We are dedicated to community development in the northern Hill Tribe regions of Thailand. People in these regions have limited access to work, education and basic services. This makes them particularly vulnerable to exploitation and increases pressure on children to support their families through physical and sexual labor.
A mountainous melting pot.
In the mountains of Northern Thailand along the Myanmar (Burma) border, upwards of 7,000 Hill Tribe villages are home to thousands of people with their own cultural, social and ethnic identities. These people, of Ahka, Hmong, Yao, Karen, Lahu and Lisu descent, have migrated across Southeast Asia, finally settling in Thailand.
Largely unrecognized as citizens by the Thai government, many Hill Tribe villages face economic, political and social disempowerment. They are permitted to live only in specific geographic regions; they have limited access to education, health care, and job opportunities; and they face racial discrimination.
These factors create communities vulnerable to exploitation, particularly human trafficking, with little ability to raise their standard of living.
To provide an idea of the scale of the problem here, Thailand fits all three of the categories that anti-trafficking organizations use to label countries:
1. Source countries, where trafficked individuals originate;
2. Destination countries, where they engage in their labor;
3. Transit countries, through which they pass as they are trafficked.
A life of obligation.
Daughters in Hill Tribe communities are raised in a culture of obligation, where their wants come second to the betterment of the family. When asked to engage in sexual labor, the idea that they can or should refuse is as foreign to them as the idea of trafficking a child is to most Westerners.
To make matters worse, as the relative wealth in Thailand increases, these communities are bombarded by the values, images and culture of twenty-first century materialism. More and more, trafficking is not seen as a last-resort effort to escape poverty, but a quick way to obtain material goods that designate social status.
A new approach.
By investing in community development and education, we help address the underlying disadvantage and cultural obligations faced by people in these villages. Our aim is to make education not just a means to gain employment, but a symbol of status in itself.
We help each and every girl who enters our shelters to receive a naturalized Thai identification card, which permits her to go to university, apply for and receive a passport, travel as she pleases throughout Thailand and beyond, and pursue a career of her choice.
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