June will be a pretty exciting month for most South African school children -- they get a whole month off of school, their parents won't have to go to work, and the World Cup will be played in their country. But some children will face a very different scenario. Kids with troubled families or whose parents work in service industries and other industries which don't get time off for the World Cup will find themselves with no school to go to for safety. Many people are concerned those kids will be the targets of pimps and traffickers. But one group of South Africans is offering a solution and issuing a call to action: if you live in South Africa, make your home or church a safe place for kids.
The2010 Our Children Campaignis based on the simple, somewhat old-fashioned idea that it takes a village to raise a child. In other words, the welfare of a child is not just something for his or her parents to think about, but an issue for the whole community. They are asking South Africans to open their homes, churches, and community centers to children who need a safe place to stay during the day. This includes children who are homeless for most of the year, as well as those who may simply be alone all day because their parents have to work, and school is canceled for the month. If kids know they have a safe place to go, they'll be less likely to fall prey to predators on the streets.
To participate, you don't need a fancy, intensive program. Just reach out to the families in your area and let them know you're willing to be a sanctuary for kids during the school holiday, if they need one. The website suggests that a few toys and games will provide more than enough entertainment. In the U.S., an ad-hoc day camp without in-depth background checks for staff probably wouldn't fly with parents, and the same may be true of families in South Africa. But for some families, simply knowing that the church down the street or a neighbor is willing to look in on their children will offer piece of mind.
There has been a whole lot of back-and-forth about how much additional human trafficking the World Cup will actually generate in South Africa. I'm thus far sticking with my original prediction that there will be a modest increase -- far below the tens of thousands of victims some are estimating, but an increase nonetheless. But whether there are 100, 1000, or 10,000 more child trafficking victims than usual, this program is a good idea. In fact, it's really how communities would function all the time, ideally. A child gets into a dangerous situation and needs to go somewhere close by for help? There should lots of places for him or her to turn to.
If you don't live in South Africa but you'd like to support the Our Children Campaign, you can donate to support their basic operating costshere. But remember, child trafficking is by no means unique to South Africa or to the World Cup. Consider how you might make your community a safer place for children.
Amanda Kloerhas been a full-time abolitionist for six years. She currently develops trainings and educational materials for civil attorneys representing victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence.
In addition, I came across the petition below for people to sign and let the United States government know you want them to help support South Africa and kick trafficking out of the World Cup 2010.