Thursday, 29 December 2011

Hands of Action Children's Art Project - Updates




Uganda Through The Eyes Of A Child

These charming drawings offer a unique insight into daily life in rural Uganda.

They were drawn by youngsters from four schools and orphanages in the district of Bududa.



The name and age of the young artist can be found in the box in the corner of the painting, just click on the image to get a larger view.


We have quite literally hundreds of pictures to go through before deciding on which ones we will use for a physical exhibition.



As we scan them, and prepare them for the online gallery, we'll keep posting little "teasers" here for you to enjoy.


The volunteers in Uganda, and of course the hundreds of children from schools and orphanages involved, put a lot of effort into these gems. These are their dreams.


These youngsters have the same dreams and aspirations as any child you know. They want to be doctors, pilots, nurses, engineers, teachers, firemen, policemen, farmers. All of them seem to want to become someone who contributes to society, to their community.


And this is where you can help. At the foot of the page we have put a donate button. You can contribute as much - or as little - as you feel comfortable with. The funds will be used to buy frames for the finally selected pictures to be displayed in public and auctioned.


If there is any money left over from the donations, it will go directly to the schools, orphanages and children who participated in this project. All of the work of putting this together is being done by volunteers. So you can rest assured, every dollar you donate, will go to putting this project together, which means it goes to the kids.


You can see more of the children's drawings here!







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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Trafficking in Persons in Hong Kong - so what went wrong?

Reproduced here are segments of the reports released from 2007 to 2011 by the U.S. Department of State on the Trafficking in Persons.

In 2007 and 2008 Hong Kong was described as "complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Since 2009, it has not. Why not? And what are the minimum standards? Given the seriousness of the crime, shouldn't we be judging countries on whether they fully comply with the maximum standards for the elimination of trafficking?


2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China is a destination and transit territory for men and women from mainland China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, Cambodia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, subjected to forced prostitution and possibly forced labor. Women from Hong Kong have also been subjected to forced prostitution in Canada. Some migrants are lured to Hong Kong by criminal syndicates or acquaintances with promises of financial rewards and deceived about the nature of the prospective work.

The Government of Hong Kong does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.


2010 Trafficking in Persons Report - Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China is a destination and transit territory for men and women from mainland China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, some of whom are subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of domestic servitude and forced prostitution. Some migrants are lured by criminal syndicates or acquaintances with promises of financial rewards and deceived about the nature of their future jobs. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, these migrants are forced into prostitution to repay money owed for their passage to Hong Kong.

The Government of Hong Kong does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.


2009 Trafficking in Persons Report - Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China is a destination and transit territory for men and women from mainland China, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Hong Kong is primarily a transit point for illegal migrants, some of whom are subject to conditions of debt bondage, forced commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labor. Hong Kong is also a destination for women from the Chinese mainland and Southeast Asia who travel to Hong Kong voluntarily for legal employment in restaurants, bars, and hotels, but upon arrival are coerced into prostitution under conditions of debt bondage.

The Government of Hong Kong does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.


2008 Trafficking in Persons Report - Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China is a destination and transit territory for men and women trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Hong Kong is primarily a transit point for illegal migrants, some of whom are subject to conditions of debt bondage, sexual exploitation, and forced labor. To a lesser extent, Hong Kong is a destination for women from the Chinese mainland and Southeast Asia who travel to Hong Kong voluntarily for legal employment in restaurants, bars, and hotels, but upon arrival are coerced into prostitution under conditions of debt bondage.

The Government of Hong Kong fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.


2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China is a transit and destination territory for men and women trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Hong Kong is primarily a transit point for illegal migrants, some of whom are subject to conditions of debt bondage, sexual exploitation, and forced labor.

The Government of Hong Kong fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.



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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Friday, 23 December 2011

Ridealist Video - Media Solutions for Grassroots Nonprofits

Are you involved in a grassroots nonprofit or community group? Do you know of one that could possibly use a little boost?





Ridealist is a legally registered society in Hong Kong (non-profit) operated by husband and wife team, Chris & Shirley Han Ying Gelken.

Our basic criteria in choosing which organisations to work with is simple. If you can afford to pay us, then we are not the team you need. If you have a budget for media production, we suggest you contact one of the many production houses that have a social enterprise element built into their business model.

Make this message, your message - just get it clear in your mind what you want to say, and we roll the camera!

