hours during the event at their preferred location.
Rotary Clubs across the country are invited to consider hosting an event in their local community - make contact with a local interact Club, school or sports club, to create an event, OR support an existing event, find here https://pingpongathon.com/search?s=event as players or support volunteers on a roster or assist with community promotion and sponsorship. Donations in Australia are tax deductible. All enquiries for event hosting or to support one in your Community are welcome. To participate, sponsor or find out more, visit: www.pingpongathon.com
Event Organiser Resources https://pingpongathon2017.raisely.com/page/event-organiser-resources
For enquires related to the national campaign contact Ping Pong-A-Thon's administrator via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0487 381 818.