‘While women weep as they do now, I’ll fight’—the Founder’s call is still on the pulse down in Dunedin where The Salvation Army opened fire on April Fool’s Day 1883 at Cargill’s Monument.
A recent Otago Daily Times article imagined tourists being taken to the spot and being told, ‘No, I’m sorry, there’s no Salvation Army performance for tourists’—a challenge awaiting a taker!
But visitors could catch a glimpse down the road of the current salvation fight. And surprises are still in store, as I found at a recent community festival featuring the popular rapper Scribe. The event highlighted the devastating impact of youth gambling under the slogan ‘Choice not Chance’ ahead of Gamble-Free Day.
The middle of a Friday in South Dunedin didn’t sound like a natural goer for a festival, but the Green Room upstairs in the Mayfair Theatre was humming. I ventured in, a bit nervous since I don’t speak ‘rap’ and hadn’t even heard of Scribe, who, I learnt, had topped the charts with his debut album, The Crusader.
Scribe laid out to the youngsters crowding the room his own story of gambling as the norm, starting with playing the pokies in a Christchurch pub at 14 and leading to huge financial loss—around $100,000—and the greater loss of his partner and three children. ‘While women weep’, indeed!
Scribe sought help, and though he has not gambled for the past three years, still has counselling for his addiction. His story has a happy ending as he is now reunited with his partner, with a fourth child joining the family.
Courageously, Scribe says that he isn’t scared of telling the truth, since ‘people can relate to me’. The multi-platinum selling artist is using his influence and talents for good, performing with locals like Dunedin’s hip-hop superstar M.C. Beau Jeffries, who also cares about vulnerable young people and is well known in local skate parks.
The feel-good factor in the Green Room was fantastic, the collaboration between the range of agencies in the Dunedin Youth Gambling Coalition obvious, and the linkage between Maori, Asian, Pasifika and Pakeha youth impressive, with singing and the telling of stories drawing everyone in.
‘How on earth,’ I wondered, ‘had this crowd of youngsters heard about the festival?’ Well, the same way they hear how easy it is to gamble: on Facebook and other social media that advertises ‘three ways to gamble’ and offers a string of games like Pot of Gold and Poker Blitz to get them started. The ease of access for impulsive, risk-taking young people, who are often able to get easy credit, can have disastrous results.
Chris Watkins of The Salvation Army Oasis Centre for Problem Gambling, spokesperson for the Youth Gambling Coalition, says young people are targeted subtly and aggressively with a message that gambling is normal—it’s ‘just a game’. Awareness and prayer are needed to support all those who, passionate in principle and cool in practice, are in this fight.
By Colonel Margaret Hay
Do you or someone you know have a gambling problem?