In the event you personally do not feel comfortable on camera, and cannot think of anyone to nominate to deliver your message, we can probably help with that too!

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Bullying, child abuse, trafficking in Hong Kong

Bullying in schools, child abuse, domestic violence, and people trafficking.

These are not the easiest subjects to research in Hong Kong.

I might be going out on a bit of a limb here, but there does seem to be a little reluctance on the part of some to fully acknowledge the seriousness of these issues.

After making half a dozen phone calls and leaving my email address, I am still waiting to receive up-to-date, contemporary figures relating to the issue of bullying in schools here. Maybe I am just being impatient.

Various organisations were pretty vague. While admitting that yes, of course, there is bullying, it was not considered to be as endemic here as it is perhaps in schools in North America or Europe.

A number of my colleagues who have school-age children said pretty much the same thing.

I also learned there is not - at least to the best of anyone's knowledge - a service such as provided by SHOUTwithCAABS here in the SAR.

One group that does seem to be taking bullying very seriously is the LGBT community, and some of the figures they are making public are quite alarming.

This link was provided by one of my twitter friends @ang0815 - and it makes interesting reading.

http://tcjm.org/projects/anti-bullying/

It is difficult to devote as much time to this as I would like, so any links, suggestions, background you might be able to supply is always welcome!

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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ridealist Video - Solutions for Hong Kong-based Grassroots Nonprofits


Are you involved in a grassroots nonprofit organisation or community group? Do you know of one?

Could they benefit from having a video on their website, describing who they are? What services they provide, and how they are contributing to their local community?

A video or selection of still images will help the selected nonprofits connect with their audience, engage their imagination, and convey a balanced message of information and emotional connection.

They can use the video to spread their message on social networks such as YouTube, GoodnessTV, Facebook, Twitter etc. Use the power of social networks!

So please take this opportunity to nominate your group to receive a free promotional/profile video.

Ridealist is a legally registered society in Hong Kong (non-profit) operated by husband and wife team, Chris & Shirley Han Ying Gelken.

In our spare time we produce broadcast quality videos for groups and individuals who are working to make this world a better place for all of us to live.

If your group is based in our immediate geographic area, Hong Kong, we do this on an entirely volunteer basis and cover all our own expenses.

Our basic criteria in choosing which organisations to work with is simple. If you can afford to pay us, then we are not the team you need. If you have a budget for media production, we suggest you contact one of the many production houses that have a social enterprise element built into their business model.

We look forward to hearing from you!

(A frequently asked question is whether or not we can provide a similar service to nonprofits in other countries, and the simple answer is yes, just take a look at some of the videos we have produced here! But it is slightly more complicated, so please contact us to discuss your needs!)





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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Row over call to boycott "Paedophile Playground"

I follow at least 30 individuals and nonprofits on Twitter that are focused on human trafficking, especially the trafficking of children and youngsters under 18-years of age.

It's a subject I have covered for decades as a journalist and more recently through my work with Ridealist.


Despite the best efforts of many dedicated individuals and groups to raise awareness and petition governments to crack down on the problem, I learned today it is a business currently worth about US$34 billion (yes, billion) every year. And unlike drugs or arms smuggling, the penalties for those convicted can actually be considered quite lenient in comparison.

I wrote the following article in February 1997, and it caused quite a stir at the time as I remember. I wonder how far we have progressed since then?

Row over call to boycott "Paedophile Playground" (original link)
By Chris Gelken / Gemini News

Bangkok--Tactics vary on how best to end child prostitution in Thailand, but one US campaigner's policy - a boycott on investment and trade - has aroused particular hostility. Critics reject the idea, reports Gemini News Service, describing it as inaccurate, sensationalist and counter-productive.

"Don't! Buy! Thai!" urges New York author and child-rights lawyer Andrew Vachss, as part of his campaign against child prostitution in the southeast Asian country.

Vachss calls for a complete boycott of Thai products and the withdrawal of investment.

But he has been accused of using misleading statistics, misinformation and advocating counter-productive policies.

His D!B!T! campaign was created after the publication of his comic book, Batman - The Ultimate Evil, which uses the United States "superhero" character to tell the story of how the "Caped Crusader" discovers his home town, Gotham City, plagued by physical and sexual abuse of children. Batman follows the trail of pornography and prostitution to the imaginary southeast Asian nation of Udon Khai - a thinly-disguised reference to Thailand.

