ORIGINS An automatic downgrade of Malaysia’s ranking in Trafficking In Persons Report in June 2014 revealed that Malaysia is now at the same level of atrocity as Iran, Zimbabwe, Syria and some terrifying regimes or sex-tourism destinations in terms of its human trafficking activities. The impression of Malaysia as a rapid-growing, peaceful, pious Islamic nation can no longer stand true before this reality check. The fire of this hellish industry that buys, sells and exploits human beings, has been ravaging our society—and the problem is, the majority of Malaysians do not realize. That was what triggered the unprecedented 3-month campaign on human trafficking called “Be My Protector” that was launched on 25th April 2015. Sponsored by the Selangor State government, as an urgent response in sympathy and indignation, this campaign has two simple yet important goals: firstly, to increase the knowledge and awareness on human trafficking and secondly to empower the community to take immediate action when necessary and therefore increase community intelligence. YB Hannah Yeoh, YB Bee Yin Yeo and YB Sze Han Ng, who initiated and fully sponsored the campaign, strongly believe in the power of awareness and urge Malaysians of all ages and social levels to come together to fight against this thriving underworld business of human trade and exploitation.
PREPARATIONS The preparations began 6 months prior to our first event “TRAPPED”. Most of our core ideas and strategies were born in our internal meetings with the YBs and with different groups of talents who volunteered in this campaign. Meetings were also held frequently with different parties and authorities. Tenaganita, the NGO that is at the forefront of battling human exploitation since 1990s, provided statistics, information and insights to us generously when we interviewed them. According to their observation and analysis of most cases in Malaysia, it was concluded that we should target the middle to upper classes, contrary to the traditional belief that this issue only concerned the lower society and/or foreign workers. We were also privileged to be invited to a small talk facilitated by Stop the Traffik, Australia, where other Christian organizations, NGOs and advocates fighting the same cause gathered for not only an eye-opening learning experience but also an exchange of opinions. We were all encouraged by each other’s presence and input. Meetings with our co-organizer and sponsor, i.e. the assembly women and men, were crucial in finalizing the budget, the ambassadors’ list, the truck design, the production, the launch program, etc. The dedication shown by our YBs to making sure that this campaign runs well was truly inspiring and motivating, especially given their hectic schedule as politicians. As for the execution side, thanks to the connection that our YBs’ offices helped to make, we were able to establish partnership with an event truck company, the 23 celebrities and politicians who became our ambassadors, as well as 16 major malls and locations we targeted for our first event of truck awareness. A significant amount of time was spent not on recceing the locations, but on discussing and agreeing on the operation and creative direction of the proposed performance, crowd-gathering activities as well as Trapped Room experience. As the fight against human exploitation is still a taboo issue in Malaysia, which concerns both the victims and the perpetrators—two irreconcilable categories ironically Malaysians may fall into, a lot of arrangements had to be given thoughtful consideration and be submitted for approval by one after another parties and authorities that were involved. In line with the terms and conditions of each location and according to their extent of contribution, we adapted our program and made an inventory of materials needed for each location. In applying for permission to run such a big scale (and tabooed) event in public areas or malls, thanks to the assistance of our YBs’ offices and the cooperation of the malls, we did not get caught up in any red tape for the official letters and permits needed but were provided with all of them timely. The most challenging task during our preparation was actually the recruitment of volunteers, the backbone of the campaign. On one hand, due to the magnitude of the event and the flexibility of the number of slots to volunteer, there were countless variables involved throughout the preparation in the different roles, responsibilities, number required, trainings and commitment levels of the volunteers; on the other, it took tremendous connection, creativity, resourcefulness and time to find, motivate, inspire and train our volunteers. It was the first action taken before all other tasks and even during the 9-day event, we continued receiving and training volunteers. We sent emails with attachments, posted the infographic on social media, set up booths in different events of our partners … exhausted our connections and resources to spread the news and encourage more and more to join. There were not only street volunteers but also professional volunteers like dancers, actors, make-up artists, photographers, videographers, etc. that we were looking for. A few briefing sessions were organized because all volunteers needed to be well-versed with the basic knowledge of human trafficking and the objective of this campaign, and preferably be acquainted with human trafficking stories and facts concerning Malaysia. The professional volunteers moreover needed to be auditioned and then trained for the respective skills, especially for dancers and actors who would be performing. Credit goes to City Harvest Church whom we approached—two weeks prior to the event, who in the nick of time mobilized their members to come and handsomely filled in the empty slots and roles for which we were desperately searching for people for weeks in vain. Bravo to all our volunteers who sacrificed their time and energy for the briefing, study at home and for the performing volunteers, the many mandatory and voluntary practice sessions. Above all, all of you rose to the occasion and exemplified a golden heart for the community and the voiceless, with amazing tenacity, courage, creativity and warmth. It brings immense joy and encouragement to see Malaysians, especially the younger generation rising up against social injustice, whose actions have directly and indirectly created a ripple effect and evoked undiluted enthusiasm in other young people to also rise up, do something and be an impact. May the trend go on! This—is the hope of a safer, healthier, better nation tomorrow.
These are some pictures of our awesome volunteers.