THE GOLD STANDARD AWARD FOR COMMUNICATOR OF THE YEAR

Sponsored By: House of Rose Professional

The Winner: Matt Friedman, CEO, The Mekong Club

Human trafficking is one of the biggest human rights violations of our time. Last year, out of the 45.8 million victims around the world, only 66,000 were rescued, a paltry 0.2 percent. To increase that number, Matthew Friedman, CEO of the Mekong Club, feels everyone needs to join the fight and he works tirelessly for the cause.

In the past 18 months Matthew has made more than 231 presentations to over 30,000 people in Hong Kong and beyond, with the aim of giving a voice to the voiceless, the victims.

As a human rights campaigner with 30 years’ experience, he feels the best way to reach people is to stand in front of them face-to-face. He feels it offers an opportunity for people to ask questions, to process the information efficiently. It doesn’t matter if it’s a group of five people or a thousand: “If I can get a few people in a room for an hour, I’ll do a talk.”

In addition to the corporate presentations he gives as part of his leadership role at the Mekong Club (113 presentations in the period), he also does many school, faith-based and general public presentations on a pro bono basis (118). These are done on his weekends and days off. In fact, he regularly combines public speaking events with his vacation. For Matthew, doing this work is a public service. He feels that for us to win this fight, we need people to internalise the nuances of the issue. He feels that the prerequisite for people to help must first come from them “caring about the issue”. But for them to care, they must first be informed.

As a result of Matthew’s talks, many corporate professionals have stepped up and served their local community or his NGO on a pro-bono basis. Many business people do not realise they have a unique set of skills they can use to make the world a better place. Friedman’s talks help unlock these skills for the greater good. Friedman has worked with hundreds of victims. To get their stories known, he believes a communicator must use multiple sources. In addition to his public speaking events, he has published a book and offered a TEDX talk entitled “Where were You?” He also gives regular interviews with the media to complement his talks (40 articles/interviews a year). The basic message is: “For human trafficking to be addressed, we all need to do our part.”

As part of his work with the Mekong Club, he helped put in place a corporate pledge to get Hong Kong-based companies to demonstrate their support. Because of the sensitivity of this issue, this was no small feat.

Because of Matthew’s absolute commitment to the issue and his tireless drive to reach as many people as he can, he is Communicator of the Year.

Shortlist:

  • Matt Friedman, CEO, The Mekong Club

  • Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Te Runanga O Ngati Ruanui Trust

  • Stella Chiu & Chi-Wai Lai