Vachss says everything in his book is based on facts gathered through extensive research.

"What Thailand has done," Vachss told a radio station in Salt Lake City, Utah, US, "is set up the sexual exploitation of children as a tourist attraction." The country had become a playground for paedophiles.

"It's a place where you can have sexual access to babies for money and it's so institutionalised that enforcement of the law - and I use the word sneeringly - is a joke."

Vachss and his publisher, Dark Horse Comics, are convinced the only way to force change is through sanctions and a boycott of Thai goods.

"They are selling their babies for money," Vachss said on the radio programme, "and money is what is driving them. If you strangle them economically, they will do the right thing."

Vachss and his associates say the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) once promoted trips to the Thai beach resort of Pattaya with an advertisement proclaiming: "If you can suck it, use it, feel it, eat it, taste it, abuse it or see it, then it's available in this city that never really sleeps."

TAT emphatically denies that any such promotion was conducted.

Bangkok-based public relations consultant Julian Spindler supports the denial. "No way would the TAT produce or sanction any promotional material that carries that type of message," he says.

Spindler, who has enjoyed a long-term relationship with the authority, adds: "The fact is the TAT spends considerable time and money trying to correct the impression of Thailand as a destination for sex tourists."

Estimates vary on the number of children in Thailand's commercial sex industry. The Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights (CPCR) says there are two million prostitutes, 40 per cent of whom are under 18.

Other local non-government organisations (NGOs) quote lower figures. Chris Beddoe, local representative of the international End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), puts the number at about 200,000.

The Government offers an even lower estimate. Dr Saisuree Chutikul, of the National Committee for Women's Affairs, a department attached to the Prime Minister's office, explains the differences.

"CPCR didn't conduct a really thorough survey," she says. "They have based their figures on the results of raids on about 10 Bangkok brothels, and then multiplied that by the number of sex entertainment places they 'believe' to be spread throughout Thailand.

"If we consider their figure of more than two million women prostitutes to be accurate, that means that one in 15 Thai women are involved in the sex trade," Saisuree concludes. "And that would be a demographic impossibility."

The Government accepts that there are, perhaps, 200,000 sex workers in the country, "25 per cent of whom are probably below the age of 18," says Saisuree.

Whatever the figures, few would deny that the commercial sexual abuse of children is a major problem that needs to be addressed. Dr Vithit Munthaborn, a former United Nations official who has studied the trafficking of children, says: "No matter what statistics we use, this is a very serious matter. But we do need better data gathering. Perhaps some joint effort between the NGOs and the Government to get some statistics that would be relevant at this point in time."

As numbers vary, so do tactics to tackle the problem.

Vithit's organisation, Child Rights Asianet, is based at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, and staffed mainly by academics who act as a bridge between NGOs and government. Vithit says their best work would be to mobilise training and information on the subject of child abuse.

Meanwhile, Chris MacMahon, CPCR coordinator, is more directly involved at a grassroots level, identifying and raiding brothels or factories where children may be at risk of abuse.

Almost all local NGOs agree that cooperation and persuasion are more effective than emotional confrontation in bringing about changes in the law and in local attitudes to prostitution in general and child abuse in particular. This sets them against Andrew Vachss and his D!B!T! campaign.

MacMahon believes Vachss' campaign could cause more problems than it solves.

"If such a boycott were even partially successful," MacMahon says, "it could have the effect of pushing kids [working in the industrial export sector] into more vulnerable sectors - such as prostitution."

ECPAT's Beddoe agrees: "From our perspective, a boycott has the potential to hurt those it is supposed to support."

Vithit is more generous. "While I can respect Mr Vachss for his good intentions, if he means to bring about certain changes on behalf of the children, there are different ways of doing things and different ways in which pressure can be exerted.

"Boycotting should be seen as a last resort, and when we look at human rights in countries we should be comprehensive in our approach. Thailand is bad on many fronts, but it's not bad on every front. There are a lot of good people here trying to work with children, including many from the Government and the police.

"If, on the other hand, Mr Vachss and co. want to initiate sanctions against Burma, which has a comprehensively bad record on human rights, then I'm all in favour."

Dark Horse Comics, meanwhile, continue to do business in Thailand. They defend their activities by saying it's a way of taking money out of the country.

About the Author: Chris Gelken is a broadcaster and writer based in Bangkok.

