On Friday (March 6, 2015) a group of 12 adventurers set out from Grahamstown on a 1 400km run across South Africa to raise money and awareness around human trafficking.
The runners from South Africa,the United States, the United Kingdom, Mozambigue and Belgium are completing the distance in nine days in Oasis SA’s first “In the Long Run” event. Funds raised will go to Greenlight, an Oasis project that reaches out to sex workers in informal settlements of north-western Johannesburg.
Oasis, an international Christian ministry which has been pioneering work against human trafficking for years, has staged two successful “In the Long Run” campaigns in Europe in 2014 and 2015 symbolically traversing major human trafficking routes. The SA run which began in Grahamstown and includes Port Elizabeth, Graaff-Reinet, Colesberg, Bloemfontein, Hartswater, Potchefstroom and Johannesburg also follows a human trafficking route say Reginald Kiti and Niels Vandereyken, two of the runners who chatted with Gateway News in PE on Saturday.
Kiti, who is a member of the Greenlight team, says that in addition to running the team is also speaking at schools and community centres along the way. He addressed a a thousand students at a township school in Grahamstown on the first day. He says the students were “thinking really deeply” by the end of the presentation which highlights the reality of human trafficking which is the fastest growing and one of the most lucrative organised crimes in the world. The school principal valued the team’s visit and shared that during the Soccer World Cup in 2010 she had feared that some of her pupils might be trafficked.
Vandereyken, who has been part of the Oasis team in Belgium for the past seven years recently moved to Grahamstown with his family to start an Oasis project in the city. He says many poverty-stricken people in the Eastern Cape are especially vulnerable to human trafficking through false job offers. He urges South Africans to make use of the Salvation Army’s 24-hour toll free human trafficking hotline number 08000 RESCU (08-000-73728) to report suspected cases of human trafficking. He also urges the public to make a difference by volunteering with organisations that fight human trafficking.
Kiti says that the Greenlight project works with sex workers who have resorted to that lifestyle because of financial pressure or have been forced into it and are controlled by crime syndicates. Women who have migrated from other African countries and do not have legal status in South Africa often has no alternative to commercial sex work and are vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking. Through Greenlight Oasis youth change agents build relationships with the women, train them to become peer educators and come to a place of healing and wholeness, which includes freedom from substance abuse and access to opportunities for alternative employment.