Worn Donchai has been a key part of The Freedom Story for 8 years. With his experience and education he founded our Sustainable Development program, which is aimed at creating alternative sources of income and promoting organic agriculture among at-risk communities in Northern Thailand. His expertise in textiles led us to create Shop Seri. He has made an impact on hundreds of families in Northern Thailand through his work. Now, after 8 years, he is moving on to work full time on his PhD, which is developing a special property for mosquito-repellent textiles by using encapsulation technology of essential oils.
Why Sustainable Development Matters to Trafficking
The connection between Sustainable Development and fighting human trafficking is not always clear, so I asked Worn to explain in his own words why it is key to fighting trafficking. “The cause of human trafficking and related issues in society like drugs, the sex trade, or forced labor is poverty. Especially in developing countries that rely on the production of industrial and agricultural products there are also often pollution that impacts humans and the environment,” he explains. “This creates economic and environmental problems. In agriculture, when people want to get more income, they use a means of production that causes destruction of natural resources and the quality of life of people.”
“Therefore, a sustainable approach to solving this problem is to develop environmentally friendly production based on the skills and resources of the community. Thailand is a largely agricultural economy. We have natural resources and geographic conditions suitable for agriculture. And people have skills in crafts. We are able to develop a career and increase household income using these basic skills and natural resources using sustainable development approaches,” he adds.
Worn Donchai ‘s Achievements and Innovations
Worn Donchai has pioneered many examples of this approach at The Freedom Story. From teaching villagers how to raise Eri silkworms, which can produce income at all stages in the cycle, to working with natural dyes and textiles to support elderly women weavers, to teaching local women how to set up a co-op to make and sell eco-friendly detergent and fertilizer from things like pineapple skins.
“When villagers have a career and income that can sustain themselves and their families, they can escape from poverty. This is a way to prevent and solve human trafficking problems at the root cause. The sustainable development process is a way of sustainable human resource development, economic, societal and environmental development,” Worn adds.
Sustainable development has huge potential to assist a community in many ways. Worn explains sustainability this way, “Sustainability is the way to balance between human and nature, so they can stay together. It is a way to live, where humans use and preserve nature appropriately to create a better quality of life and a better future. Sustainability is true development, in which no one is harmed- not nature or people.”
Much has changed in 8 years. Worn has done a fantastic job in building this sustainability in the community. “The villagers understand and are aware of human trafficking and sustainable development. They have received appropriate technology transfer to help develop new careers to give more income. They are proud and willing to stand on their own, use their skills and resources and focus on organic and eco production,” he says.
Worn himself has learned a lot from his time with The Freedom Story. “Being a good example is better than words. To lead people we have to be a good example and role model,” he explains.
Some of his favorite memories have been seeing the success and progress of kids, staff and villagers. “I would like to thank all individuals and organizations for their support. Thank you to all current colleagues and former colleagues for friendship, bonding, kindness and help, until it becomes a precious relationship of life. I will strongly support and appreciate the progress of this beloved organization,” Worn adds.
Lucy McCray is The Freedom Story’s Monitoring & Evaluation Manager and our International Liaison, based in Chiang Rai Thailand. After completing an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics in 2015 Lucy moved to Northern Thailand to work on the areas of human rights, and anti-trafficking.