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Volunteers run across India to raise awareness of human trafficking
Belgian charity volunteers are running across India, along one of the world's most notorious human trafficking routes, to raise awareness and funds.
Oasis Belgium has been offering help and support since 2007 to victims of human trafficking, which the FBI believes to be the third largest criminal activity in the world.
"We are motivated by the thought that everybody needs to be included in a community that supports them," says Phil Lane, director of Oasis Belgium, who has just landed in India to embark on the run from Calcutta to Mumbai. "That led us to work with the most marginalised, with people who have no access to community, to services which they deserve."
Set up in 1985 by the American social activist, Reverend Steve Chalke, Oasis is a Christian charitable organisation that believes in equality, inclusion, opportunity and compassion.
Motivated by their mission of inclusion, Oasis run a number of projects in Brussels and Belgium. “We work with predominately Thai and Indonesian women who have been trafficked into house brothels, hidden in ordinary streets in your neighbourhood," Lane says.
As part of the Oasis Welcome Project, volunteers make contact with the women and form friendships. They give them information in Thai or Indonesian including the Oasis helpline number. They also provide legal and medical aid, translation services, and together with Cherut Antwerp, employment-skills training.
"Oasis projects are long term, we commit ourselves for the very long term. Change doesn’t happen fast, it happens slowly through relationships”, Lane adds.
Oasis also works with vulnerable street children through its Brussels Children’s Project. It began when they identified at least 70 vulnerable children living in a squat in Brussels. Together with their families, Oasis organised for the children to attend a local school and be served two meals a day. Providing food meant that the children, who would usually come to school hungry, were able to concentrate on learning.
The charity also provides the children with after-school care and language and homework assistance. "At the same time we would work with their families, to try and get their papers in order, and make sure they are in adequate accommodation and represent them to the social services," Lane says.
Outside of Brussels, in the east of Flanders, Oasis runs an outreach project for isolated elderly people, because according to Lane, “one of the most marginalised groups in Western Europe are elderly people". Oasis takes a mobile coffee bar into social housing and elderly care homes and encourages isolated elderly people to come out of their homes and make contact with each other.
The work of Oasis Belgium is completely dependent on fundraising events and donations. They are currently looking for sponsors for a major event called In the Long Run. This month, volunteer runners will take it in turn to run 10km a day along the human trafficking route from Calcutta to Mumbai and at the end of each day an awareness raising event will take place to inform the people who live along this route about what is happening and how to stay safe.