In-person activities are back in full swing at The Freedom Story’s Resource Centers, as COVID restrictions have receded. Our teams successfully conducted home visits for all of our current students and families, finally able to connect safely without having to rely on a digital intermediary. Our staff teams have been very excited to return to normal operations, which are so crucial to fostering the relationships and connections that help keep vulnerable children safe from trafficking and exploitation. While our hope for 2023 is to expand our reach to even more children who are at risk, in the meantime, the concurrent force of our work is in deepening the capacity for real, lasting change, promoting resilience permanently.
We know from research on the effectiveness of anti-trafficking programs that awareness-raising campaigns, alone, are not enough to truly protect vulnerable people from exploitation. We believe that, beyond warning people about risky choices, we have to make safer paths possible. We have to address the things that make children vulnerable in the first place.
This week, we’d like to tell you about some of the in-person activities that we’re most excited about: our Family Camp and a visit with trafficking survivors.
Earlier this month, we hosted a Family Camp – an intensive 3-day, 2-night gathering of students and their families to help address family challenges and strengthen their relationships. Over 150 people attended this emotional event – our biggest since the pandemic.
The goal of the camp was to build better relationships between our students and their parents and guardians. Culturally speaking, many of these families are unused to outward displays of affection or open dialogue about areas of disagreement. Stoicism and respect for elders are important values, but can sometimes hamper communication, leaving room for misunderstandings. Providing these families with tools to help bridge the gaps in understanding is key to helping ensure at-risk children maintain networks of support through tough times, their families being the most important source of resilience.
The camp interspersed fun, entertaining activities with workshops with a psychologist who helped students and their families open up more with each other. Students who don’t have parents even asked our staff to be a stand-in for parents, which our staff recognized as a big honor and a reflection of how much they really mean to the kids!
A local businessman also gave a training session on social entrepreneurship. And, of course, our staff led sessions to raise awareness about human trafficking and online sexual exploitation.
However, one of the most memorable moments was when the students concluded the event by giving their parents flowers as a way to show love and as a symbol of asking for or receiving forgiveness for ways they’ve let each other down. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room!
Before the Family Camp, some of the families weren’t very keen to participate, fearing that it might be a waste of time, especially when they need to work. But this is an instance where short-term investment really pays off with long-term gain. By the end of the experience, the families were very appreciative. They saw the value of correcting misunderstandings between each other and changing their points of view.
Students have shared with us that the Family Camp is one of the events that matter to them. It’s all too easy, sometimes, to get stuck in unhealthy patterns with people we love, and though we may want to bridge the distance, we can sometimes be unsure of how to even start. Sometimes all it takes is some dedicated time and a little gentle nudge in the right direction.
We invest in events like the Family Camp because they can be so transformative. Another event that we hope will also be transformative is…
An In-Person Gathering with Trafficking Survivors
Our Thailand Director, Veerawit Tianchainan, was recently in Cambodia facilitating work on women and children with ASEAN. While there, he connected with the Hard Places Community in Phnom Penh, through our network with Ping Pong A Thon. Hard Places Community runs an academy to receive training and open their own beauty salons. An opportunity arose to have two trafficking survivors, graduates of the Hard Places Community, come to Thailand to meet with our staff and students.
This very special event in late November will allow a select group of our older students a chance to meet trafficking survivors and hear from their experience – we hope hearing directly from lived experience will be an even more impactful way for our students to learn about trafficking risks. The survivors will also hold a beauty salon event, including activities such as hairdressing, color treatments, nails, and make-up. It should be a lot of fun – and we hope it may pique some students’ interest in potential career paths.
These events are just some of the ways our team is trying to creatively address our students’ deepest needs and help keep them safe from trafficking and exploitation. It is due to the generosity of our donor community that these activities are possible, and for that, we are forever grateful!
Before you sign off, have you heard yet about this year’s Online Gala? On December 1, come Adventure with Us on a virtual journey to Thailand from your living room! See our work in Chiang Rai and Nan, meet scholarship students on home visits, get a travel kit, join in the silent auction, and more. Early bird tickets are available for $50 until October 31! Click here for tickets and more info.