I admit it…I have a tendency to be impatient. Although, I love the melody of John Mayers song, “Waiting for the World to Change,” there is always something inside me that bucks against the message.
Deep down inside, I distrust the notion that the world will simply change while we wait or because we hope it will. My gut informs me that change occurs because we make it happen!
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a 60 Minutes piece about the Gulf State, Dubai. Steve Kroft interviewed the nation’s leader and traveled with him to a number of different areas of the country. During the broadcast, Kroft and the Sheik are watching a camel race. What intrigued me was that the jockeys were not human beings…they were robots!
Well, as Paul Harvey would famously say…”And now for the rest of the story.” Apparently, the use of robotic jockeys for camels is a fairly new development in the sport of camel racing. In fact, these robotic jockeys are so highly developed that they are controlled by their handlers from jeeps racing around the track shouting instructions into special hand held devices. They also wear a special perfume which makes the camels think they’re being cajoled by a real human being and not a machine. Amazing.
It’s even more extraordinary when you consider that a mere 2-3 years ago, the jockeys were little human beings… children. Many of whom had been sold or abandoned to child slavery. They were often mistreated and starved to ensure their cooperation and to keep their weight to a bare maximum of 45 pounds. Many did not survive and died, only to be buried in unmarked graves quickly washed over by the dessert sands.
So, what caused the shift from child slaves to robots? People! Sustained pressure and exposure by human rights organizations continued to point the spotlight on this barbaric practice. It was no longer comfortable or acceptable to use stolen children. A shelter was established in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to rescue these children and by 2005, it is estimated that over 800 children have been returned to their families.
But, there is another fascinating storyline which travels like an undercurrent to this tale. It’s a story about an Arabian princess, the daughter of the King of Jordon who married the Sheik in 2004. Princess Haya is a modern Arab woman who excelled in sports herself and competed for Jordon in Olympic equestrian events. One of Princess Haya’s passions is children. She is a Member of the Board of Directors of “The Right to Play” Foundation which encourages healthy, physical, social and emotional development amongst the world’s most disadvantaged children.
Today the Right to Play Organization harnesses the power of professional and Olympic athletes as well as volunteers who freely donate their time to harness the power of sports to educate children, teach Peaceful Conflict Resolution, provide health education and increase the awareness of the use of sports in humanitarian endeavors. The Right to Play works in partnership with organizations such as CARE International, International Labor Organization and the Red Cross. Their programs are currently being implemented in 20 countries in the Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
We hear a lot about “Change” these days. Today, the primary in Wisconsin is being heatedly contested on the basis of defining what Change will actually look like. Truth is…I don’t think anyone really knows. Every individual who is part of the process will be involved in doing their own unique part to create change. But, one thing is certain, change will not occur simply because we wish it to.
For in a sense, each one of us is a leader in our own world. Although we may not be influencing the ruler of a world government, we should never underestimate the power of our personal influence to effect change. Each one of us can choose to make a difference. And that… is never a small thing.
BBC News: Child Camel Jockeys Find Hope
Ansar Burney Trust: Child Camel Jockeys
UAE Response: Child Camel Jockey Lawsuit & Goverment Actions
*Note: a suit has been filed in Miami, Florida against the Sheik and his brother regarding allegations of the misuse of children.