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2023 Impact Highlights
February 22, 2024

The lush rice paddies and evergreen mountains of Northern Thailand are tropical, warm, and brimming with life. Yet even in this magical place, a destructive force lurks. Traffickers and other exploiters are actively perpetrating one of the most awful crimes imaginable – child trafficking. They’re not just in brothels and red-light districts anymore, either. Increasingly, they’re perpetrating their crimes online, harnessing the latest technologies to prey on those with the fewest resources to protect themselves. 

Children whose families struggle to survive on a few dollars a day or who struggle to access healthcare or education are at heightened risk, and the factors that put them at risk run deep: things like generational cycles of poverty, trauma, and social exclusion. Research and our own experience have shown that it’s not enough simply to warn people of the risk of traffickers. It’s essential to make safer life choices actually possible. Protection from trafficking involves a commitment to education and better job opportunities, investment in alternative sources of income, mentorship to help guide vulnerable youth through difficult life choices, resources that broaden their worldview and offer more pathways to success, and, of course, awareness raising about risks, their rights and how to protect themselves from exploitation along the way. 

The Freedom Story has been working to prevent child trafficking and protect vulnerable children since 2008, helping individual youths, their families, and their communities build resilience from the inside out. We started with just one scholarship student and have since expanded to support hundreds of students through multiple years of schooling, even making higher education possible for the most ambitious kids. We are investing in student and local community leadership so that those closest to at-risk people are empowered to protect their fellow community members. That work has reached thousands of people.

This progress continued in significant ways in 2023. We are very proud to share the highlights from our latest annual impact report. Here are some of the things we’ve been able to achieve together:

Empowering Communities

A keystone to effective prevention work is community empowerment. We engage both children and adults in learning about the dangers of child trafficking and other rampant forms of exploitation. By fostering awareness and access to legal support, we empower families and community members both to recognize signs of trafficking or abuse and to act to protect children.

Our human rights program reached 2,809 people and was accessed 5,962 times in 2023. Our reach included 2,063 children and 746 adults with services such as rights training, activities, outreach, and capacity-building workshops.

 

Strengthening Legal System Capacities to Protect Children

Effective legal systems to protect children are essential in the fight against trafficking. One critical first step is ensuring children are properly documented. Some of the most vulnerable children are those who are stateless – that is, children without any citizenship or legal identification. 

Thailand is working to ensure everyone has access to proper identification. We’re helping by working in local schools to identify stateless children and ensure that they are documented and can access the rights to which they are entitled. We aided over 1,203 stateless students and migrant workers in the documentation process to obtain fundamental rights.

 

Providing Safe Spaces

For children who have endured abuse in the home, feel lonely and isolated due to family breakdown, or have suffered other adverse childhood experiences, having a safe space to turn to for support can literally change their lives. Our resource centers offer a supportive haven where children can build healthy relationships, find help with personal or school problems, and participate in fun activities – healing in a social and caring environment. 

Our resource centers offer after-school programs, academic support, and mentorship, reaching over 2,628 people in 2023. Our education program was accessed 20,014 times, and we provided 2,044 hours of mentorship.

 

Empowering Families

Our Sustainable Development programming builds on the existing skills of the families, teaches about sustainable farming practices, and promotes business development through microloans. We also provide support with entrepreneurship training, workshops, and access to our Eco Learning Center. 

These projects empower families and raise living standards, thereby tackling poverty as a significant risk factor for trafficking and decreasing the lure of traffickers. We worked directly with 91 impoverished families in 2023.

 

Expanding the Power of Prevention Exponentially

A new collaboration made it possible for us to reach thousands more children in vulnerable communities to teach them about protecting themselves from child trafficking and exploitation. We signed an agreement with the first school district of Chiang Rai. Under this new partnership, we are working with 105 schools, reaching over 19,000 students

This exciting new initiative enables us to work directly with all schools in the district in a way we have not been able to before. Through this expansion, we are:

  • Providing training and education on preventing human trafficking, including online exploitation and child abuse
  • Developing a network of student leaders
  • Equipping those leaders to prevent trafficking in their schools

As we look back on the past year, we’re proud of the progress we can see. We have witnessed first-hand the power of your generous support in impacting lives. But there are still many challenges to confront, including the newest crisis in the region (trafficking people and forcing them to commit cyber scams). We are committed to bringing the full force of our whole community and coalition of partners to bear to prevent child trafficking and protect children from exploitation.

We will be releasing the full report soon. Please keep an eye on your email inboxes to be the first to get it – and if you haven’t signed up for emails yet, please email us at contact@thefreedomstory.org to be added to our mailing list! 

Together, with your support, we will keep fighting for a world where every child is safe and free to pursue their dreams. We continue to find daily inspiration in that mission, and thank you for being a part of this journey! 

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