About two years ago, Lisa Winterfeldt offered to volunteer with The Freedom Story, and in doing so, created a new and vital role in our organization. She served as International Liaison, the link between our two offices, helping facilitate communication across the globe. She has been instrumental not only in her function as ambassador between two offices (and thus two perspectives and two cultures), but also in bringing her positivity and creativity to bear in supporting, encouraging, and cheer-leading staff and students alike. Lisa (unfortunately for us) has now moved to Rome, and while her role is now being filled by more than capable Lucy, we’d like to take some time to let you know a little more about Lisa. She has kindly agreed to an interview, where she shares what she has gained from her experience here with us. Here are some of her thoughts!
TFS: You’re originally from Virginia. What brought you to anti-trafficking work in Thailand?
LW: While I was in college getting my degree in Therapeutic Recreation, I worked at a residential treatment center for children with behavior and emotional problems. I really enjoyed working in this field and feeling like I could make a difference mentoring children. This led me to getting my teaching qualifications and working in the public school system in Texas as a behavior teacher.
I moved abroad in 2012 to work in Bangkok as a classroom teacher for an International School, and fell in love with Thailand. In my three years in Bangkok, I became familiar with the problem of sex trafficking and the red light district. I was shocked at how normalized it seemed as part of the entertainment and nightlife. It always saddened me and I wanted to find a way to get involved in prevention. Seeing the girls on the streets in Soi Cowboy, [I wanted] to help in some way.
I found The Freedom Story online and agreed with their mission and really valued the idea of freedom through education. I felt that if these girls [in the red light districts] had education and financial opportunity, maybe they wouldn’t be in that position.
So I moved up to Chiang Rai, where I spent two years working as the International Liaison. As the International Liaison I had a unique role of working with both the US and Thai office and learned and grew as a professional and a person.
TFS: What is something that has been surprising or deeply affected you, in your line of work so far?
LW: I think one thing that has deeply affected me is the idea that even if we educate girls in Chiang Rai, that there will always be others at risk all over the world. Until we can stop the demand, there will always be girls at risk. Until we can solve the economic problem, there will always be girls at risk. I think it is equally important to educate men on the issue and support women’s rights everywhere.
On a positive note, one thing that I really enjoyed was being on the ground and meeting the kids and seeing their innocence and happiness. Knowing that each girl that is given a scholarship has an opportunity that will help them be able to follow their dreams. The Thai staff provide support and mentorship that I have watched influence the lives of the kids in the program. The work they are doing on the ground is meaningful and impactful.
I always liked that quote, “You may not be able to change the world, but you can change the world of one person” and it seems fitting here. Each and every student in the program has the opportunity to change their life for the better!
TFS: What are you going to be doing in Rome?
LW: I will be teaching Special Education at an International School and staying involved with the Freedom Story as a local representative. I also hope to get my school involved in service and fundraising for The Freedom Story.
Thank you so much for all you’ve done and for being who you are! You’ve had an indelible impact on us here at The Freedom Story. Thank you Lisa!