In Asia, students take part in 24-hour relay races to end modern slavery

The initiative seeks to raise awareness about human trafficking, as well as funds. Some say the races help them better understand the conditions of modern slavery.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/File
Students look out of windows at Taylor's University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 20, 2015.

Malaysian student Benjamin Tan was injured and so exhausted at one point of the race that he was just limping around the running track – but he knew he could not give up.

"I was so tired, my legs were killing me but I know I was running for a greater cause to help people who are enslaved and being trafficked around the world," said the 17-year-old.

Tan was among 2,500 high school students who on Nov. 20 completed 24 hours of relay races in a student-led campaign in Asia to end modern slavery and human trafficking.

The races were held simultaneously in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. A similar race was held in Seoul in September.

Founded in Hong Kong in 2010 and run by students, the "24 Hour Race" initiative under the charity Running to Stop the Traffik seeks to raise awareness and funds towards combating modern slavery through the endurance race.

Tan said the race helps him get closer to understanding the conditions of modern-day slavery, as he and his teammates cannot quit running despite the exhaustion.

There are eight runners in each team and they take turns to run non-stop for 24 hours.

"I still won't be able to relate to what slavery victims are going through but it helps me to understand their condition a bit better. I have a choice to give up anytime; slaves don't," said Tan.

Almost 46 million people around the world are living as slaves, forced to work in factories and mines, or trapped in debt bondage, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.

Asia, which provides low-skilled labor in global supply chains producing clothing, food and technology, accounted for two-thirds of the people in slavery, according to the index.

Another Malaysian student, Michelle Lee, said the race gave young people a platform to understand and explain modern slavery to the public when they embark on the fundraising campaign.

She cited the example of migrant domestic helpers who are commonly employed in Malaysian households to do cleaning and cooking but many of whom are denied their basic rights.

This includes cases of employers confiscating the domestic workers' passports or denying helpers their weekly day off.

"Modern slavery affects us on many different levels but sometimes [when] we see it, we just don't realize that is modern slavery," said Lee, 17, who organized the Kuala Lumpur race.

The fundraising campaign this year aims to raise HK$3 million ($387,000) and the fund will be donated to six charity groups which help slavery and trafficking victims.

The campaign, which runs until mid-December, has raised about a third of its target so far, according to its chief executive Paul Balluff.

More than 150,000 students had taken part in the race in previous years.

Reporting by Beh Lih Yi, editing by Ros Russell. This story originally appeared on the website of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.news.trust.org.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to In Asia, students take part in 24-hour relay races to end modern slavery
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/Change-Agent/2016/1129/In-Asia-students-take-part-in-24-hour-relay-races-to-end-modern-slavery
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe