Thailand: ADRA Transforms the Lives of Young Girls
SILVER SPRING, Md. – In Thailand, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is working to rescue girls from forced prostitution in the sex slave trade. The Agency has opened a shelter that houses at-risk girls from poor families, providing them with nutritious food, education, and most importantly a safe environment that shields them from harm.
“Pam” was born in the northern part of Thailand in a rural region near the Thai-Burma border. Her parents, Lahu and Akha, are from ethnic minority groups that traditionally live in the mountains throughout this part of Asia. Her family consists of poor farmers, who at times work as hired hands; daily laborers who live hand to mouth due to humble salaries. To help provide for the family, Pam often skipped school to work with her mother in the fields. Her future seemed hopeless until ADRA Thailand’s Keep Girls Safe (KGS) project came to help.
KGS works to prevent young girls from being trafficked into the disturbing world of sexual exploitation. The project has opened a shelter for girls who are considered high-risk like Pam. Currently, there are 30 girls residing in this shelter with mentors from the full-time KGS staff teaching them to read and write.
Upon learning about Pam’s living conditions, ADRA’s KGS staff asked Pam’s parents to allow the project to take care of her. “We realized that Pam’s home environment represented a risk that was putting her in danger of human trafficking,” said Kusalin, shelter coordinator. “Most parents in her village do not see the importance of education. That was the reason why we took Pam to the shelter; to study, to have a new life, and to protect her.” In addition to lack of educational opportunities, Pam doesn’t hold a Thai citizenship, a combination that makes it easy to lure a young girl into the destructive cycle of the sex trade.
Although Pam could speak the two tribal languages of her parents, she could not speak Thai. This made learning at the KGS shelter more of a challenge, however after morning and evening tutor sessions to learn Thai, Pam now confidently and fluently converses with everyone in the shelter.
“I want to be a Thai teacher when I grow up,” Pam now says in Thai. “I want to teach the children in my village to speak Thai.” Pam adds, “I like staying here. I have many friends, I eat good food, and…I am happy.”
Because of ADRA’s Keep Girls Safe program, numerous girls once at-risk of being forced into the sex trade are now achieving their potential in a safe and nurturing environment.
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