Mar 1, 2021

Thank you, direct from our community in Thailand

Thank you for making our work possible.
Thank you for making our work possible.

Dear Friend,

2021 has already brought both struggles and joys. We want to take a moment to say thank you for your incredibly generous support of The Freedom Story. 

In the last three months, we have raised over $49,000 on GlobalGiving, including an incredible $20,000 from those of you who have given with gift cards.  Thank you.

Because of You

Your generosity has already had an immediate impact on lives here in Thailand. COVID-related challenges put children at greater risk of trafficking by increasing poverty, increasing marginalization, and increasing the likelihood of children being pulled out of school to work to help keep their families afloat.Your support is critical to furthering education and empowerment, while reducing the vulnerabilities that traffickers prey on. 

Because of your generosity our local staff can:

  • support families like Preeda and Ying’s so children can stay in school and pursue their dreams, rather than being trafficked as their mother was. 
  • apply for governmental support for migrant families who lack access to their rights. This helps counteract wage theft and ensure access to social security.
  • train parents and children understand the dangers of online exploitation and are equipped to fight it in their communities and households.
  • Support families to conduct income generation projects like raising chickens and planting organic vegetables. 
“With our health challenges, [others in the community] look down on us. Other families look at us and ask, “how can they survive?” It is because of The Freedom Story. Many others are waiting for this kind of opportunity, but they can’t get it. 
Anywhere our supporters are in the world, I hope they only experience good things. There are so many people waiting for opportunities.  We can’t speak the same language, we don't get to meet each other, but we think about them all the time.” -- Arpa,* mother of two of our scholarship students

You are essential to our work here in Thailand. Thank you for being an important part of  child trafficking prevention, because every child deserves a safe and secure future.

In Hope,

Links:

Dec 29, 2020

HOW SUPPORT ENSURES PHIKUN'S FREEDOM

“When I was eleven, my mom died in a motorbike accident… that was a huge change in my life,” says Phikun.* “Before then, my parents had separated. We lived with my mom, but a few months after my mom died, my dad came and we moved in to live with him.” Unfortunately, he was not a reliable source of support.

“Growing up with my dad, things were bad,” she continues. “My dad wasn’t responsible. He didn’t like to work. We never had any money.” Phikun’s father has struggled with substance abuse for years, and as a result the family never had reliable income, leaving them in dire poverty. When he was able to work, the $100 per month he brought in was often spent on his addiction. 

Left to fend for themselves, Phikun and her younger brother often went without food. With no other choice, the children would go to their aunt or other relatives for food. They hated having to bother others. 

“My situation helped me grow up quickly. I had to take care of myself. My brother and I would take care of ourselves. We would make our own breakfasts if we had food. At least at school, we always had lunch,” she says. 

They were incredibly self-sufficient. But, there were also many times when their father refused to pay the electric bill. When their power got cut off, they turned to the only source of support and security they had: The Freedom Story.

How Phikun Connected With The Freedom Story

Phikun comes from the same village where our Resource Center is located. She had already been joining in activities there, so around the same time that her mother passed away, she began receiving a scholarship. We had seen how Phikun’s background, which beyond the instability of her father also includes a family history in sex work, a personal history of abuse, and her family’s considerable debts, put her at extreme risk of trafficking.

The scholarship helped a lot with the family finances, but the connection to The Freedom Story offered something even more. Phikun feels she has gained a lot of experiences she would otherwise never have had because of The Freedom Story. This includes being a member of the youth leadership program, teaching other children her age about their rights. She lists off the workshops she’s joined as part of The Freedom Story; anti-drugs, sex education, leadership, how to safely use social media, many of which she uses in her day to day life. “I’m careful [on social media] I don’t send… or do anything to make myself at risk,” she says. 

There were other struggles too. Her mental health has been a source of concern in recent years, and she credits The Freedom Story staff with helping her get diagnosed and the treatment she needs. When her father had a bad motorbike accident and suffered brain damage, Freedom Story staff mentors stepped in to support her and her brother. “They were a source of advice, when I didn’t know what to do, they helped me… I had never experienced anything like this,” she says. The Freedom Story also provided them with the basic necessities they needed including food.

What Support is Helping Her Achieve

Despite all these challenges, Phikun has exhibited enormous resilience and determination. She recently graduated from a three month vocational beautician course. With her certificate she can work and study at the same time. She is continuing to pursue her high school diploma through the Thai government’s informal education program, similar to a GED. We have no doubt she has what it takes to continue to rise above her circumstances.

Children like Phikun show that while instability can lead to dire circumstances, having a baseline of security makes a marked difference in their ability to pursue their dreams. She knows how fragile her opportunities at education were before, and what the consequences of that might have been. “Without The Freedom Story, my life would be worse than this,” she says. “I wouldn’t have continued studying. I probably would have ended up trafficked. I would have ended up in child labor of some kind.”

