The Freedom Story was birthed from a documentary film called “The SOLD Project.” When our founder Rachel Sparks learned about child sexual exploitation in Thailand, she decided to expose it through the power of film. After interviewing dozens of sex workers, common themes became apparent: poverty, a lack of education, and a lack of options. Sparks responded by providing a scholarship to an at-risk student named Cat.
When Cat met Rachel Sparks, she was only 9 years old and her father had already passed away. Her mother passed just a few years after that, leaving Cat an orphan. Opportunities for a girl like Cat were extremely limited and all indicators pointed to a high risk of endangerment and exploitation. The scholarship and the community at The Freedom Story have helped change Cat’s prospects in striking ways.
Ten years later
Ten years later, Cat is in her first year of study at Rajabhat University in Chiang Rai. She is working towards a degree in education and dreams of being able to teach English at the university level, because she is excited to take on the complexity of language speaking and conversation that can happen at a university. She is no longer “a child at risk”: she is a poised, elegant and articulate young woman making her dreams a reality.
Opportunity is a reality
When Cat was little, “opportunity” sounded like something others bestowed upon you. Now her message is one of empowerment and self-determination. She has grown to believe that opportunity comes from within: that all the raw materials and all the things one has learned in life reside within us. We don’t have to wait for opportunity; we can make it ourselves. She says when she was young she used to believe that she wouldn’t be able to do anything. She knows now that, as you grow, your world and your perspective grow bigger.
When she was little, she dreamed of being an airline hostess or working in the airline industry. Her dreams changed as she grew older and she says this is a good thing. She says,
“Sometimes we want to do something but we cannot, and that is okay, because you learn from that. I have to study and work, and that’s a good thing. Experience has taught me more than I have learned from any other teacher.”
A true inspiration to other students
She has set a stellar example for our other scholarship students who follow in her footsteps. When asked what she would like to tell them, she says, “You should smile when you see a problem. If you pass that [obstacle], you should say thank you for it because [the experience of overcoming] will make you grow up, make you stronger, and more adult. Don’t think you have to face things alone. You have family and you have [the people at] The Freedom Story . When I have problems, I know my parents are watching from heaven, and I know that I am not alone. You don’t have to be what others would think is the best example of anything. But you can try hard and do the best that you can, and that will be the most important thing for you.”
This is what empowerment looks like.
Through our programs, these children are given access to education, a mentor that advocates for them, and a network to open the door to a life with more choices.