28 February, 1997









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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Child abuse and bullying In Hong Kong schools

We recently connected with a U.K.-based group called @SHOUTwithCAABS on twitter, an advanced and net-savvy organisation dedicated to ending bullying in schools and providing a service to abused children.

CAABS - the Child Abuse - Anti Bullying System is - is a unique system that allows victims to report incidents of abuse or bullying with just three clicks of a computer mouse.




From their website:

CAABS Report is a very easy to use visualised 'Early Identification and Reporting System'. Designed for school computers, CAABS allows children from as young as 5 years old to be able to report child safety issues without any of the traditional barriers that
are currently associated with preventing many children from reporting.

It got us wondering what the situation was like here in Hong Kong, and indeed if any systems like CAABS existed here.

Our first enquiries among parents and some children's welfare groups have indicated that no, nothing like this is available in Hong Kong. But the response from some parents was they wish it were.

Finding information about bullying in Hong Kong is perhaps not as easy as it might be in places such as the United Kingdom or the United States. There are various factors, and we'd like to investigate further before listing them here and offering our opinions, and those of the experts, on possible reasons and solutions.

It is obvious that bullying takes place, but there is a lot of finger pointing - it only happens in the schools where there is a larger mix of local and migrant children, it only happens in what Hong Kong describes as its 'Band 3' schools, deemed as the lowest quality secondary schools in the territory.

But one fact did seem to stand out, youngsters from the LGBT community are frequent targets.

Cyber-bullying is another area where year-on-year reports of known cases are increasing.

Our interest is primarily in the welfare of the child. Whether the bullying is taking place in school, on the Internet, or at home.

We have reached out to several groups and are now awaiting their response, but if you would like to contribute to this investigation, please email us or leave your comments below.

With your help, we can help raise awareness of this issue.

And with that awareness, the relevant groups and government departments will be better prepared to take educated steps towards making our homes and schools a safer place for our children.

We look forward to hearing from you!









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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Uganda through a child's eyes

These are the first paintings we managed to get scanned, but were impatient to share with you!

Aren't they just amazing?



The name and age of the young artist can be found in the box in the corner of the painting, just click on the image to get a larger view.









We have quite literally hundreds of pictures to go through before deciding on which ones we will use for a physical exhibition.


As we scan them, and prepare them for the online gallery, we'll keep posting little "teasers" here for you to enjoy.


The volunteers in Uganda, and of course the hundreds of children from schools and orphanages involved, put a lot of effort into these gems. These are their dreams.

We've asked this before: Can children become the artists of their own destiny? We truly believe they can. They worked on these paintings - and I mean "worked" - because they see in them an opportunity to share a little of their life experience with you.

These youngsters have the same dreams and aspirations as any child you know. They want to be doctors, pilots, nurses, engineers, teachers, firemen, policemen, farmers. All of them seem to want to become someone who contributes to society, to their community.


And this is where you can help. At the foot of the page we have put a donate button. You can contribute as much - or as little - as you feel comfortable with. The funds will be used to buy frames for the finally selected pictures to be displayed in public and auctioned.


If there is any money left over from the donations, it will go directly to the schools, orphanages and children who participated in this project. All of the work of putting this together is being done by volunteers. So you can rest assured, every dollar you donate, will go to putting this project together, which means it goes to the kids.

And to be frank, there are not many non-profits who can promise you that.


So give what you can, and please follow our progress on this blog, and our twitter: @chrisgelken - where we will post other donation options - plus introduce you to some other great grassroots non-profits out there who are doing amazing work in the community.

On behalf of the children from the district in Eastern Uganda where these charming pictures were painted, we thank you.


For more information on the activities of the organization who provided the volunteers on the ground in Uganda, please visit the Hands of Action website and their blog - oh, and don't forget their Facebook Page!


So as you look at these wonderful pictures, imagine how they'd make a delightful addition to your home.

Or office.


These children are not asking for a hand-out. They are not asking for charity. They are asking only that you give them the opportunity to realize their dreams.

Thank you.










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Saturday, 3 December 2011

PT.2 Why #together (#TOGETHER) should be our most used hashtag

It really doesn't matter how I phrase this, I am still going to come across sounding like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas. And possibly upset some people.

Sorry.

Or not.

If working with the grassroots non-profit sector has taught me one thing, it is that fundraising, at best, is a profoundly difficult and often frustrating process.