Instead, Phikun has more freedom to choose the trajectory of her life. If she can continue her education, she will have more opportunities than she would without that degree. Please help us support her as she completes her education, to secure a life free from exploitation.

There are many other students like Phikun and her brother. We saw how stability is what secured Mai’s freedom, and the freedom of her sisters too. It can do the same for Phikun and children like her as well. Will you help us continue to secure freedom for children in 2021? Please help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 by midnight on Thursday to protect vulnerable children and keep them safe through next year. Every gift will be matched for double the impact!

 

Dec 22, 2020

A Family At Risk

When Arpa*, mother of two girls Preeda* and Ying*, was growing up, she wanted to study. “But we were poor. We didn’t even have rice to eat. So I decided to go to work. I studied until 3rd grade. I can read and write a bit and that was enough. I wanted my kids to have a chance to study more than me. But in the past, when school started, we would really struggle to find money to buy the bags, the school supplies, the things they needed.” These challenges would be enough to make them candidates for our program, but it’s not the only thing putting the family at risk.

Because of her limited education, Arpa has had few job options. When she was a teenager, she became a victim of sex trafficking. Her experience being trafficked in the sex industry led to significant health problems that have taken a toll on the family and also continue to make it difficult for her to work. Two of Arpa’s siblings were trafficked into the fishing industry in Thailand, one of whom did not return to shore for six months and has since passed away. Ying and Preeda’s father’s family has also a history of experiencing trafficking and exploitation. This background shows how prone the girls are to becoming trafficked as well, and how tragic the lifelong consequences of trafficking can be.

When Preeda and Ying’s father left them to be with another woman, their situation became even more precarious. “Right now our expenses are high and we don’t have enough money,” explains Preeda. “Without my dad, we can’t buy things like rice. We have to be really careful with our money.”

Trying to Manage a Life At Risk

Their mother makes $80 a month, which is not enough for the family to survive on. Trying to balance education with survival needs, Ying decided to study in a vocational school program that lets her work for 3 months at 7-Eleven and then study the next 3 months. When she’s working, she makes around $200 per month, spending it all on her education and related costs. Having seen the impact of disruptions to education because of the pandemic, we can just imagine how difficult it is to keep up with learning when it is continually interrupted for months at a time, not to mention the stress that must also be a constant distraction.

Ying and Preeda started receiving scholarships from The Freedom Story in 2011. The support has made a huge difference to them. “Other people look down on us because of our poverty and health issues. They think, ‘How can this family survive?’ But it is because of The Freedom Story,” says Arpa. “Without The Freedom Story, I wouldn’t be able to send them to school.” She explains that the scholarships put them in a good place and save them from having to borrow money from others. “They’ve allowed me to be able to dream,” says Preeda. 

Beyond keeping the girls in school, the family has also benefited from The Freedom Story’s family camps. “[Being open] doesn’t come easily or naturally to us. It came from The Freedom Story, from the mentors giving us advice and things to practice. We used to be like other families, where the children don’t share, and the parents don’t listen. But since we went to the trainings, it's much better,” Arpa says, smiling at her children. 

Preeda grins. “I don’t keep any secrets from my mom. I don’t wait for her to ask, I just share things.” 

Healthy family relationships provide a strong, secure foundation for children that can help prevent them from being trafficked. When children receive the support and care they need at home, they are less likely to seek it elsewhere and are less at risk of falling prey to those who seek to exploit them. 

Preeda is 14 and will graduate from middle school in two more years. She is incredibly bright and articulate, and she wants to be a doctor. “Because everyone in my family has chronic diseases, I want to help others.” Ying is graduating from her vocational degree next year and is considering what to do next. 

COVID-19 has made their financial situation more dire than ever, as pre-existing health conditions exacerbate the difficulty and danger in going out to work. Arpa does not want to risk getting the coronavirus and bringing it back to her family. But this year she joined our sustainable livelihoods program, growing vegetables at home to sell for supplemental income and to decrease their family expenses. She’s not confident about her ability to keep the girls in school, but we will continue to walk alongside them to ensure their futures are secure.

Moving Forward

Your gift will help to provide mentorship to Arpa and her daughters, building relationships that they can rely on in times of need, and helping the girls to graduate. We will continue to support Arpa, Preeda, and Ying through our sustainable livelihoods program to help the family generate income from the safety of their home. 

Having a strong foundation of support is essential for children at risk to grow beyond their circumstances. For families like Arpa and her two daughters, Preeda and Ying, stability is essential for survival, and for any hope of a sustainable future. Will you help us provide the stability to secure freedom for children in 2021? Please help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 by the end of 2020 to protect vulnerable children and keep them safe through next year. Every gift will be matched for double the impact!

 

 
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