More Than a Story of Human Trafficking
More than a story of human trafficking
“You can identify the girls who are on sale for sex if they are wearing a number,” our team was briefed before walking down a red light district in Bangkok, Thailand.
Children who are mired in poverty, those without opportunities for a better future, may suffer the fate of becoming a number in the brothels of Bangkok.
In 2016, The One Day’s Wages community funded a resource center in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, as a strategic prevention program educating children who are at risk of being trafficked. Eugene Cho, founder of ODW, and I, as board member, traveled to Thailand to visit the resource center.
Our partner organization, previously called “The Sold Project”, has recently changed their name to The Freedom Story. The small plaque with their new name hung modestly on a simple 5 story building draped with purple mesh fabric, and with a small bit of fanfare, we watched reverently while they unveiled this new beginning: The Freedom Story.
Part of the reason the organization decided to change their name was to reflect their commitment to ethical storytelling. It is often a temptation in the field of NGO work to gravitate towards sensational stories in order to move the hearts of donors, but in that process we further exploit the people we are there to serve. The Freedom Story isn’t a story of saviors from across the seas swooping in to rescue the victims, but a commitment to finding the right solutions alongside locals–walking towards freedom together.
This was what I learned in our encounters with the Thai people from brothels of the red light district of Bangkok to the villagers in northern Thailand—men, women, young, and old. The girls in their scantily clad clothing wooing customers were not just victims but resilient women, some enduring abuse repeatedly in order to feed their family. The children up in the resource center of Chiang Rai were not vulnerable as in weak, but a diverse palate of personalities embodying dreams of bright futures. They were people, just like you and me, fighting daily for dignity and life—figuring out what it means to be whole, to be free.
The Freedom Story was founded because of a documentary highlighting a girl named Cat when she was only in 4th grade. Cat had lost her father, and her mother struggled to support their family. The Freedom Story provided Cat with a scholarship so she could complete her education, thereby minimizing her risk of being sold into prostitution. However, when Cat turned 18, she asked for the film about her to be taken offline.
“Can you tell me why you chose not to have it be put online?”
“The film is about my family, my life, and my Mom. I don’t want them to be sad with me in that film. I am grown up. I am not like that. And I don’t want them to remember me in that way all the time. Because the world has changed. And I am changed too.”
Change is the freedom story.
Dignity for a child grown up is the freedom story.
Life beyond destitute poverty is the freedom story.
The stories that we tell must evolve continually to reflect dignity back to the people we serve. The stories that we tell should involve those who are living the story. The way we do justice matters as much as the work being done.
One Day’s Wages is honored to help tell The Freedom Story in the resource center of Chiang Rai. We are hopeful that the children who are mentored, equipped, and loved at the resource center will experience change that transforms them from the inside out so that, like Cat, they can make choices with their own voice, and engage the world with their whole selves.
Cindy Brandt is a member of the One Day’s Wages Board of Directors. She lives in Kaohsiung, Taiwan with her husband and two children.
Photos by Benjamin Edwards
Interested in supporting other anti-human trafficking initiatives? Take action here: Fight Human Trafficking
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