Hong Kong students lead the charge against modern slavery with 24-hour races

Charity aims to raise funds and awareness by hosting 24-hour relay races in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore on Saturday November 19

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 8:00am

A school-student led movement, created in Hong Kong, is aiming to engage one million people in the fight against modern-day slavery and raise awareness of the problem around the world.

The movement, which gave birth to the charity Running To Stop The Traffik in 2010, is organising 24-hour races in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore on Saturday November 19 to raise funds for anti-human-trafficking organisations.

As of yesterday, they had ­already raised HK$300,000 from donation in the city alone.

“We have some 4,500 high school students involved, which means that we grew 100 per cent this year ... It’s going take us a while to reach one million people, but we are going to get there, bit by bit,” said Paul Balluff, CEO of the charity and the 24 Hour Race.

He noted that the movement’s final goal is to achieve the end of slavery. “If we can have a year in which we reach one million people, who are in different countries from very different backgrounds, then we will trade a lot of international momentum. I believe it will become a more important topic on the global agenda and this will lead to the end of slavery,” Balluff, 27, said.

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Students from eight local schools and 24 international schools in Hong Kong will run in relay teams of eight members and complete as many laps as they can for 24 hours, from Lugard Road to Harlech Road on the Peak, next Saturday.

Right4Children, an organisation that supports underprivileged young people, and The Exodus Road, which organises rescue missions in Southeast Asia and India, are the two charities chosen by students to receive the donations currently being collected in Hong Kong.

Winnie Leung, 16, a student at the Saint Paul’s Co-educational College, was a runner last year and became a student director responsible for promoting the race this year. She said that the campaign showed her a side of Hong Kong that she was not aware of.

“I learned that human-

trafficking is not only a severe problem globally, but it is also a serious problem in Hong Kong. For example, many domestic helpers are in situations of exploitation. I found that very shocking and wanted to work towards this cause,” Leung said.

“People perceive Hong Kong as a very rich place, so they do not realise that there is such a deep-rooted problem in our city,” she said. “Even if they see news reports on sex trafficking ... they don’t think is a big problem, because they don’t see it with their own eyes. Even their own domestic helpers could be considered in a situation of exploitation, but they don’t realise that. People are unwilling to accept what they see on the news because they are unwilling to observe it,” Leung said.

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Balluff, whose role is to coordinate the students involved in the movement, noted the need to make human-trafficking a relevant theme in schools. “The student directors and also the runners understand they are the winners of globalisation. They understand that a lot of the wealth that we receive today is based upon slavery. That starts with your phone,” he said. “If we can make slavery such a prominent topic in schools as it is now climate change, for example ... that will make a difference,” Balluff, who is from Germany, said.

Leung, who plans to study medicine, agreed that education is the solution to change people’s mentalities. “I do think that education should be provided at very early stages, because slavery is becoming greater than ever in human history,” she said.

International reports indicate that there are some 45.8 million people in slavery.

The races, Leung noted, help to spread the word not only among young people, but also among the people around them, including their relatives and friends.

A 24 Hour Race was organised for the first time this year in South Korea, with the movement reaching four locations across the world. “We are now in contact with students in Thailand, the USA and Australia ... This is how we would like to continue growing next year,” Balluff said.