In fact, I was reading an article earlier today that some 2,000 people had been laid-off from small community-based non-profits in Britain in the past year alone. The source for the figure was a little vague, but given other anecdotal evidence regarding the state of the economy, it was quite believable.

A lot of these folks had good hearts, but no real head for business. And to be frank, that is what the non-profit / aid sector is. A business. The corporatisation of good deeds.

If you've been reading my recent tweets, you'll have noticed I have been pushing for more collaboration between the small grassroots non-profits. Sharing expertise, talents, resources.

I have been trying to convince people that it isn't a competition, although if my years in this sector have taught me a second thing, the "third sector" can be pretty cut-throat.

Which brings me to this.......


Cute. Very compelling. Who could resist? And while some might say it was just another cynical attempt to exploit Christmas to sell more fluffy toys, albeit for a good cause, you can't deny it is a very professionally delivered campaign.

These giant cut-outs, posters, and other promotional material were "in your face" at every turn. Combined with the Christmas music playing over the public address system, it was no surprise to see the fluffy toy department doing brisk business.


And look at the folks concerned. Unicef, Save the Children, IKEA.. household names. Trusted.



How can the grassroots non-profit community compete for the public's money on this scale? Well, frankly speaking, you can't.

Think for a few seconds about the amount of effort (money) that has gone into this campaign. The artists, the designers, the "Mad Men" who came up with the concept, the executives from Unicef, Save the Children and Ikea who had to approve the work of the artists, designers etc. And then there's the production of the promotional material, the man-hours putting everything together in the store(s), the administration of deducting that $10 from every sale... and all of these people (well most of them anyway) getting paid a decent professional wage.

Makes you kind of wonder just how much of that ten bucks is actually going on education?

Well, empirical evidence of similar campaigns operated by other non-profits and their corporate partners would suggest anything from as little as 40 to a possible high of 70 percent.

But to be practical, on this scale, you have to spend money in order to make money. And no doubt, this particular campaign will ultimately benefit thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of needy children.

And for that fact alone they should be congratulated. So unreservedly; well done Ikea, Unicef and Save the Children.

But that's not the point I am trying to make here.

If you are a small, grassroots, mostly - if not entirely - volunteer run non-profit, then you are not going to attract the sort of Corporate Social Responsibility collaboration that Ikea has demonstrated. It's not going to happen.

So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we - as in the small, grassroots, mostly - if not entirely - volunteer run non-profits, have to learn to collaborate. To share. Work together and pool our resources.

We have to do this #TOGETHER

And stop looking at this as if it were some sort of competition.

Leave that to the big budget guys.








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Thursday, 1 December 2011

Why #together should be our most used hashtag


Ridealist has gone though a period of intense activity recently, and the pace of work doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon!

Don't get us wrong, we're absolutely delighted. It only reinforces our belief that there's a need to be filled, and Ridealist is more than willing to step up and fill that need.

But one thing we've learned, is that we can't do it alone. Without the hard work from our volunteers, the input from our supporters, and the encouragement of friends, we'd be lost. Really.

No one individual, or even individual group, can do everything. Collaboration, cooperation, sharing. These should be our action words. And #together, should be our common hashtag.

To bring you up to date.

We are working through the paintings from the Hands of Action Children's Art project, here's another couple of examples (there are more in the previous blog post):



It may be a while before the actual online gallery gets loaded, there are hundreds of paintings to go through. But we are getting there!

We've also been invited to be the official photographers/camera crew for the Peace International Foundation in Hong Kong. This is wonderful news for us, and expect to be working on some exciting projects throughout the year.

We are also in contact with two shelters/support centres for victims of domestic violence here in Hong Kong. We are planning a short series of videos using real cases. We can't relax in the effort to get the message out there that there is a problem. But there is another important message, and that message is one of hope.

And last, but certainly not least, a talented young magician has volunteered to work with us on the production of a video to highlight the work of non-profits working with children - especially those at risk of abuse or trafficking.

We'd really appreciate your thoughts on how we should approach this project, what would you like to see, and which non-profits would like to participate? Of course, there is no charge, all the production etc is on a pro-bono basis.

So how can two part-time volunteers achieve all the above?

We can't, not alone. Your help is needed now more than ever!

Come and join us at Ridealist and lend your skills, your expertise, or just your moral support.

#together, we can achieve so much.

Chris & Shirley


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