Nin* loves to sing and can be found rapping and dancing whenever she can. Her case, however, is one that we see unfortunately far too often. She comes from a very poor farming family, with a very unstable income. Her parents both passed away when she was very young, so she lives with her grandparents. What we know about her parents’ death, namely that her father died of malaria, was relayed to us by her grandmother; it’s too sensitive a topic for Nin to discuss.
Having lost her parents, she has lost an important source of strength and support. Meanwhile, living with her grandparents has many of its own challenges. Their house is run-down and dilapidated, and they don’t have the available finances to fix it. It leaks everywhere every time it rains, and all of their sleeping clothes get wet. There’s no private space in their shelter; not even a separate bedroom. Her grandfather is very ill, suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes.
Coming from an ethnic hill tribe that traditionally does not believe in the value of girls’ education, she was expected to drop out of school by 9th grade. In all her free time, she has to help her family with farming, leaving her with no time to spend with friends and enjoy her childhood. In any case, their house is very isolated, so friends are far away. Her family is also not very demonstrative with love and affection, so there are no hugs or other forms of encouragement. There is friction sometimes when her grandmother complains that she stays too late for sports practice and doesn’t come home in time to help with chores.
This leaves Nin, who is just 14 years old, very isolated, very lonely, and unsure of her self-worth. She is aware of speaking with an accent, which makes her shy and insecure at times. Meanwhile, she spends a lot of time on her phone, browsing online or playing games with friends. It’s her only way of coping with that loneliness.
The combination of poverty, ethnic minority status, loneliness and the many hours spent online are all red flags for our staff. If she were to meet a trafficker online, she would be very vulnerable. There are too many cases of children and youth like her who use social connections online to feed their loneliness or accept offers from exploiters as a way to earn extra money. There is also an uncle, age 23, who often brings a group of male friends to the house–another source of concern to watch out for, as we have seen patterns like this result in abuse in the past.
Here’s How We’re Helping Nin
The scholarship Nin has received from The Freedom Story has helped provide a much better quality of life. It allows her to continue her education. She loves learning about Thai language and science and is really grateful for the chance to continue her studies. It has also improved her confidence in her speaking ability, so she no longer feels insecure about her accent.
Her staff mentors have been supporting the family with dry food and other necessary supplies that they bring every time they visit. Through our family camp activities, which are focused on fostering better communication and understanding in families, they have successfully been able to help her grandparents see the value in Nin continuing her studies and have helped improve communication within the family. As her staff mentor says, “The biggest change that we have seen is in the mindset of her and her grandparents. They are starting to value Nin’s education and now have hopes and dreams for Nin to continue with her studies.” Nin believes that education will give her more opportunities and confidence. She dares to dream higher now.
In the meantime, Nin has been participating in training sessions on online safety. She says it’s one of her favorite activities, “because I think that online threats are very close and dangerous. The training taught me how to protect myself from online threats.” She was also able to meet and make friends with kids from different schools, and that’s been a big boost for her.
The staff mentors have been a big source of support for her too. She goes to them for advice, including ways to make extra income outside of school. She hopes one day to become either a nurse or a teacher. She says seeing nurses in her community “makes me want to grow up and have a career as a nurse to come back to heal my grandfather and the people of my village.” As for wanting to be a teacher, she wants to teach children at her community school because her P.E. teacher has been a role model, teaching her to be good at sports.
Do you want to help Nin in her dream to become a nurse or teacher? Because of your support, we are able to protect children and youth like Nin from the choices and situations that put them at risk of trafficking and exploitation and keep them on their path to their dreams. Will you help us continue to provide scholarships and resources that help them stay safe? We’re working to raise $100,000 to keep our prevention programs running strong in 2023. If you’d like to help protect kids like Nin, please give here by this Saturday and know that 100% of your gift goes directly to prevention programs that keep children safe from trafficking and exploitation. Thank you!
*Name changed to protect privacy.