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The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education

by The Freedom Story (Formerly The SOLD Project)
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
The Freedom Story: Prevention Through Education
Surachai was 13 when he first met us.
Surachai was 13 when he first met us.

“Because I was a mountain child, my opportunities were little because they thought my abilities were little. But my grades were good. In June, I will get my degree in auto mechanics,” Surachai says, smiling shyly. He has every right to feel proud of his accomplishments, and to reflect on how much he has changed and grown since he first became part of The Freedom Story’s programs. 

When Surachai was a baby, his parents separated, putting his family in a difficult financial situation. As a member of an ethnic minority group which faces discrimination, and coming from a rural mountain village, he says, “My life has always been difficult. We never had any money.” Neither of his parents had ever gone to school. As soon as he was old enough, aged 8, his mother could not support him and sent him to a local children’s home.

He struggled as a child, admitting that, “I was very disobedient. I thought I wouldn’t finish 9th grade. I wouldn't stay at the home. I’d go out at night. They almost kicked me out of the home because I was so naughty.” He carries this self-image so modestly, perhaps not realizing the impact being sent to a children’s home at age 8 might have on a young child’s behavior.

Given A Chance

It was around age 13, in seventh grade, that Surachai first came to participate in The Freedom Story’s activities. He had just begun school in the city 30 minutes away from the children's home. “I had to study more. I had to work hard to keep up with the other students. That first year in the city, I felt like everyone’s education in the city was better. I didn’t know any of the things everyone else already knew. Some of the teachers don’t care about children from the countryside. In my class there were two of us from the villages, and one dropped out, so it was just me. The teachers would take care of the other students but not me. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish,” he explains. 

At the time Surachai was accepted into our Education Program, he lacked confidence about whether he would even finish 9th grade, so he was paired with a mentor and provided with the financial support needed to stay in school. He also said he had a great teacher who told him, “Those who have the chance to get an education should take it because many don’t have that chance.” This support was particularly important when he did finish 9th grade and his parents told him it was time to drop out to work.

“My parents didn’t give me any money. After 9th grade my mom said, ‘You don’t need to study anymore. You can go work now.’ They didn’t have any money to continue to send me to school. But I told them, ‘I want to study, and I’ll find a way to study myself and send myself to school,’” Surachai explains. 

“When you only finish 9th grade you don’t have many choices for work, and so I chose to go to vocational school so I could work and study at the same time,” Surachai says. His parents continued to question his choices, but he supported himself through school working as a waiter for $2 per day, then later at a car dealership, along with the support of The Freedom Story. 

His vocational program was a huge challenge, but support from The Freedom Story’s mentors helped him understand how to navigate teenage life safely. He says, “Many kids drop out at this age. Those who finish 9th grade need a lot of support to finish high school. They can’t think clearly. They are still confused about how to behave. Many people get into bad situations because they don’t have anyone to talk to. Advice is important. Other people’s advice helps us see different points of view and to go forward. With The Freedom Story I had a lot of good advice givers who followed up with me.”

Because of The Freedom Story’s support, Surachai was able to navigate high school successfully despite his challenges in early life. Particularly at the end of his vocational school degree, when he was considering studying further, he was completely out of money, and The Freedom Story was able to assist with his expenses, to help him get his degree off to a good start. 

“Look How Far I Have Come!”

“After I finished my vocational school degree, I thought I wouldn’t study any more. But my friend had just completed their Associate’s Degree, so that inspired me to pursue that degree. From there, I decided to do my Bachelor’s. Now, my mom says, “Keep studying! You are so close to graduating.” In the past, I thought of dropping out, I was so tired. I had to work and study at the same time and was exhausted, but now I am so proud of myself. Look how far I have come! I never thought I could come this far,” he says, smiling shyly. 

We continued to support Surachai through his Bachelor’s degree with finances and mentorship. “My mentor has had these same experiences, so he knows what it is like. I feel like I can talk really easily with him. Once, when I had a financial problem, he advocated for me.” 

Surachai finishes his degree in a few months. He is extremely proud of himself, while also being aware of how his life might have been without The Freedom Story. “Preventing trafficking is important. It is very easy to be trafficked. In the evenings now, we see them all the time. Near where I live, you see kids working the streets. They’re younger than 18 and very at risk. Money is very enticing,” he says. 

Surachai is thriving. He supports his mother and his younger siblings, who have graduated high school, and he will be able to move up at the car dealership when he graduates. Because of your support, we have been able to walk with Surachai for the last 10 years. 

We are thankful for you and your support. This Giving Tuesday, our goal is to raise $15,000 to keep our programs running in 2020. Will you join us in giving students like Surachai a chance at freedom, opportunity and choice? 

Surachai will graduate with his Bachelors in June
Surachai will graduate with his Bachelors in June

Links:

Two of our youth leaders leading ice breakers
Two of our youth leaders leading ice breakers

Dear Friends,

 

Because of you, this quarter we taught 1,061 people in Chiang Rai province about their rights, human trafficking, and child protection. Children who have experienced family violence or abuse are much more likely to be trafficked. Within the communities we work in, villagers often do not know that abuse is illegal, or how it contributes to their child’s risk.

