Our mission has always been to help prevent the trafficking of children; however, our methods have always been about more than that. We aim to prevent trafficking by building both the inner and external resources children need to remain resilient in the face of hardship and to remain invulnerable when opportunists seek to take advantage.
In that sense, the empowerment of children helps them do more than avoid traffickers.
It radiates outwards in benefits to themselves and the community beyond them.
Kwan*, age 18, has been a scholarship student with The Freedom Story for many years. She is lively, provocative, and witty. In baking classes, she kept up a running stream of jokes amidst cookie making duties. She is the type to find the humor in any situation, and to be game for any adventure. One might assume she had a lot of natural confidence–but that assumption would be inaccurate.
Kwan does not hesitate to say that coming to our Resource Center near her village changed a lot in her life, especially in speaking English: from not having confidence to speak English, to now having greatly improved her language skills and the confidence with which she speaks it. She says the English classes have also had spillover benefits into other classes in which she needed help. In the beginning she did not feel confident in giving her opinions, but the staff have mentored and encouraged her to speak up about her thoughts and ideas, and they’ve taught her about her rights. She says,
“I had been afraid that my thoughts and ideas were always wrong, but then I learned that it is good and right to share my thoughts. My ideas might not always be correct but it can be helpful to other people to hear them. It might encourage them to have confidence and share their own ideas.”
She also emphasizes the benefits of having peers in different age groups. She says the exposure to a wide variety of people at The Freedom Story has helped her develop the social skills to engage with more kinds of other people.
“My ideas might not always be correct but it can be helpful to other people to hear them. It might encourage them to have confidence and share their own ideas.”
“Before, I used to think that freedom means you can do whatever you want, and you don’t have to care about other people’s opinions. What you think or what you want to do, you can just do. But I have spent time with other people and I’ve learned that freedom is not that my own opinion matters most, and it’s not about being free to do everything. There are boundaries on how we live our lives: We have to consider others around us too, how people are going to feel, and think, and how they might worry about me.”
In this sense, being a part of The Freedom Story has had a multifold affect. Beyond the material resources the scholarship provides, it has improved her own confidence and self-worth, as well as deepening her understanding of social responsibility. Imagine how different the community around her could be with this change in perspective, compared to if she had never learned it at all.
*Name changed to protect identity.
To see more student stories, check them out here!
Dr. Jade Keller is the Thailand Program Advisor and Editor for The Freedom Story. After receiving a PhD in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara, she moved with her family to northern Thailand to work in child trafficking prevention, education, and helping to raise awareness. She is half American, and half Thai.