April 18th saw the launch at the Towers Convent School of the first event to raise awareness about modern day slavery. The event was organised by Colleen Theron who along with The Towers School sought to shine light on such a dark and grave practice that occurs every day in our world.
The all-girls Catholic school set in Upper Beeding could seem like an unlikely place to be the hub point of an evening addressing modern day slavery and human trafficking. The school’s location proved to be a real contrast in it’s tranquil idyllic setting compared to the horror of the evening’s theme.
Arriving at such a grand and eloquent setting seemed to bring a real sense of occasion to the evening. It took me back in time and I almost felt as though I better be on my best behaviour or I would find myself outside the Headmistresses office as I did so many times in my school days.
The girls from the school warmly greeted us and escorted arriving guests to the hall which was set and ready for us to listen to and question some of the leading voices on tackling modern day slavery.
The question on everyone’s lips was ‘What are we doing about modern slavery’?
The answer was rather ashamedly not enough.
The evening was faultlessly hosted by the headmistress of the school Mrs C Trelfa who was not only the perfect host but also brought a genuine passion for the subject at hand. The evening highlighted the need for a unified and broad approach from spoken word to legal professionals and brought a much needed platform to the plight of some many people across the world.
Josh Luke Smith – http://www.joshualukesmith.com/
Josh lead the charge with his dynamic and what can only be described as a jaw dropping performance of spoken word that lyrically brought the reality of modern day slavery and human trafficking into the laps of everyone who was there. His passion and emotion left everyone in the room speechless as he brutally described in poetic form the horror of human trafficking. He did not hold back with his words as he emphasised the depravity of the human race. I was sat front row and when he finished had to hold myself back from jumping out of my seat and bursting into tears and violent applause. I did however manage to hold myself back and joined in with the rest of the audience in thanking Josh in a much more refined and demure way. I think it was perhaps remembering where I was and the sight of the nuns that kept my behaviour under wraps.
Next up to speak was:
Emily Carr – Towers student, year 10
A young lady with a determination that puts most governments to shame when it comes to speaking out about modern day slavery. Emily is a pupil of the school and of course an aspiring human rights lawyer. She spoke to a room full of adults about the fight we need to be wading into and demonstrated that young minds are key in this fight. She was eloquent and warm but was defiant in her refusal to accept modern day slavery as just another part of society. Emily called on us all to play our part. To say that she is inspirational does not quite say enough perhaps more of a force to be reckoned with is accurate. She certainly made me feel hopeful and I pity those she come up against her in the court room in future years!
Greg Valerio http://www.valeriojewellery.com/
As a leading campaigner in the fight against modern day slavery, Greg brought his hands on experience of how one person can make a difference. With integrity and honesty Greg described the reality of life for workers who are used in the sourcing and mining of diamonds and gold. He told us of the boy he had met called Dynamite Boy who received his nickname as he was the one who lay the dynamite down in the mines. Children sent into confined and dangerous spaces with dynamite is exactly what the event at the Towers is for. Greg talked about the uphill battle and total refusal of many jewellers to do anything about the men, women and children that are exploited in a bid to keep us to date with the latest bling.
As a jeweller he has travelled the world and is one of a very few ethical jewellers who can truthfully state that there is no blood on his hands or on his jewellery. In his own words ‘Jewellery is worn to beautify. There is no beauty in exploitation. Hope for those who anoint our materials with the sweat of their muscles and integrity for my customers and supporters who buy a piece of Valerio Jewellery.’
Juliet Sergeant – http://www.modernslaverygarden.com/
Juliet is a Garden Designer with a special interest in how gardens can contribute to the health and well-being of individuals & society. At the forefront of Juliet’s talk was the garden she has created; The Modern Slavery Garden. The garden is receiving national press coverage and gives slaves a voice in the unlikeliest of places; The Chelsea Flower Show. Juliet briefly touched upon the startling fact that slavery might have been abolished but is has not been eradicated. She walked us through her beautiful garden that can appear on first glance to be purely another garden designed to perfection for people to see and smell the well-chosen flowers and trees. However, it is not what it seems as 8 vibrantly painted doors expose a dark world that is hidden. Handles and letter boxes are only on the outside of the doors. An Oak tree stands centrally placed representing hope just as William Wilberforce stood under one when he began his work. Juliet and her garden showed us all that every area of life can be used to eliminate modern day slavery.
As an expert in environmental law and modern day slavery Colleen’s presence brought the much needed legal expertise but without Colleen the event would never have happened. Colleen organised the event and has even taken her own company in the direction of ensuring that slaves all over the world have legal heavy weight fight