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.
Rochana* is among one of the first students to receive a scholarship from The Freedom Story. Fifteen years ago, she was identified as “at-risk” because the world around her was rife with risk. Her family lived in poverty, surrounded by neighbors and family members who were engaged in sex work.
Her parents didn’t see the value of education; they saw, however, what kind of money many other girls in their village were making in the sex industry. Her parents were strict and controlling, and there was a lot of pressure for Rochana to drop out of school from a very early age to earn money. Her family pushed her to become a bar girl or similar. Even as a child, though, Rochana knew she wanted something different.
The Freedom Story’s scholarships provided a way out. From the time she was ten years old, the scholarships not only covered the costs of Rochana’s education, they helped quell her parents’ worries enough to let her continue her education despite their misgivings.
Rochana did more than continue. She thrived. She excelled. Not only did she complete high school, she went to university and is now pursuing a Master’s Degree in Politics and Governance. She currently works at the Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health while she pursues higher education.
The support she received from The Freedom Story has changed her and helped her grow. She had always been quiet, studious, dedicated, and mature for her age. Through mentorship and after-school activities, she developed her voice. She grew more confident and shared her opinions. She identified her life objectives, studied hard, and grew more comfortable challenging her parents’ beliefs about education and advocating for her dreams.
It was a constant process, explaining why education was so important to her, gently pushing her parents out of the mindset that had been so profoundly influenced by the environment around them, and educating them on the costs of being trafficked. This life experience has driven her career goals, too. Having grown up in this environment, helping her family rise out of such challenging circumstances, she feels compelled to engage in more social work.
With her Master’s Degree, she wants to become a police officer specializing in social work. She firmly believes that, without The Freedom Story, she would have been trafficked too. The family and environmental pressures were all pushing her in that direction. The Freedom Story helped her get out of that situation and also helped educate her family about other alternatives.
It appears that the example Rochana has provided to her parents has convinced them, too, of the power of education. We believe her parents’ feelings about education must have changed because when Rochana wanted to pursue a Master’s Degree, they didn’t object. And now, Rochana has a nephew that her parents are caring for, and they want her nephew to get the highest education possible. They can see how education changed Rochana’s life, and they want that for her nephew as well.
“Thank you to all my benefactors for your support. For almost ten years, I have received scholarships, assistance, or various kinds of support – from the time I was the little black-eyed 10-year-old girl who never imagined that she would be supported in education up until entering a national university, graduating with a bachelor’s degree and holding a stable job. If not for The Freedom Story, I would not have been able to take care of myself and my family as I can today….I am very grateful. Sponsors give opportunities to me and others; they are a light to many children…On behalf of the children who have been given these opportunities, I don’t have anything else to say other than, “Thank you for giving this child this opportunity.’”
Thank you so much to all our caring supporters who made this change from risk to resilience possible. This giving season, we ask you to continue supporting other children like Rochana 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.
* To protect her privacy, her name has been changed and she is not pictured in the photo above.