This January I’m working with Help Thailand, an organization which focuses on rescuing girls who are at risk of becoming prostitutes. Their goal is to save these girls from being broken—the Cambodian word for prostitute srey kouc literally means “broken women,” broken in a way that cannot be repaired—by providing shelter, food, and education.
Tati, our newest addition, is sixteen months old and was found about four months ago. Two of Help Thailand’s house parents were walking on the street when they saw her mother literally trying to sell her daughter. Usually girls are identified as “at risk” due to their family’s extreme poverty level. Families who can’t afford food (or alcohol) often use their daughter’s virginity as the price for securing a better life.
However, the girls are remarkably self-sufficient. Each of the younger girls is paired with an older girl who helps her get ready in the morning. Breakfast is at 6 o’clock sharp; devotions are at 6:30. When they get home from school around 3:30, each of the girls does her chore to keep things clean. Beds are always made, possessions are put away, and everyone helps with meals and clean-up.
|Everyone helps with macheteing the meet|
Every rescue story is different for each girl, but the general procedure after she (or he; Help Thailand has a small boy’s home as well) involves securing legal rights to raise the girl, including, of course, parental consent. In some cases this is extremely difficult because the parents are passed out drunk or the girl might (often) be from a hill tribe. More on that later, but sometimes hill tribe people (with their own language and culture distinct from other Thais and other ethnic tribes) don’t have Thai citizenship.
Parents are encouraged to stay in contact with their children, and on Christmas HELP Thailand hosted a party for all the girls and their families. Just today, Nana’s mother and younger sister visited—Nana was euphoric all day.
The current HELP Thailand compound has three houses: two girls’ houses and one boy’s house. Each of the girl’s homes has about 40 girls and the boy’s home has eight boys. Each home has house parents, but as you can imagine, the ratio of adults to children could be problematic when it comes to keeping things clean, getting to school on time, and mealtimes.
|Well, almost everyone. The younger girls are on sweeping|
or mopping detail, so they often get done faster.
The girls play music (there are several guitarists and pianists here and one budding violin player), run around the yard (today I saw the most ingenious slapdash baseball game), and study hard. The girls range from Tati’s one year up to nineteen years old and about to graduate, so there’s plenty going on at all times. When they graduate from high school, some of the girls stay on to help at the homes; others start work. Some go on to university, if they have the financial support.