Thoughts

  • March 2, 2017

Highlights from our Social Impact Assessment

Over the past couple of years, we have been ramping up efforts to collect data to help examine whether our programs are having the positive impact we aim to achieve. We want to know to what extent our programs help keep at-risk students in school and help build the resilience and awareness necessary to protect them from trafficking. These are the best available proxy measures on whether we’re effectively preventing the trafficking of children.

Last year, we completed a comprehensive study, involving interviews and surveys of our students, and the initial results prove promising. Here are just a few highlights of what we’ve learned:
On Risk

  • Fifty-five students (out of 76) reported agreement that if they were not a scholarship student, they would have to go to work to help their family.
  • Most reported knowing someone who has had to leave home to go to a major city like Bangkok or Chiang Mai to find work.

On Benefits

  • All of the beneficiaries in the data sample reported being currently in school.
  • Eight-eight percent felt confident they would complete their educational goals.
  • About 95% believed that education has made their lives better, and almost all of the students reported that The Freedom Story scholarship has made them realize they have more options for the future.
  • About 70% (22 students) of the primary school interviewees described The Freedom Story staff as being a second family and all of them expressed strong ties to the Resource Center as a second home.
  • When asked their favorite thing about their experience with The Freedom Story, 100% of the high school students interviewed said the following: relationships with staff. They spoke about feeling safe approaching staff, valuable to them, and confident in implementing the advice they gave. They also spoke of how their connection to The Freedom Story translated directly to a consistent increase in their levels of hope for their futures.
  • The majority of students reported having attended one or more of our human trafficking awareness raising events, and vast majority of students were able to correctly identify potential trafficking situations.

Room to Grow: Challenges in School

  • The majority of our students report a lack of confidence that there is anyone at school to whom they can turn when they have questions (which is likely due to a cultural phenomenon where asking questions of teachers is often considered offensive as it suggests the teacher didn’t teach the material well enough).
  • Most of the students also report a lack of confidence in their grades.
  • Less than half of our students strongly agreed that they have all the resources they need to do well in school.
  • Thirty-seven students were either neutral or agreed that they have a hard time completing homework assignments. Students who had over 3 people living in their household (with an average of 5.8 per household) were less confident that they had the resources they needed to succeed.
  • We also noticed some confusion around whether or not students had mentors and the effect of mentorship in student’s lives. While this is likely an issue of cultural translation (there is no Thai word for mentor, making the concept hard for some to understand), given that mentorship is such a large pillar of our programing, it is something worth exploring further.

As a result, these findings suggest that our kids are vulnerable to exploitation due to poverty, and that the scholarships are critical aids in keeping them in school. Ensuring they are successful in school is a challenge, and some of those challenges lie beyond the scope of our work. However, given the precarious, and often exploitative, nature of the type of work available to minors and young adults, the fact that our kids are choosing to stay in school rather than pursue alternatives is a strong indicator that The Freedom Story is finding success in preventing human trafficking.

Moreover, the students show an awareness of trafficking, which can help put them on their guard against potentially abusive and dangerous situations. Meanwhile, The Freedom Story has provided intangible, though no less important, benefits: relationships with mentors whom the students have come to view as extended family, who make the students feel valued, supported, and who help increase a positive outlook for the future.

Many thanks to Dan Olson, the principle author of our Social Impact Assessment, to Dr. Melissa Anderson-Hinn and to Athalie Waugh (M.A.) for their efforts in conducting the research, to End Crowd for the initial funding for the project, and to the many other contributors who helped provide insightful feedback and edits!

Dr. Jade Keller is the Thailand Program Advisor and Editor for The Freedom Story (formerly The SOLD Project). 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.