We chat with a well-travelled, yet well-grounded, young man committed to helping end human trafficking and exploitation.
Creating awareness of the problems surrounding human trafficking is the first step to eradicating slavery in the modern world. MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Human Trafficking) is dedicated to bringing this serious issue to the forefront of public consciousness by means of live concerts and celebrity endorsements throughout the world. Ruici Tio, a Bangkok-based advocate of human rights working behind the scenes at MTV EXIT, gave us a personal account of his role and experiences as part of the team.
Ruici is no stranger to strange lands. Of Indonesian heritage and German nationality, he's lived in Washington D.C., Chicago, New York City and Jakarta. These days the well-travelled human rights supporter is based in Bangkok, but his job with MTV EXIT sends him all over Asia.
Before joining the MTV EXIT team, Ruici studied political science and development. The self-proclaimed geek has always been drawn to finding ways to make a positive impact through media and technology, especially by engaging young people to tackle critical social and political issues. Over the years, Ruici took part in various endeavours that prepared him for his current career. When he was in New York and D.C., he helped run an after-school programme that focused on teaching youths social entrepreneurship through music. At the time, this seemed to be pretty far removed from the development-based career he intended to pursue; but in retrospect, he acknowledges the experience helped crystallise his thoughts on what he wanted to do.
Ruici joined MTV EXIT as Media and Corporate Partnerships Manager in 2009 after finishing a short stint at the US Embassy in Jakarta. He describes his association with the group as being rather serendipitous. He’d learnt of the project through a colleague, and he then had a chance to visit the MTV EXIT office during a trip to Thailand.
In addition to MTV EXIT, many organizations and individuals are doing outstanding work to help end exploitation and trafficking. Yet wherever and by whomever the work is done, Ruici says he is constantly inspired by the way simple ideas and the efforts of sometimes just a single person can have extraordinary impact.
Ruici has been fortunate to experience many memorable moments at MTV EXIT. His first concert for the organisation, in Hanoi in March 2010, particularly stands out. When the team brought K-Pop boy band Super Junior to Hanoi, it was something akin to a Beatle-mania type moment. Forty-five thousand screaming fans decked out in 'Super Junior’ blue t-shirts and blue glow sticks filled the venue. The roar of the crowd the moment the band came out was spine-tingling, says Ruici. The excitement amplified everything MTV EXIT had accomplished and really helped kick-start dialogue around a critical social issue.
Ruici explains that his job is unlike any other he's had. In fact, he can't say there is an ‘average’ workday. The combination of working with both the public and private sectors, with artists and youth, and the fact that MTV EXIT operates across the region, often means long workdays and constant travel.
His job requires the ability to get organised and communicate effectively, and to have lots of patience. While these may seem like obvious skills, putting them into action is made more difficult than usual by his having to work across time zones, deal with language barriers, manoeuvre through government and corporate processes, and not to mention to adapt to different work styles. But it’s all very much worth it.
Indeed Ruici considers himself extremely lucky to have work that dovetails with so many of his interests and passions.
As for the future, he wants to see MTV EXIT continue to grow and inspire meaningful action. Tackling social issues requires creativity and a certain degree of momentum. His goal is to continue developing platforms that encourage young people to get involved and to stake their claim towards defining the future of their communities.
The MTV EXIT campaign has grown immensely in the past few years. While primary focus remains in Asia, the team has been expanding rapidly in areas like Latin America, where they hope to bring similar attention to the critical issue of human trafficking.
Ruici observes that MTV EXIT wouldn't be what it is without the support of MTV, donor organisations, governments, media and corporate partners, and of course the artists who have joined the fight. ‘In the end,’ he says, ‘our goal is to provide a platform by which anyone can contribute in this global movement to end human trafficking.’
The year 2012 is truly a big one for MTV EXIT, and they are only getting
started. Their first concert of the year was in Hanoi last month, with headliner Simple Plan helping to draw more than 40,000 people in support of the cause. The event was just the beginning of many exciting TV programmes, youth outreach activities and concerts that MTV EXIT has planned for the year.
For those thinking of joining this or any cause, Ruici reminds that although many people like the idea of humanitarian work, it's a field that can lead to much cynicism, particularly owing to unrealistic expectations. Therefore he believes it's crucial for those interested to fully consider what can be achieved by their effort, even if only limited, before diving into this line of work.
Yet that should in no way stop anyone. Some of the best advice he's received is not to be afraid to make mistakes, because mistakes are how we learn and challenge ourselves to do better. In this light, and based on his own experience with MTV EXIT, Ruici carries on knowing we must make that effort, whether small or large, to make the world a better place.
25/06/2012 - 11:16