From Queenstown to the slave trade
Young professional Queenstown couple Dave and Katharine Hockly have just tossed in their comfortable life and well-paid jobs to help free oppressed workers in South Asia. Sue Fea caught up with them.
When marketing consultant Dave Hockly asked Queenstown lawyer Katharine Pfeffer to marry him a few years ago, there was no question it was true love.
For Dave, weekends up the mountain snowboarding and a Fergburger fix on the way home would’ve represented true wedded bliss.
However, Katharine, a solicitor with GTODD Law in Queenstown, made her intentions quite clear from the outset. ‘‘I told him when he proposed that ever since I was 18 I’ve wanted to do volunteer work for the International Justice Mission,’’ she says.
There was no doubt in Dave’s mind – not only was his beautiful, blonde girlfriend worth it, but so was the cause of freeing the oppressed from enforced slave labour in Third World countries.
When she was 18, Katharine travelled to India to volunteer in an orphanage.
Soon after that she was powerfully impacted by a book she read written by the founder of the International Justice Mission, Gary Haugen.
‘‘I decided then that I wanted to be a lawyer with the intention of doing international aid work one day,’’ she says.
Even after completing a double degree in development studies and international relations and law, her heart was still set on working as a legal advocate for the oppressed. ‘‘At university we learned that the most common causes of poverty are corruption and oppression, but more, importantly, I learned from reading about the International Justice Mission that I can actually do something about it,’’ she says.
Her strong Christian faith moved her to do just that: ‘‘I thought we’re just so blessed. We’ve had opportunities to become qualified at something and I really wanted to use that to help other people.’’
Both Wellington-raised and Victoria University-educated, the Hocklys were old school friends who reconnected after their studies and fell in love, not only with each other but with Queenstown.
‘‘Dave was already working here as a marketing consultant and I loved skiing, so I moved here, too, but we love it so much here that we thought, if we don’t go on this mission now we’ll never go,’’ says Katharine.
It took a year to complete the rigorous application process and they’ve had to save all of their living expenses for the 10-month role and their airfares to Asia.
Weekends were spent writing essays again, filling out masses of paperwork, and they had to complete two interviews, one with the American-based heads of the mission in Washington DC headquarters and one with their office in South Asia. IJM has 20 field and advocacy offices around the developing world and six partner offices.
Volunteers have little say in what country they’re placed in, however the staff are all bilingual where they’re headed and speak Tamil. This is not work for the weak. Slave labour is a hugely profitable illicit trade in many developing countries, run by corrupt business owners and in some instances mafia-style gangs, who are not fond of those who’re trying to shut them down.
Katharine will be helping prepare legal cases that will result in surprise raids to free those coerced and enforced into slave labour.
For her own protection, she won’t be allowed in court.
‘‘Westerners aren’t allowed to be seen to be involved in the investigations or to appear in court because it’s too risky,’’ she says.
‘‘There are often gangs involved – and those on the frontline have been known to receive death threats.’’
‘‘I’ll be doing legal work for the cases, assessing evidence and helping to run training programmes for the local police and court staff, teaching them about their law and ways to enforce it.’’
The office she’s been assigned to focuses on slave labour, but IJM works at freeing all of the oppressed, including sex slaves trapped by deviant schemes.
‘‘These slave owners go out to the villages and lend povertystricken people small amounts to hop on a train and say ‘come and work for me’,’’ says Dave.
‘‘When they arrive they’re paid less than the cost of board and food. They’re not allowed to leave the factory, even to sleep and eat,’’ he says.
‘‘These people become trapped in a vicious cycle of debt, which then gives their oppressors an excuse to beat them or stop them if they ever try to run away.’’
Mothers are promised good jobs for their daughters, who then are lured to the city and entrapped as sex slaves.
There’s so much corruption that even the police are working with slave owners in some cases, accepting bribes, because they can’t feed their families – they’re so poorly paid, Dave says. ‘‘It’s modern-day, forced slavery – human trafficking.’’
Dave’s marketing and communications experience will be invaluable in helping IJM to get its message out. He’s become just as passionate about the cause as Katharine.
‘‘She warned me about this when we got engaged,’’ he says. The deal was Katharine came to Queenstown for his dream of snowboarding, and now it was his turn to follow her dream, he grins.
An accomplished public speaker, Dave will be a front man for the cause in churches in South Asia, which help power the organisation.
His friendly manner will also be invaluable in making inroads with valuable support networks around the country.
‘‘Some of what I’ll do will be just being a dude and shaking hands with people. Apparently that gets you places over there and can open doors.’’
Dave and Katharine Hockly relaxing at home at Jack’s Point before joining the International Justice Mission.
Photo: Sue Fea
A bonded brickworker.