Last month, we did a training on child protection in a remote village that is part of a program with Compassion International. During the training we provided examples of child abuse in Thailand, and two staff acted in a skit about child protection with two of our youth leaders.

After the training, a grandmother approached our staff. A member of an ethnic minority group that faces considerable stigma and discrimination, she cried while sharing a story of physical and verbal child abuse that happened in her family. She takes care of three of her grandchildren after their parents separated, and struggles to know how to discipline or protect them.

After the training she shared “I understand more- thank you so much for sharing this information and teaching me. Children have changed so much, and you cannot take care of them like in the past, we have to find new ways to raising our children” Our staff referred this case to the Compassion staff and asked them to follow up and support the family more closely.

Our staff recently followed up with the Compassion staff to ask how the community is doing. They reported multiple families in the village have stopped using physical violence as punishment within their families.

Because of you, we were able to provide this training and support to this remote, vulnerable community. Because of you these families have better knwoledge of their rights, and are changing their behavior, and their students have a lower risk of trafficking. With your continued support we can reach more people in Chiang Rai and provide opportunity and choice for more communities.

Thank you for continuing to protect children and prevent trafficking with us!

With Hope,

The Freedom Story Team

The training was attended by 89 community members
The training was attended by 89 community members
Real examples helped people connect to the issue
Real examples helped people connect to the issue

Dear Friends,

We would like to share with you a story of one of our students, Kannika, who joined The Freedom Story’s scholarship program when she was 15. Her father had passed away and her remaining family of six were surviving on just 10$ a day. She is also a member of an ethnic minority group, making her much more vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking due to her lack of rights and lower social status.

When Kannika was in high school she moved into a Christian dormitory because it was closer to her school and she had been fighting with her mom constantly. As time went on, she began exhibiting symptoms of depression. She was regularly feeling exhausted and stressed so she began coming to see Khae, The Freedom Story’s on staff counselor. Khae accompanied Kannika to visit a doctor who diagnosed her with clinical depression and prescribed her medicine.

When Kannika was about to graduate high school she shared with Khae that she was stressed about her decision of what to do next. None of her friends were continuing their education and her Mother had told her that the family had no money to support her and wanted her to find a job.

Kannika is very gifted in her language abilities and speaks English and Mandarin well. Khae explained this would benefit her tremendously and give her many opportunities in the future if she continued her education. After three counseling sessions with Khae, Kannika ultimately decided she would continue her education in International English at a university in Chang Rai.

Kannika’s depression has improved significantly as she regularly comes to the Resource Center to spend time with Khae and the other Freedom Story staff. She also joins in on the counseling activities whenever they are offered. The Freedom Story Staff will continue to support and guide Kannika as she transitions into University. 

With your support we are able to continue helping those such as Kannika!

With hope and gratitude,

The Freedom Story Team

* Name has been changed and photo is not representative of the story subject to protectidentity.

Dear Friends, 

With your support, our students wrote and produced a short play for the community on labour trafficking and safe migration. One trend we see in our community is people seeking opportunities to work abroad in order to make money to support their families. These opportunities also present potential risks.

The group of teen leaders performed the play for two different groups in the local area, reaching over 120 people. Staff provided training and information on the topic, but the play was entirely directed and organized by the students. Opportunities like these help students learn how to work in a group, increases confidence, and develop leadership skills. By presenting knowledge in a easily understood way, community members can learn about trafficking easier.

“These are good opportunities for the students to  explain their opinions, for adults to see that the students’ voices are important, that their children have a lot of potential, and to help them understand each other more,” explains Kru Ball, the Activity and Scholarship manager. 

Thank you for your continued support! 

With hope and gratitude,

The Freedom Story Team

Family Camp
Family Camp

Dear Friends,

Thanks to your support, we ran a family camp for 7 families in December and had many moms parenting alone in attendance. For one of the women, Meeyu,* an Akha (hilltribe) minority, it was an entirely new opportunity. Meeyu bears the heavy responsibility of caring for 8 family members in her house. Lacking education herself, she doesn’t ask her children to help around the house because she wants them to prioritize studying. But between working and taking care of 8 people, she feels tired, stressed and this causes frayed relationships in the home. 

After the camp, she expressed appreciation for  the new ways she learned to communicate her feelings and needs, and will start doing this more often. Meeyu recognizes now how caring for her own needs is important for the whole family, and how asking the children to help with chores equips them with essential life skills.

Strong and healthy family relationships set students up to succeed and decreases the risk of trafficking.

Because of your support we are able to help more families like Meeyu. Thank you!

With hope and gratitude,

The Freedom Story Team

 

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Organization Information

The Freedom Story (Formerly The SOLD Project)

Location: Oakland, CA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Rachel Goble
A. Muang Chiang Rai, Thailand
$155,079 raised of $200,000 goal
 
2,373 donations
$44,921 to go
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