Daw is a bubbly, confident and engaging seventeen-year-old. She stands out amongst her peers in the leadership development program as a great entertainer and teacher for younger students. She describes herself as very confident, someone who loves public speaking and helping the younger students.
However, she was not always that way. Daw, who identifies as transgender, says that the first time she came to The Freedom Story, “I was so shy. I was not confident and I couldn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t know what to say.”
What Held Her Back
Despite a surface level of acceptance for LGBTQ people, discrimination and bias against those who identify as LGBTQ remains. They can be limited in the types of jobs they acquire, they may be restricted from leadership opportunities, and are often alienated and or even abused. These biases, combined with poverty, can make a student like Daw vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.
How Acceptance Affected Her
However, at The Freedom Story, our staff treat all of our students the same and accept them for who they are. Daw gradually became more involved in activities at the resource centers, and says that after spending time being mentored by staff and volunteers, and having good relationships, she began to feel more confident. “I realized we have to be open hearted, and that made me more confident, it made the true things in me come out,” she says.
Daw has been on the Youth Partnership Program (YPP) leadership team for the past four years and this year has worked with The Freedom Story staff to deliver our 3-3-5 program, which uses play and role-playing to help young students learn about protecting themselves from sexual abuse and what their rights are to body privacy.
When Daw teaches the students, she focuses on engaging them so that, “at the very least, they can learn something new. If they go and use it in their lives, if they tell other people about it, that is something very good for them.” She was among the seven teen leaders who lead outreach at a local village last year, teaching over sixty local students about their human rights. For Daw, teaching 3-3-5 benefits both the younger students and herself.
Due to the leadership skills and confidence gained through the Leadership Development Program and through mentorship at The Freedom Story, Daw was appointed to be the student chairman at her school two years in a row. Beyond that, she was also selected to be a representative on the district and provincial-wide student councils. This is a huge opportunity for any student, particularly one like her, who identifies as LGBTQ. Her confidence and bravery in taking on these leadership positions are a testament to how much she has developed over time.
How Love Radiates Outward
When asked about her goals for the future, Daw smiles and says she’d like to be a social worker. “Going into the community, to help the younger students, to meet with parents and guardians, I like this kind of thing, giving them knowledge and information, it makes me happy,” she adds.
There are only two social work University programs in Thailand. The closest one is about three and a half hours away. This will be a transition for Daw, but with the support of The Freedom Story it will be a great opportunity for her to pursue her dream. Luckily for her, The Freedom Story has also recently hired a social worker who can share her experience in living and working far from home with her.
Thank you for your support for The Freedom Story in our partnership with ODW. With your support, we can continue to provide support, mentorship, leadership development and human rights programming for students like Daw.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
If you want to help marginalized children like Daw, all you have to do is invest in our prevention programs–a powerful tool for you to help Daw and her peers with the best chance they have to protect themselves from exploitation. Donate through One Day’s Wages and help us reach our goal of $50,000, which goes straight to helping kids like Daw live a life free from trafficking and exploitation!