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Det and the Impact of Early Childhood Stress
December 19, 2021

Like many boys his age, Det* loves sports. “I like to play sports because it makes me healthy. It also helped me learn self-discipline, patience, and strength while building relationships with friends,” he says. His favorite subject in school is PE. It helps him relieve stress. Det has faced multiple stressors in his young life, and we believe they put him at risk.

The Stress in Det’s Life

Born in rural Thailand, Det experienced his parents’ divorce at a young age, and his mother has since remarried. Det’s mother and step-father moved to a new province searching for work, leaving Det and his sister with their grandparents. However, Det’s grandparents are past working age, surviving only on $40 a month from the Thai government’s pension and occasional financial support from Det’s mother.

Because he usually lives far away from his mother, Det is estranged from her. His grandmother is who he relies on.  “Grandma is the one who takes care of me the most. She is a good listener to all issues, academic and personal. She gives me advice and suggests the right solution and always encourages me.” 

COVID has also impacted Det’s life significantly, leaving his mother and stepfather without work. They moved back to his village, which meant even more significant financial burdens for the family. And there came the added strain of verbal abuse from Det’s stepfather. 

This abuse and stress make Det even more shy and quiet than usual. His grandmother says, “He doesn’t talk to his mother and stepfather. He refuses to eat with them,  and really only talks to me for advice. Otherwise, he prefers to stay on his own.” He spends a lot of time on his phone, “not interested in the outside world,” he says. He accepts friends online that he doesn’t know, often people who are much older, and he has a history of sharing photos of himself in order to get money for his phone usage. 

We’ve shared before how ​​abuse and other kinds of trauma physically impact the brain in young people. It can impair the ability to learn, control emotions and behavioral impulses, and function well at school or work. Children who’ve experienced abuse are more prone to difficulties at school, home, or in society, which may lead to dropping out of school or getting into worse trouble.

Our Response

Last year, The Freedom Story began working in Det’s village, and Det was referred to us by a teacher who could see how deep his needs and struggles were. We believed that poverty, isolation, and exposure to abuse were putting Det at risk of trafficking, especially since he was already engaging in risky online behavior. His mentor, Pikul, says, “He stays out of his house. He prefers to stay at the dorms on weekends because he feels happier there than when he is at home. At home he doesn’t get cared for, doesn’t feel like he can talk to his grandmother about everything because he is worried about burdening her and worried about her health.”

We offered Det a scholarship to help him stay in school. He began joining activities at the resource center, including training about the dangers of online media, life skills training, and trafficking prevention awareness events. 

He enjoys the life skills activities the best, saying they help him “practice and learn more about the way of life of the people in the community and have more space to express myself. It also helps me be more responsible and self-aware, helping others in the group.”

We mentor Det as well, providing him and his family support that he appreciates. “Having a mentor is useful, as my mentor can give advice when I’m faced with problems that I can’t talk to others about. Whether it’s personal, at school, or anything else, the mentors have good advice to help me guide me. I can take the experiences from my mentors as ideas and apply them in my daily life,” he says. We’re also working to find a professional counselor who can give even deeper support for dealing with his stress and mental health needs.

Det dreams of becoming a computer programmer in the future and wants to support his family, particularly his younger sister, so she can “study according to her dreams.” Because of your support, we can continue to guide Det away from spending so much time trying to distract himself from his stress and pain with online escapes, and instead provide healthier activities and connections with peers and mentors. We believe this support is needed to restore him to a better, healthier, and safer path, so he can be free to pursue his dreams.

 

This year, we’re helping vulnerable kids like Det restore themselves to a better path, repair what has been broken, reassert themselves, and rejuvenate all our spirits in the process as they continue to demonstrate incredible resilience. Your generous gift is key to making all that possible. Can you help us continue to protect them through 2021? Please give to our End of Year Campaign, where up to $65,000 raised will be matched by a generous anonymous donor! Click here to get started today!

 

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