As I gaze through the crowd of mostly teens and young adults my eyes lock on the band that’s rockin’ out! One of them has a pink feather boa wrapped around his neck, large white sunglasses and a pink fedora style cap. His other band mate looks like a cross between Slash and Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses. Sounds of pounding drums and screaming guitars greet my ears and I recognize the song made famous by Metallica – Enter Sandman that’s pumping through the speakers.
I’m standing in the middle of Boomers Night Club in Vernon, BC. On a normal night it’s one of a few local watering holes that many people would hit for a night out on the town. Tonight is different. There is no alcohol being served. Instead, locals have gathered at a family friendly event the Vernon Salvation Army sponsored and organized called Traffic Jam which raised awareness and funds to stop human trafficking. The tagline and call to action for the event was ‘Start a Rockband™ & Change the world.’ That’s because we used the pop culture smash hit video game Rockband™ to engage people in the issue of human trafficking. Bands gladly paid $60 to enter a four-piece group and play the video game to compete for prizes and bragging rights. We even had a solo contest you could enter for $10. Others paid $7 at the door to come watch the fun and listen to three of their favourite real local rock bands take the stage for a short 15 to 20 minute live set.
As I mingle through the club I see people laughing, talking, singing along to the songs bands are playing via Rockband™, dancing when the live bands take the stage and sippin’ water, pop and Italian sodas. It looks like everyone’s having a blast.
ENGAGE THE ISSUE
Glancing around the room, I see people are engaging in the issue of trafficking in a number of ways. Some people are watching one of the three video screens in the place as stats about human trafficking scroll by. Over at the side of the dance floor people are at an interactive display tasting fairtrade chocolate and learning about children who are trafficked to harvest cocoa beans in Africa. To the left of the stage where the real rock bands played people were writing or drawing their thoughts and feelings about the issue on a paper lined wall dubbed the Freedom Wall. Young kids were gathered around a booth and were listening intently to a story called ‘Chaga And The Chocolate Factory’ as well as intently colouring pictures of little Chaga. Instead of Charlie Bucket, Willie Wonka and a magical chocolate factory, this story is about an African boy named Chaga, the bad bicycle man and a cocoa bean farm using child slave labour.
Wandering outside the front doors I’m greeted with a very strong smell of paint. Looking to my left I spot a table with a couple of people gathered around it. Stepping closer I see that it’s a make your own t-shirt table. For a $5 minimum donation people pick out a stencil and spray paint their own shirt. These couple of people are having a blast making their own shirt and promptly pull them on over their other shirt when they’ve finished creating their own work of art commemorative of the event.
I go back inside to hear and share about the issue of human trafficking. We watch and listen as Jen of the Talkin’ Donkey – a local non-profit coffee shop run by The Salvation Army – shares more about the slave labour side of trafficking and highlights the chocolate industry and the use of children in the harvesting of cocoa beans. After 10 minutes it’s my turn. From the stage I talk about the why’s and how’s of buying and selling people for sexual pleasure. To conclude the conversation, a guy from Teen Challenge takes the stage to perform a song he wrote specifically for the event and to create awareness about this issue.
After some more competition and live bands performing we close the night off by announcing the winners. Aside from bragging rights, the winning team walked away with a new electric guitar and amp. The event was just the beginning, a starting point in the conversation. As people left we gave each one a fairtrade chocolate bar and a pamphlet with 6 next steps they could take immediately and relatively easily to stop Human Trafficking.
The night was a HUGE success! One thing I was reminded of is that everybody wants to make a difference with their life. We just need to help facilitate the opportunities to do so and speak their language as we do it. As a result of the event we were able to see $2300 go towards fighting to stop human trafficking! People had a blast, raised funds for a cause, became more aware of an injustice in our society and realized that they can make a difference. In Vernon we hope Traffic Jam served as a catalyst to motivate our community to more action in the area of stopping human trafficking.
I’ll keep you posted!
Wanna do Traffic Jam in your town/city? Download a copy of Traffic Jam package here (60mb)
:: by Clint Houlbrook of Vernon, BC & SendTheFire.caShare this: Tweet