Interested in using your unique talents and skills for service? Rotary Action Groups are independent, Rotary-affiliated groups made up of people from around the world who are experts in a particular field, such as economic development, peace, addiction prevention, the environment, or water.
One group in particular caught my eye, Rotary Action Group Against Slavery, or RAGAS for short. RAGAS provides information about, and promote ways for people, to engage and support anti-slavery and human trafficking projects, programs and campaigns.
What is RAGAS’ doing today?
- Publicizing the work of, and working with, other anti-slavery organizations
- Reminding Rotarians of their ethical responsibilities with regard to the rights of children
- Encouraging Rotarians and Clubs to take action by:
- Actively supporting the work of anti-slavery organizations in their work combating slavery and human trafficking
- Directly supporting various projects e.g. Slavery Rehabilitation Centres through personal visits, participation in grant projects
- Identifying and boycotting offending products
- Supporting campaigns that highlight illegal activity and seek to bring justice for those offended
- Influencing policy makers when considering the rights of children and adults held against their will.
- Engaging Rotarians world-wide through Rotary’s social and other networks.
Ragas supports a few significant projects. Bakhita House is the first Trafficking Shelter in London and the UK. Bakhita House opened in June 2015 to accommodate young women and girls who have been rescued from sex slavery in the UK.
Kathmandu needs help to recover from a cyclone and two earthquakes that struck in April 2015, so RAGAS seeks funding for trafficking shelters in Nepal. The devastation and loss of life left many children at risk, with no shelter or even families. One of their supported Nepal centres, Maiti Nepal, took in an additional 300 orphaned children as a result of this crisis.
They also seek funding for Phase 2 of the Kalimpong anti-trafficking project. Following successful completion of its $69,000 Global Grant project to develop a Vocational Training Initiative (VCT), the Rotary Club of Dunbar, D1020, is now seeking funding to build a shelter for trafficked young women and girls.
One project that was successfully funded and launched is the Schools4Freedom, initiated in 2013 by RAGAS Member Carol Metzker, who championed the project’s holistic approach to tackling issues for children at risk. The project, developed by Voices4Freedom, educates child slaves and is working to free an entire village from slavery.
Carol compiled an invitation to Rotarians around the world, through RACSNews, to raise some $36,000. Carol asked Rotarians “What if you could teach children to read, provide them with food, and free an enslaved village… all in one project?” A project that includes:
- Sustainable freedom for some 150 villagers
- Permanent roof for school to keep intense sun and rain off children so they can study. The type of roof or pavilion—or structure with thatching or latticework for walls—varies in different villages
- Two teachers
- Hot lunches for children
- Solar streetlight
- Educational supplies
- Vocational training and education on child and adult rights
- Documentation and video.
When the project started there were 400 people living in the hamlet in Uttar Pradesh, India. Of them:
- 132 were in debt bondage slavery working in slaveholders’ brick kilns, farm and construction projects
- Others were at risk for enslavement because of abject poverty, illiteracy and lack of knowledge of human rights
- Only two or three villagers could write their own name
- 75 children were enrolled in this School4Freedom (S4F), and are their family’s first generation to go to school.
As of June 2017, Schools4Freedom had helped villagers make great strides:
- Women from the village chose agriculture as their income-generating skill. With guidance from the S4F team frontline workers, the women secured a $232 government loan and have leased land to begin their farming business.
- In addition to the 38 children already freed in this village, 7 (1 male adult, 1 female adult, 3 boys and 2 girls) more community members were liberated from the slaveholder’s brick kiln.
- S4F team and government health workers arranged immunization and treatment for measles for villagers.
- 11 villagers opened bank accounts with the help of S4F workers.
Unfortunately, the slaveholder of these people has figured out what’s going on and is putting pressure on villagers and the S4F team. Because of the power and money of the slaveholder, law enforcement is ignoring villagers’ complaints, but the S4F team continues to carry on.
How You Can Help
Get engaged – help end slavery
(Content and media courtesy RAGAS)