Written by Yaiza Morales
When you think of Thailand, what comes to mind? Is it Elephants, tigers, and long necked tribe women? Or do pristine beaches, and Pad Thai come to mind? Do you ever associate it with prostitution and sex trafficking? Did you know that Thailand is considered the sex trafficking hub of the world? Well, unfortunately it is. Ironically, prostitution is illegal in this country. Yet little girls and young women are trafficked every single day! What is sex trafficking? It is the illegal sale of humans for sexual exploitation-a modern day form of slavery. An underground and clandestine operation, this is not exclusive to Thailand, as it is taking place around the entire world- the US, Europe and Asia! For those of you that thought slavery had been abolished, think again. Many are tricked into this nightmare with promises of jobs and opportunities that end up being an entrapment of lies. Forced into prostitution, these girls as young as five years of age, are sexually abused, physically tortured, and incarcerated. They are beaten down and held hostage under fear and death threats. As expendable assets that can be sold and resold many times, they are considered property. They are material possessions. Things. This is the terrorizing reality for many young women in Thailand and neighboring countries such as Cambodia and Burma. Many are lucky if they can make it out alive.
How to approach this dark labyrinth of injustice? How to help save these girls from this extreme violation of human rights? By reading this article, becoming aware of this issue and spreading the word in order to raise awareness of this situation, you are on the right track. Supporting organizations in their efforts to eliminate and prevent sex trafficking is an even more powerful way to help make a change. Just because this is not happening directly to you or to someone you know, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get involved.
While in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we were blessed to have met and stayed with Alexa Pham, the Program Director of Daughters Rising, who has selflessly committed her life to putting an end to this urgent issue. This nonprofit organization works to prevent sex trafficking, by empowering young women through education, training programs, and scholarships. Through their R.I.S.E. workshops, which are offered in high-risk communities, they teach women’s rights, health, sex education, confidence, and ESL, among other subjects. Alexa is also paving the way for at-risk girls in neighboring villages, as she runs an eco-resort called Chai Lai Orchid, a “social business,” which she developed in order to provide young women with jobs and skills that will not only help them escape from the claws of sex traffickers, but will help by giving them the opportunity to build a better future for themselves. This breathtaking resort, nestled in the heart of Chiang Mai’s lush jungle, also serves as the headquarters of Daughters Rising.
Alexa remembered that volunteering always played a very important role in her childhood, as she mentioned that her grandmother always told her, “If you don’t share, that’s when you are poor.” She smiled and reminisced on the fact that her family was simple, never fancy, but was always willing to lend a helping hand. What mattered was that they were rich in love, and that they gave to others. This motivated her to pursue a future in humanitarian work in places like Nepal, Germany, and New York. As a teenager, Alexa experienced a traumatic experience, as she too was trafficked from Munich, Germany to the Czech border. She had been offered a job at a luxurious hotel as a caretaker. When she arrived, the hotel did not even exist… Although she did not share all the details, she explained that she was lucky to have found nice people that helped her escape from that horrid reality. This propelled her to make a difference, as she was passionate to prevent this from happening to any other young women. She did not allow this experience to defeat her. Instead, she persevered like a phoenix soaring out of burning flames. She was and is a daughter rising above it all, and has now dedicated herself to this noble cause.
As volunteers for Daughters Rising, we were able to help out by teaching English to several young girls and women. We played games, and even put on a fashion show with them, as that day’s vocabulary lesson was all about clothing. As the girls modeled a number of clothing articles and accessories, the students in the audience had to describe and comment on what they were wearing. We all had so much fun! By simply staying at the Chai Lai Orchid Eco Resort and purchasing food, as well as handmade crafts/scarves, we were able to support this organization as well, as all the money that goes into this social business is used for paying the girls that work at the resort and make the crafts.
We urge you to get involved with Daughters Rising and join in on putting an end to sex trafficking once and for all. As Alexa told us; “Anyone can help these girls, all they need is love.” Click here for more information on how you can spread the love and help out! Whether you decide to visit, volunteer, or donate to this organization, every single act of kindness counts!
What is Alexa Pham’s dream for the girls of Daughters Rising? She hopes that they will go back to their villages and tell the other girls that there is a different way, a better way. She hopes to inspire them to believe that women can do great things, and that they can be anything they want to be in life!