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14 year old Isaak is picking up the paddle to raise funds for victims of human trafficking and exploitation. Photo by Adrian Rowse.
14 year old Isaak is picking up the paddle to raise funds for victims of human trafficking and exploitation. Photo: Adrian Rowse

Ping pong power against injustice

It may be a perennial party favourite but ping pong is at the heart of a nation-wide campaign to help end the exploitation and trafficking of young people throughout South East Asia. Ben Rogers reports on the Ping Pong-A-Thon and one Uniting Church teenager picking up the paddle to make a difference.

In 2011, a group of Aussies endured a marathon 24 hour ping pong session to raise funds for Thai organisations helping victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The final donation totalled $10 000 and they decided to make the concept an annual event under the moniker, Ping Pong-A-Thon.

Since then, the campaign has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for multiple organisations in South East Asia to bring hope to victims of exploitation and human trafficking, with the 2015 event getting 1500 participants across the nation to raise over $200 000.

Running throughout October, individuals or teams can host their own ping pong event or participate at a number of venues throughout Queensland, and then get sponsorship from friends and family for a minimum of three hours of playing time.

For Brisbane teen Isaak, this will be his second year involved after a chance encounter with some participants at the Surrender conference in 2015 introduced him to the “Pong” as it’s informally known.

“Mum took me to the conference in Melbourne last year,” Isaak says. “I saw a ping pong table so I thought I would go play; I was there a lot over the three days and the guys spoke with me about what it was all about and I just thought it was something I needed to do.”

And while the Pong is open to everyone, the event has traditionally been aimed at engaging males, who play a major part in the problem of sexual exploitation. For 14 year old Isaak, the fundraiser’s emphasis on capturing the attention of men and boys was certainly a factor in getting involved.

“This was something for the guys,” Isaak explains on why he chose this particular cause. “It was something that made a difference to stopping people trafficking, particularly sex trafficking which is just not right.”

The tangible difference of last year’s fundraising efforts to the lives of South East Asians has included dozens of Thai teenagers from red-light districts transitioning into alternative employment and receiving health services; educational workshops being hosted in Cambodia to teach locals about issues of sexual abuse; and two motorcycles were purchased and are being used to rescue exploited children in Laos.

For those considering picking up the paddle this year to help end trafficking and exploitation, Isaak has a simple message which should already be familiar to those who wear a certain sportswear giant’s clothing: “Just do it!”

For more information on the Ping Pong-A-Thon or to register visit pingpongathon.com

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