Charities We Love is a monthly series featuring inspirational charities from around the world. At We Are Travel Girls we care about giving back and hope this series will help our readers learn about charities and non-profit organizations that are doing incredible work. This month we are excited to feature Not Abandoned, who are helping to end sex trafficking and restoring hope to those involved.
THE SEX TRAFFICKING CAPITAL
There are over 200,000 people enslaved by the sex industry of Pattaya, Thailand. Women, girls, boys, and men are trafficked here, usually by trickery or coercion. There is no other city on earth where the sex industry runs as raw and rampant. Here, international sex tourists from every corner of the globe will tell you, “I can come here, and for $10, do whatever I want to her.” Pattaya, which is known as “Disneyland to Pedophiles,” hosted 16 million tourists in 2017. (By comparison, the real Disney theme park usually hosts about 20 million).
For the past 10 years, the non-profit organization Not Abandoned has been working in Pattaya to help those caught in this abusive cycle exit the sex industry for good. “It doesn’t look like it does in the movies.” says Not Abandoned founder, Jeff McKinley, “In most trafficking situations the person is not kidnapped; they are not locked behind a door; it’s more complicated than that. They are under incredibly complex societal pressures to earn money for their families, no matter the cost. They accept a job selling drinks in a bar and before you know it, they’ve been pressured and coerced into prostitution. They hate it, but they don’t know how to leave.”
HOW IT HAPPENS
One of these young women is named Jeip*. Jeip had been stuck working in the sex industry for several months. She had a daughter and ailing mother back home in her village that she needed to provide for financially and their family rice farm was just not bringing in enough money to sustain them. Also, keeping up with an entire farm on their own was near impossible.
Jeip’s father had been abusive to both her and her mother, at least when he was home and not off drinking and gambling for days at a time. Even though she had only a little primary school education, Jeip knew that she needed to do something different to make sure her mom and daughter were better cared for. This is why she took the chance to come to Pattaya and find good work.
Unfortunately, because of her very low education and darker skin, there were no good jobs to be found in the city and Jeip quickly ran out of money. She had no place to sleep, nothing to eat, no job and still no money to send home to her family. She met another girl about her age who told her she could help her get work selling drinks at her bar. This wasn’t the kind of work Jeip was looking for, but she had no other choice.
To make matters worse, the actual work wasn’t even selling drinks, she quickly found out that the actual work was sex. After just a few days at this bar, Jeip began to receive heavy pressure from her manager to dress sexier, to smile more, to drink more and to eventually leave with men for sex. All of this, of course, made the bar much more money than just some small beer sales. Jeip felt trapped and so she eventually complied. She hated it.
One early afternoon Jeip was getting ready for another long night ahead of her. She studied her little compact mirror closely to apply her makeup in the hot Thai sun, just as thousands of other ladies around the city were doing at the same time. As she applied the mascara she began to wonder if she would make enough money to eat tonight. Looking up she noticed a couple of foreign girls with a Thai lady approaching the bar. She thought to herself how out of place this trio of visitors looked because they looked like nice, normal tourists… far from the usual unbathed sex tourist that occupies most of Pattaya’s bars.
That afternoon she got to know these ladies as fast friends. They were kind and full of smiles. They asked her questions about her family and even wanted to see photos of her daughter. One of the foreign girls said, “Do you want to see my child?” and showed her a photo of her dog on her phone. They all got a good laugh together, just as normal friends would. Jeip was thrilled when they invited her out to dinner with them at the local mall.
At dinner and away from the manager at the bar, Jeip felt more freedom to share with her new friends how much she hated her job. They, of course, knew this because no matter how many fake smiles a woman can muster up, no little girl grows up happily dreaming of being prostituted.
Jeip’s new friends were volunteers and staff from Not Abandoned. They had gone out to the sex bars that night specifically looking to make new friends to whom they could offer support. They were able to earn Jeip’s trust through genuine friendship. No gimmicks. No pity. Instead, respect, honor, and love. They affirmed that there were people who could help her, and they affirmed that she was no longer alone.
Today, Jeip is back home with her mother and daughter. After receiving training and a microloan from Not Abandoned Jeip was able to start her first business in her home village. Currently, this natural entrepreneur is running seven different businesses off of the profits from that first microloan! Not having to work the fields any longer her mother’s health has improved, and her daughter is happily able to enjoy school. Jeip has one of the best smiles you will ever see and it has finally returned as an everyday and genuine accessory.
*names changed for privacy
MAKING FREEDOM POSSIBLE
Not Abandoned volunteer and staff teams regularly go into the brothels of Pattaya like this. They take their time to build relationships and trust so they can offer exit services to anyone interested. In Pattaya, these services are offered through our Employment Education Center, located right in the heart of the city. Free classes such as English, computer, business, and health are among the many courses offered at the EEC to help ladies gain both self-confidence and options for healthy employment. “If we don’t give them the ability to find a job and financially provide for themselves and their family, they will never be able to have sustaining freedom.” Alexis Miller, International Director.
Not Abandoned provides 3 trauma-informed tracks for employment to their students: 1. Job Placement, with a community business partner 2. Small Business Start-Up, with a micro-loan, and 3. Transitional In-House Employment, at one of Not Abandoned’s own businesses, such as their wholesale Bakery, Made in Love.
One of their first bakery employees, Tui*, came to the center completely illiterate. She was 45 and could not read or write her Thai language. Today, Tui not only reads and writes in Thai, but she is reading and writing in English as well and is one of our star bakers, on her way to management. “I had no hope, no direction before. I came to the house and felt only peace and joy there – not like anywhere else. I want all my friends to experience this too.”
In addition to the practical employment courses offered at the center, the EEC also provides emergency financial assistance for students or their families, necessities like clothing, feminine products, and medical care. All of our staff have been trained in complex trauma and weave emotional grounding and self-esteem building techniques into the center’s everyday activities. Most importantly the center has also become a new community and family for these ladies living in a crowded city where they still feel they are all alone. This makes mealtimes together and game times in between classes some of the most cherished moments by our students.
*names changed for privacy
WE ARE OUT OF SPACE
Not Abandoned’s Employment Education Center assists on average 400 women a year. However, we are currently bursting at our seams. Our classroom capacity is at its max while we have thousands more women who could be receiving services if we had more space and resources. Because of this, we are currently in the process of purchasing a new, much larger building to expand the EEC. The new building is just a few doors down from our current establishment, but it will give us 4x the amount of space to work with to reach 3x more women than before. The newly expanded EEC will reach an estimated annual influence of over 15,000 more lives, which includes women exiting trafficking and their families!
YOU CAN HELP
We are looking for individuals like you to help us open this expanded center for thousands of trafficked women waiting for its help right now. You help us make this freedom a reality. Our overall fundraising goal to bring this project to complete is $150,000, so every bit counts! You can donate here now!
Will you join us? Will you make freedom possible for other women like Jeip and Tui who are desperately waiting for a little bit of hope to come their way? Together we can end sex trafficking and restore that hope because together, she is not abandoned.
Do you know of an inspirational charity or non-profit organization? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! And if you’d like a charity to be considered for this series please submit their story via our Contribute Page.
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