A quirky table tennis movement is helping everyday Australians free some of the world’s most vulnerable people from sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
Australians of all ages, (predominantly boys and men) will be working up a sweat at table tennis venues across Australia in the annual Ping-Pong-A-Thon, the national event which also challenges boys and men to make a personal commitment to treat girls and women with dignity, value and respect in their local context.
More than 60 communities across Australia will host the 2016 Ping Pong-A-Thon
(www.pingpongathon.com) this October. Taking place in schools, sporting clubs, community spaces, churches and pubs, this 24-hour table tennis event will engage 3,000 Aussies as advocates/fundraisers on behalf of exploited young people. Participants commit to play table tennis for a minimum of three hours and invite their family and friends to sponsor their efforts.
Following the success of the 2014-5 Bunbury events, (where participants from the region raised more than $15,500), the wider community is invited to participate in the 2016 event being held at Bunbury Vineyard Auditorium, 32 Clifton Street, Bunbury from Friday 4th November to Saturday 5th November 2016.
Started by Melbourne’s Adrian Rowse in 2011 as an experiment to try to engage men on issues of trafficking and exploitation, 15 Melbourne men raised $10,000 to help exploited children and teenagers in South East Asia. Doubling in size each year, the event has now raised more than $400,000 and given many Australians a sense that they can make a significant difference in the world.
Given its rapid success since it started, Adrian has big goals for this year’s event. “This year the event aims to raise a further $400,000 to support the work of nine partner organisations in South East Asia, who are combating issues of human trafficking and exploitation of young people from a range of different angles”, he said.
The fun and quirky nature of The Pong is seeing it gain momentum across the nation. In 2015, a 13 year old Brisbane boy became The Pong’s youngest venue organiser. Isaak, with the help of his parents, engaged his local community to raise more than $5,000 for the cause, (of which Isaak personally raised $1,000). And a 100 year old man in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs turned up to score at his local venue to show his support. 2016 will see The Pong’s first corporate venue with an event taking placing in the foyer of a CBD office tower in Perth. Also in Perth, an eight year old boy is organising the event in his school. Adrian says, “The event works because it’s such a fun and simple way to make a tangible
difference in the world.”
Having been piloted in four secondary schools in 2014-15, more schools are adopting the event as a means of educating male students about the global issue of trafficking and encouraging a shift in attitudes and behaviours of young men towards girls and women in their local context.
Adrian started The Pong in 2011 while working as the director of a small NGO in Thailand, which provides support and services to young men (aged eight to 24 years), who are living and being exploited in the red-light districts of Chiang Mai. Adrian says, “I’ve seen first-hand the huge challenges that so many young people in our world face simply as a result of being born in an environment of extreme poverty. Many children in South East Asia are sent by their families to the cities to fend for themselves or to find ‘work’ and send money back home to support the rest of their family.”
Providing these young people with a second chance is important to Adrian. “With limited education, no job skills and nowhere to live, most of these young people end up living on the streets and are drawn into the sex industry as a means of survival. Their stories would break your heart, yet the courage they show in the face of the sometimes-daily exploitation and abuse is truly inspiring”, he explains.
Aussies 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.
To register to participate, sponsor, or find out more, visit: www.pingpongathon.com