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Raising awareness about human trafficking along the N1

Categories: ALL THE NEWS , Social & Community, Women Empowerment
Brave runners brace scorching Karoo sun for 400 km through Karoo to help trafficking victims

One of South Africa’s top long distance runners is taking the lead to raise awareness about human trafficking during 16 Days of Activism when he attempts to run 400 km in four days through the Karoo with a team of activists for the Put Your Foot Down campaign from 6 to 10 December.

HILTON MURRAY from the Bellville Athletics Club has already made a name as a man with a big heart who is willing to push his body to its limits for charity. He holds four records for long distance running in his age group (50 to 55) and in 2014 Hilton completed 10 ultra marathons in 10 days for charity, including the Comrades marathon. Earlier this year he raised awareness about the needs of disabled people by completing both the Two Oceans Marathon and the Comrades while pushing his quadriplegic friend Anita Engelbrecht in a wheelchair.

On Tuesday 6 December Hilton started another grueling race with Claudia Burger, Caroline Peters, Tiaan Roodt, Liezl de Necker and André Oosthuizen when they departed from Rawsonville to run 400km to Beaufort West. The runners stopped at towns such as Touws River and is on their way to Laingsburg today (8 December). They will depart for Leeu Gamka tomorrow (9 December) to spread the message about preventing human trafficking and they will receive a warm welcome when they arrive in Beaufort West on Friday.

Hilton says he didn’t hesitate when he was asked to join the campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking. He recently travelled along the N1 and was disturbed by what he saw along the way. “The poverty in the Karoo towns result in many desperate people falling prey to traffickers who make promises about job opportunities in big cities,” he says. “Women and young people are especially vulnerable and this run is a wonderful opportunity to make people aware of the dangers and the reality of human trafficking.”

With the Put Your Foot Down Against Human Trafficking initiative the NPO Anex (Activists networking against the exploitation of children) wants to help destitute young people in the Karoo along the N1 route. In recent years grim details have emerged about the increase in the number of children being abused and trafficked from towns such as Beaufort West, Leeu Gamka and Laingsburg. Anex works tirelessly to prevent trafficking in children and child labour.

Anex has joined forces with four NPO’s – Women’sNet, Girl’sNet, 1000 Women’s Trust and Put Your Foot Down – to raise awareness about this tragic situation during 16 Days of Activism. With the #PutYourFootDown (@Sit Jou Voet Neer on Facebook) campaign the aim is to inform the public and to empower vulnerable youth. The #PutYourFootDown initiative was started last year by 15-year old Kara van der Merwe to raise awareness about sexual abuse of children. The organizers are working closely with trucking and transport companies to help address the issue of human trafficking and to encourage truck drivers to make the N1 safe.

In order to find a lasting solution to help victims and vulnerable youth, Anex will open a much needed Child and Youth Centre in Murraysburg in 2017. The Anex house will serve as a safe haven for 40 youth who need temporary care within the Eden Karoo.

“There is a great need for alternative care for children whose home circumstances have deteriorated to a point where a court orders them to be taken into care,” says Claudia Burger, programme director of Anex who will also be running along the N1 from 6 to 10 December. “At present the closest centre where such vulnerable children from the Eden and Central Karoo district can be accommodated is in George.”

The house in Murraysburg will not only be a shelter for children, but a family resource centre for the whole community, Burger explains. “We want to help parents reconnect with their children in an environment that is friendly and supportive. Murraysburg has one of the poorest communities in the country and there are a lot of broken attachments in families.

“The best way to help these kids is if we also reach out to their struggling parents, without making them feel inadequate. Everybody comes with their own trauma and in many cases parents simply can’t give children the care they need or provide them with security.”

An important part of the Put Your Foot Down campaign is to also encourage the public to make donations to furnish the safe Child and Youth Centre. From 6 to 10 December there will be a Put Your Foot Down stand and information kiosk at the BP Garage in Beaufort West in 170 Donkin Street where people can drop off old clothes, toys furniture, curtains, kitchen utensils, linen, pots and pans – anything that can be used to make the house a welcoming home for kids in need. Travellers can also take a photo of their feet at the stand to show support for the cause.

Tina Thiart of the 1000 Women’s Trust says this is a very special initiative that will provide much needed safety and security for vulnerable young girls and boys. “It is a project that will bring hope and healing to the whole community. We’re proud to be able to make a difference.”

The 1000 Women Trust mobilizes resources to provide access to skills, leadership capacity building and provide seed funding to women-led organisations.

PHOTOS OF THE RUN ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE:                  @Sit Jou Voet Neer

1. MEDIA ENQUIRIES                              :      Hannelie Booyens      083 460 3710 / 021 782 8816
2. MORE ABOUT ANEX                           :     Claudia Burger             021 638 5521 / 0835873269
3. Hilton Murray                                         :                                              083 895 6054

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