For Pip, risk comes in the form of how alone he and his little sister are. At the age of just 13, Pip* and his sister Amm* (age 10) are left alone to manage the home, care for themselves and complete all the daily tasks and responsibilities. For weeks at a stretch, they’re left to fend for themselves six days out of each week.
Why Pip and Amm Are Left Alone
When Pip and Amm’s parents became separated, both parents moved to live with their new family, leaving Pip and Amm with an aunt to care for them. However, their aunt already struggles with caring for her own family, so she only checks in on them from time to time. This means that 13-year-old Pip and 10-year-old Amm live almost entirely on their own. Though their aunt is kind to them and they feel gratitude toward her for playing as much of a guardian role as she is able to, her capacity to parent them is limited. Their mother, meanwhile, visits them once in a while on holidays. They have not seen their father since the divorce.
The house itself is dilapidated and incredibly unsafe. They live in a one-story house with a tin roof and walls made of plywood. The roof is so leaky that when it rains, their mattress, which is next to the kitchen area, gets wet, making it impossible to sleep. They don’t have private bedrooms or a toilet, and their door can’t be locked.
They are also members of ethnic hill tribe minorities, which severely limits their options and leaves them vulnerable to discrimination.
And yet Pip inspires others around him with his positive attitude and entrepreneurial spirit. The siblings fend for themselves by cultivating mushrooms and selling them to neighbors and at the community market. Pip loves to fish in the village stream. He also cooks what he catches and sells them for additional income. He’s especially passionate about raising freshwater beta fish, which he can sell to friends and teachers at school.
However, it is distressing how alone he and his sister are. Although there are neighbors who take pity on them and try to help out, they lack adequate adult care. Not only must they cope with the pressures of feeding and taking care of themselves and the house, but there’s no one to keep them safe from people who might try to abuse or exploit them. Even the government is unable to step in because their mother still maintains a presence in their lives and their aunt does not consent to putting them in a children’s home or other care facility. As difficult as that might be to comprehend, these circumstances are sadly not uncommon for the at-risk children we encounter in this area. This early abandonment is normalized, so Pip and Amm haven’t come to expect anything different for themselves.
How We’re Helping Pip and Amm
After accepting Pip and Amm into our scholarship program a year ago, we’ve been supporting them financially, both with essential material needs and to stay in school. It’s clear he has the motivation and drive; it’s critical to get him access to the knowledge, skills, and other qualifications that will enable him to thrive.
He works closely with his staff mentors, developing plans, both short-term and long-term strategies for helping him provide for himself and his family. The staff mentors have built on what Pip was already accomplishing and have taught Pip more about fish farming and growing mushrooms to sell to teachers at the school and people in the community, as well as on an online platform. He’s excited about this life skill development, as it has allowed him to earn extra income for food for himself and his sister.
The Freedom Story staff are also working to build a bathroom, a lock on the door, and a new roof to address the security problems in their home. While many situational constraints make it so we’re hampered in our ability to move them anywhere to live with an adult guardian, the mentorship program we offer means our staff can also keep a close watch on them. If you joined our End of Year Online Gala, you’ll have seen how important home visits are–this case goes to show that, for some kids like Pip and Amm, the need is dire. Hopefully, between their aunt, mother, neighbors, and home visits from our staff, we can create a network of care to surround them.
Because of your support, we are able to protect children and youth like Pip and Amm from the circumstances that put them at risk of trafficking and exploitation. 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 Pip and Amm, please give here and know that 100% of your gift goes directly to prevention programs that keep children safe from trafficking and exploitation. Thank you!
*Names changed and stock photo used to protect privacy.