Connecting Thailand’s at risk youth to a life filled with more opportunity.
Imagine being a teenager again and not being able to afford the ride to school. Instead of finishing your homework the night before classes, you’re spending the evening wondering if you’ll even be able to make it to them. Once you’ve finally gathered together 50B for a songtaew ride, you arrive at school and experience trouble focusing by midday because you couldn’t afford lunch and had to skip a meal. Day after day, the cycle repeats itself without ever getting any easier.
Your parents don’t have any money to spare to help you out, and you can only earn a 200B per day by working on your days off. You know how important education is in terms of shaping your future, but earning a degree is costing you more than you can afford. You’re exhausted by the sheer effort of trying to keep up with it all. On a particularly tough day, a friendly stranger comes along and offers you the opportunity to earn thousands of baht per week by working in a bar. What do you do?
As either new or veteran residents of Bangkok, many of us are familiar with what working in one of Thailand’s numerous late night bars entails. Young Thai women are routinely recruited to either serve drinks, chat, dance or do more with a seemingly never ending slew of patrons – lured by the promises of good money and a better life. While some bar owners do follow through on their word, others are deceptive and deceitful. With little regulation in the industry, lines become easily blurred, barriers are quickly crossed and these young women’s lives can change forever in a single instant. With its reputation for turning a blind eye and an increasing number of overseas tourists visiting Thailand to engage in the sex trade, exploitation has quickly become a very real problem across the country.
After witnessing an increasing number of local women entering the sex trade in his hometown of Chiang Rai, Tawee Donchai knew there had to be a way that he could help. He soon met Rachel Sparks and Rachel Goble, who had been interviewing sex workers in Thailand in an effort to learn more about child exploitation within the country. After concluding their research, a number of common themes became apparent to the two women – including poverty, a lack of education and a lack of options. Touched by these women’s stories, Rachel Sparks responded by offering a scholarship to an at risk student and The Freedom Story was born.
Today, The Freedom Story has provided scholarships and resources to over 180 at risk students in rural Thailand in an effort to help them stay in school, pursue their dreams and break the cycle of poverty and exploitation. With a resource centre in downtown Chiang Rai and another in its countryside, the organisation helps mentor, support and educate Thailand’s youth in order to empower them to create a better future for themselves. In addition to the scholarships they’ve awarded to students based on predetermined domestic criteria, The Freedom Story has taught over 1000 teens about their sexual and legal rights since 2015.
One Thai student in particular, Nue, has proven just how powerful the effect of positive resources can be. When she first came into contact with The Freedom Story, Nue was fourteen years old and living with her family in a rural village in Northern Thailand. Her father had died of an overdose the year prior and her mother was working in the village’s fields, earning just 150B per day. As the eldest daughter, Nue was expected to help care for her three siblings as her mother worked, in addition to focusing on her studies. When it became apparent that the family needed more money in order to survive, Nue’s aunt offered her a job in a massage parlour in Bangkok. Luckily, Nue had applied for a scholarship from The Freedom Story and opted to accept it and continue her studies.
Today, Nue is living in the city of Chiang Rai and is on course to complete her Bachelor’s degree in nursing. The Freedom Story’s sustainability project partnered with her mother in addition to mentoring Nue, and taught her organic farming and weaving skills. Since then, Nue’s mother has started a silkworm farm and is able to cover the family’s rent with her business profits each month. She has also joined a farming co-op that raises organic foods and sells them at the local market. Through a combination of education, resources, sustainability tools and mentorship, Nue was able to avoid entering the sex trade industry in order to earn the money required to help her family survive. When Anantara Vacation Club heard about Nue and The Freedom Story through our partnership with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, we knew that we wanted to be involved. In March, we partnered with The Freedom Story at our booth at the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament by Anantara to raise funds for the at risk Thai youth they support. As a company with its roots firmly planted in Thailand, it’s integral for us to empower the community that has so deeply supported us since our founding in 2010.
Join us as we continue to prevent sexual exploitation across the country and allow Thailand’s youth to make their dreams become reality. For the same amount that many of us spend on a cup of coffee or takeaway meal without thinking twice, you can make a significant impact on a child’s day life.
- For 100B provide a student with transportation to and from school for a day.
- For 200B provide a student with two meals and transportation to and from school for a day.
- For 500B, provide a student with a week’s worth of meals and transportation to and from school.
- For 1000B, provide a student with a month’s worth of transportation to school and meals.
To learn more about The Freedom Story, visit thefreedomstory.org.
To donate to The Freedom Story, visit anantaraclub.com/promo/avc4freedom.