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.
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!