So often, the stories the media tells about trafficking victims and survivors are individual stories – how an individual became vulnerable and was exploited, what their trafficker did to them, how they escaped or were rescued, and so on. However, trafficking risk does not exist in a vacuum. The story is usually much broader – about how the local context becomes an environment conducive to exploitation, how few opportunities there are for viable employment, how stressors in the environment weaken families’ ability to care for their children, how significant portions of an entire generation were never fully educated and thus are hampered and unable to thrive or protect. But that doesn’t mean the will isn’t there. In fact, so many times children and families jump at the opportunity to improve their circumstances and strengthen their capacities. In this endeavor to strengthen individuals, it is essential to strengthen communities so that the environment around children does not allow for opportunities for their exploitation. One way we’re doing this is through village health care volunteers.
Who or what are village health care volunteers?
In Thailand, there is a system of volunteers who work in local districts, monitoring potential health issues among residents and advising on public health concerns in the neighborhood. They screen things like blood pressure, symptoms of diabetes, etc. They are typically deeply embedded in their communities and care for their village’s needs.
We’ve recently begun an initiative to train village health volunteers to recognize signs of trafficking and exploitation. We’re teaching them about things like protecting children’s rights, the hazards of online media, and how to seek assistance from the relevant agencies when problems arise in their communities. With this knowledge, they are better equipped to meet with individual families, notice if there are signs of a child at risk of exploitation or dropping out of school, and advise those families on preventative measures or how to access help from the appropriate agencies.
We’ve trained 832 village healthcare volunteers!
By engaging these village health volunteers, we’re building on a whole network of community leaders who can recognize signs of trafficking and risk, advise on rights claims, and monitor to prevent online exploitation. We’ll soon be sharing more news about all the other community leaders we’re enlisting in the fight against child trafficking and exploitation—keep an eye on our email newsletters to get those details!
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Trafficking is such a pervasive problem that the only way we can truly combat it is to enlist everyone possible and work together to protect our communities. Our scholarship and mentorship programs are working to reduce or mitigate the factors that push kids toward a path of potential exploitation. Our community work, however, serves to ensure that everyone around vulnerable children is alert to the presence of risk and can help keep a collective eye on their safety and protection.
We would be remiss, though, if we made it sound like we’re doing this on our own. We’re not. We are working in a community that spans continents. Your contributions make these efforts possible. We’re thrilled to share that your support has enabled this expansion of our reach, and we hope it serves to show how everything that you give to protect children is changing not only individual lives but a whole ecosystem. We want to create a world where trafficking cannot happen because, collectively, we won’t allow it.