Listen: Adrian Rowse (above) explains the Ping-Pong-A-Thon to Clare Chate.
If you’ve got access to a ping-pong table and bats, a pile of bouncy white balls, and some willing mates, you can help fight slavery.
Not by some strange new form of ping pong warfare, but by joining in the Ping-Pong-A-Thon. The event, better known as “The Pong”, is a nationwide fundraiser held in October each year to help in the fight against human trafficking—and it’s coming to a venue near you.
At least, that’s the hope of the organisers, who this year want to see the event running in 80 clubs, pubs, churches, schools, sports venues and community halls across Australia.
Inspired by the Plight of Children in Thailand
The Ping-Pong-A-Thon is the brainchild of Adrian Rowse (pictured above), who was previously the director of Urban Light – an organisation in Thailand rescuing and rehabilitating teenage boys caught up in sex work.
“People often think about trafficking and exploitation and they don’t immediately think of boys, but in many nations boys are just as vulnerable as girls are,” Adrian said. “In Thailand we worked with boys who were largely homeless, often addicted, and engaging in sex work as a means of survival because of the poverty of their families. It was out of that context that I was seeing, day in day out, men driving demand on this issue—but then men absent when it came to being part of the solution.”
Ping-Pong-A-Thon’s For Everyone – But Especially Guys
On his return to Australia Adrian established the Ping-Pong-A-Thon. While women and girls are included, organisers aim the event primarily towards males, so that they can become active in combating the sex trafficking problem.
“We started the Pong as a way to experiment with engaging men, and decided to make it something fun, sporty and all about community and relationship.”
In 2011, the first ‘Pong’ was held, with 15 men keeping the ping pong balls bouncing for 24 hours, raising $10,000. In 2015, the event raised almost $200,000. Funds go to eight partner organisations, all working in a different area of the human trafficking issue. International Justice Mission, for example, works at a government and policing level, while Destiny Rescue is actively rescuing young people from brothels in many parts of the world.
Pubs And Clubs Are Welcome, Too
Participants range from 6 to 100 years old, and event organisers range from young teenagers to retirees. Table Tennis associations are now considering getting involved, and last year a pub hosted the event with great success.
“We had everyday Aussie blokes sitting around at the end of the week having a beer and ping pong going on in the pub,” Adrian said, “and men are actually learning about the issue of trafficking in a very non-threatening way.”
The adventurous publican was so impressed with the success and spirit of the event that he hopes to speak to the Hotels Association about getting more pubs involved.
While many social justice related events are faith-based, the Pong is not religious-wrapped at all, says Adrian.
“It’s very much community-friendly and is for everyone in the community, because we believe this is a human issue,” he said. “It shouldn’t just be Christians responding to it. Anyone that cares about other human beings should have the opportunity to make a difference.”
How To Get Involved
Community organisations, schools or individuals keen on hosting the fundraiser can register their interest through the event website, Pingpongathon.com. Closer to October, a list of events where you can join in the 24-hour ping pong marathon will be available on the Pingpongathon website.