In celebration of our 15th anniversary, we’re sharing stories about students who have graduated from our child trafficking prevention programs. These students were identified as being at risk of trafficking and exploitation and, with the help of scholarships and mentorship, were able to turn their path from one of risk to one of resilience. This is what successful prevention looks like.
Kaew’s* family had a hard time gaining a foothold of stability. Her parents were divorced. Originally from the Northeast region of Thailand, she and her mother and stepfather had been staying on their relatives’ property but were eventually pushed to move to the North. From a young age, she tried to support her family by helping her mother bake snacks that she could sell at school. She loved to draw and paint, but she was shy about sharing her art with others and mostly kept this part of her to herself.
The pull of the sex industry was always strong around her, and her world did not promote safety from sexual exploitation. Some of her own family members were engaged in sex work. She didn’t have a private bedroom – even as she became a teenager, she still slept with her mother and stepfather, with only a piece of cloth to separate them. And her stepfather would secretly try to watch her while she changed clothes. She did not want to be left alone with him. And she loved to talk to people online, including strangers. No one had told her how dangerous that was or how easily exploitation happens online.
How Our Prevention Programs Protected Kaew
Kaew started getting scholarships from The Freedom Story around 2015. Her mentors were very concerned about her home situation, so they talked to Kaew’s mother about doing more to protect Kaew’s privacy and safety. They convinced her to build a wall to separate their spaces to give Kaew more privacy and ensure she wasn’t left alone with her stepfather. Her staff mentors also warned Kaew about the dangers of talking to strangers online and encouraged her to be more careful about who she conversed with. Having become more aware of the problem and sensitive to propriety, her mother became much more protective of Kaew’s privacy.
Kaew thrived in The Freedom Story’s activities. She would always volunteer to lead, she’s friendly and works well with others, and she even motivated her friends to join The Freedom Story. Most importantly, she benefited from art therapy and the chance to express her feelings through this outlet.
Given the opportunity to thrive, she showed remarkable growth – her artwork was even accepted to show at Central Chiang Rai, the biggest retail center in the region. She says,
“During my time in The Freedom Story’s scholarship program, I was able to participate in a variety of activities, camps, and meetings, all of which were extremely enjoyable, helped me become more confident and encouraged me to voice my opinion, and provided me with a wealth of life lessons to apply in the future.”
Now, she is getting her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Art Design. In the future, she wants to work in a field related to entertainment, such as costume design or graphic design.
In the meantime, her mother wanted to move back to her home region, Korat, where they could get more family support, and The Freedom Story was able to help finance the move. Kaew’s father quit his drug addiction and even gave them a house, thus beginning a friendship between her father and stepfather. Her mother’s business selling Thai desserts is thriving. Her whole family is working together to support her education.
Having graduated from our scholarship and prevention programs, Kaew says:
“I’d like to thank The Freedom Story for the scholarship they awarded me, for teaching me and providing me with positive experiences, and for helping me overcome my fears and encouraging me to be courageous. Thank you to the entire staff for always teaching me and contributing to my success.”
*Name changed and stock photo used to protect privacy.
Thank you so much to all our caring supporters who made this change from risk to resilience possible. This giving season, we’re asking you to continue supporting other children like Kaew to ensure they stay protected from exploitation and on a path that maximizes their potential. Please consider a gift to help us reach our goal of $100,000 by December 31, 2023. Any assistance you give between now and then will be matched by an anonymous donor to DOUBLE your impact. Click here to give now.