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.

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

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.

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