David Black gave an emotive speech on child slavery, specifically child sex slavery. This is a subject that we in New Zealand are not aware of being so far so away from our culture of human rights and protecting the vulnerable. David put the subject into our conscious, and the Balclutha Rotarians walked away from the meeting with an awareness and an obligation.
Project Starfish is about setting a realistic goal for each of us, making a difference to at least one child’s life exposed to this horrific exploitation of their innocence.
Story goes, a massive flood washed up many starfish on a beach, and a lone man walked along the beach picking up one starfish at a time, throwing these back into the sea. When questioned at doing such a pointless gesture in light of the huge numbers, he replied,
”It made a difference to the starfish I just threw back into the sea.”
In South East Asia, 5 million children are affected by poor nutrition, fifty percent of all children born die before they are three years old.
David presented some heart-rending images, many of the young children from the hill tribes situated between Myanmar and Thailand. The peoples from this area do not belong to any nation, so do not have access to education, housing and health services. This leaves people, especially the children, vulnerable to slavery as those seeking to exploit them are not at risk of any criminal charges being brought against them.
One image that I found particularly disturbing was of a little girl selling flowers, smiling with her two front teeth missing. Innocent scene, but David pointed out these young ones were in training for selling products to foreigners and closing the deal, the next step being in a few years to sell herself.
David is an ambassador for action. He has a multifaceted approach including:
  • Encouragement of Rotary leaders to take up the cause, Rotary is an organisation that has links to many influential organisations and people including the United Nations, the Vatican and philanthropists such as Bill Gates.
  • Involvement of young people through Rotaract, who shall sustain the project over the years to come.
  • Provision of lectures and awareness events to create a ripple effect of rejection that would progress into social media.
  • Social media links to donation platforms such as Give a Little.
  • Frontline work by volunteers such as the building of educational and health care institutions, provision of health services.
To this goal, he has organised a Rotaract group of talented young people to travel to Thailand in November to see for themselves and to spread the awareness as well as carry out some frontline work.
David finished with a clear message for us all to take action, a child is waiting for an opportunity to have a life with happiness, not one of terror and pain that is sold to the highest bidder in this consumer driven world.