Tarrin,* a bold and funny 17 year old with an endearing smile, makes friends easily. He cheekily calls himself stubborn, “but in the way kids generally are.” His easy demeanor, however, belies a difficult childhood marred by addiction, poverty, and abuse.
The Impact of His Father’s Addiction
Born and raised in rural Chiang Rai, Tarrin’s mother left him when he was a baby. He has only seen her twice since. From when he was a toddler, it was his grandmother who raised him. To say that his father has struggled with addiction would be to put it mildly. The only time Tarrin and his grandmother ever saw him was when he wanted money. “He’d come when he ran out of money for alcohol, and if she didn’t give him any, because there wasn’t really any, he’d steal whatever she had. He would beat her as well. He was drunk every time he came to visit. If he wasn’t drunk, he didn’t come.”
Tarrin’s grandmother provided stability. “My grandmother was the loudest in the village,” he says, “so if I came home late, everyone would know. Everyone would say, ‘Hey, hurry up your grandma is calling you to go home.’”
But when Tarrin was seven, his grandmother got cancer and they needed someone to care for them both. They moved in with his father and stepmother in the city. But this wasn’t much of a reprieve. His stepmother also struggles with substance abuse, and her arguments with his father often turned violent. Their problems with addiction compounded problems with income, exacerbating the instability.
“I felt lonely, I had nothing to do at home. I had to change schools and I struggled to make friends. I would fight a lot with the kids at the new school,” Tarrin explains. “I would run away and try to get back to my grandma’s house in the village. I was a little kid but I still tried to run away. But my dad always found me.”
Seeing that he was lonely, Tarrin’s sister took him to a computer gaming shop, and introduced him to gaming. He loved getting immersed in the games and quickly became addicted, but the costs led to fights with his father. “My dad would have to come and get me and bring me home. When I got home, my dad would hit me. I would cry every day. He hit me and I cried every day for two years. Then I stopped playing games.”
As he got older, Tarrin’s family began pressuring him to leave school, saying that middle school would be enough education. He persisted, and got part-time work after school to help pay for his education. He worked in the water bottling shop at school, earning $15 a month. When he was 13, he worked at a restaurant during summer break, earning $1.60 per day plus tips.
Joining The Freedom Story
The family’s problems with addiction, the unstable income, the abuse he suffered, and his loneliness aren’t just challenges, they put him at risk of being trafficked or exploited by an abuser preying on these vulnerabilities. Tarrin joined The Freedom Story’s scholarship program last year to help keep him in school. The scholarship makes it possible to focus on his education, and it comes at a critical juncture now that he’s finishing his junior year of high school.
Being a part of our program also gives our staff mentors the opportunity to support him emotionally through this turbulent time. It’s no surprise that with this family history, Tarrin doesn’t feel that he can talk to his family about his problems. “When I’m home, we don’t really talk, sometimes we only talk to each other when we eat dinner,” he says. However, in 2019 he and his father joined our family camp. Tarrin says it was a huge help to his relationship with his dad. “It made me feel closer to my dad, and I felt really loved and connected to him.”
Having a staff mentor who visits him at home and at school and is a place where he can seek advice is also a huge source of support. Tarrin says, “To be able to talk to adults who have experiences, who have success, and more capacity, knowledge, they are a great source of information for us to talk to. They help us [scholarship students] develop faster than our other friends. Much faster.”
This support has opened his mind to new possibilities for his future. “I want to have my own farm,” he says, “But not just for planting and growing things. I want it to be a learning center for those in the community to learn about new types of agriculture and farming.” Tarrin has his sights on studying in Chiang Mai, a bigger city with a well-known university for agriculture, so he can pursue this dream.
Tarrin’s unstable and violent childhood, his family’s lack of reliable income, and his isolation all put him at risk of dropping out of school and becoming trafficked. But his optimism and determination sets him on a path to achieving his dream of opening a learning center. With your help, we can provide the support he needs to keep him on that path and make his dream a reality.
Can you help us provide mentorship that helps protect vulnerable youths like Tarrin from traffickers? Between now and April 15, we’ve set a goal to raise $10,000 for our mentorship program! Can you help us reach it?
*Name changed to protect privacy.