Here are some of my musings back when we were planning our trip, seems like a lifetime ago!
We visited Thailand briefly in early 2015 when Juliette did some voluntary work for the Thai Children’s Trust (TCT) visiting a number of their projects helping vulnerable women and children. While Juliette was up on the Thai-Burma border I travelled to Chiang Mai and experienced the most beautiful city in an incredible country, but one with two sides. I encountered enormous, ornate wats (temples) decorated in gold leaf and beautiful colours but also saw a number of children who seemed to wander the streets with no one to look after them.
Seeing this motivated me to become involved with TCT by taking part in a charity cycle from London to Surrey and back to London – 100 miles! As part of my fundraising I also Tweeted and blogged raising the profile of the charity and awareness of a side to Thailand that many don’t know exists.
While looking where we could help in Thailand we came across a number of voluntary posts in the country and started applying to them. Planning the first part of the trip has been very exciting and seems to make going to work that much better knowing that there is an end in sight and that I can start trying to help others as I have always wanted to do.
However exciting it is planning a trip, it will also be the longest I have been away from my home country, the UK, for and there are so many things to be done. They are mostly admin jobs but it is amazing how many to do-lists are needed. Almost to the point of needing a to-do list to tick off things on to do-list!
Where to start?
I know that I want to start in Thailand as it is a country I have been to before and loved, the people were so generous and so happy to help even though they didn’t have much to give.
- With a total area of 513,000Km2 is the world’s 51st largest country.
- Is the 20th most populous country in the world with 66 million people.
- The primary religion is Buddhism and is practiced by about 95% of the population.
Although Thailand sounds and appears financially stable, being the second largest economy in Southeast Asia and safe for tourists there is a much darker side to the country: the sex trade and high rates of human trafficking. Thailand is situated in such a position that people are trafficked from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, The People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, Russia and Uzbekistan. Ethnic minorities in the hill tribe regions who have not received legal residency are at high risk of trafficking both internally and internationally.
What is human trafficking?
The trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker and forced labour. Human trafficking was estimated to be worth $31.6 billion in 2010. Thailand and Brazil had the worst child sex trafficking records. Traffickers take advantage of parents extreme poverty often buying the children from parents or convince the parents that they can offer them a better life through education.
Walking street – Pattaya’s red light district
Human trafficking and exploitation of children is something that I feel very strongly about and would like to do something to help educate children in order to raise awareness of and reduce vulnerability to trafficking. It is estimated that tens of thousands of people a year are trafficked into Thailand and exploited to work or forced into the sex industry. It is estimated that Thai authorities deport 23,000 Cambodians a year that were trafficked into the country. After researching the subject area it appeared that a project in Pattaya was where we should begin.
Pattaya is a beach resort a couple of hours south of Bangkok, popular with tourists and expats with a total population of just over 1 million. Pattaya was a small fishing village in the 1960s until 500 American troops on leave from the Vietnam War visited. After a week they went back to the front and told their colleagues about the village which today hosts 4 million tourists each year.
An attraction to many tourists to Pattaya is the sex industry. Although prostitution in Thailand is illegal there are still a number of massage parlours, gogo bars, hourly hotels and saunas.
It was this and the number of vulnerable children and women that drew us to Pattaya together with Juliette’s link to TCT. We contacted Khun Toy at Human Help Network (HHN) which lead us to spend a couple of amazing months on a number of projects in Pattaya inspiring us to blog about our experience which you can find here, here and here. To find out more about HHN click here.
Some of the children we worked with and Noi. To learn more about Noi click here.