I’ve just wrapped up this Thailand/India trip with a myriad of impressions and swirling ideas, which I’ll be unpacking over the next couple of weeks. I’ll be sharing these with you as well as laying out what work needs to be done.
It is always sweet to return “home” to Thailand, and this time I went to Chiang Rai, a place I had not previously visited. Of course, there are always new things to see and learn. India (Mumbai, Hyderabad, rural Andhra Pradesh) provided a sharp learning curve of culture and custom – and it was wonderful! The following represent snippets of just a few stories I encountered over the last three weeks:
A prostituted woman in rural India is a childless second wife of a man who regularly beats her badly – the scars are horrid. She prostitutes herself “to make more money”. She doesn’t use condoms because she wants to get pregnant and have a baby – it doesn’t matter who the father is – perhaps she believes a child will give her hope, relief, and maybe a bit of love.
The director of an outreach program to street kids states that children of prostituted women have by far more health and emotional problems than other street children.
Boarding homes in Northern Thailand provide hill tribe boys and girls a place to stay so that they can attend school, which provides the opportunity for a higher education and hopefully prevent them from being trafficked or exploited.
An 11 year old girl child of a prostituted woman in urban India spends most of her time now in a shelter for girls who would otherwise be on the street – orphaned or functionally orphaned. Her mother, however, continues to ask for her back and the girl unwillingly consents to her mother (the home has no legal right to keep her from her mother). After even a few days back with her mother, many gains in health and emotional stability are lost because of the repeated abuse she suffers while in that toxic environment. The mother is resistant to assistance by the organization. However, the organization dare not report the mother because she and the girl will most likely suffer further abuse at the hands of law enforcement, thereby perpetuating the violence. Such a tough call…
I accompanied a team to a slum to look for an 8 year old runaway orphan who is being exploited by a step-mother to make money. We hoped to bring her back to the children’s home and were finally successful in the end.
In Thailand, an organization that runs shelters for rescued trafficked girls wants to establish a more robust plan for health care to understand what the holistic health needs of the children are, to ensure that they are covered, and covered well.
A Mumbai native moved to the USA as a teenager and then worked with marginalized women in Europe. She didn’t realize that she grew up five minutes from the largest red light district in Asia until she was challenged to return to Mumbai to work with women there. She now runs an organization that reaches out to women and children in that place.
This survey trip has now launched a couple of collaborative projects and has opened up opportunities for more in the future. I’m now even more committed to working alongside these and other organizations to build their capacity to address the health problems of women and children at risk for, in the midst of, or in the after care of sexual exploitation. One of the main problems expressed by the organization is their need for greater capacity to meet the deep needs of these vulnerable people. The director of a large counter-trafficking organization stated that she has people doing the work with lots of goodwill, but have very little know-how.
The know-how, at least as far as the health needs, is where I hope to build their capacity. By this, I mean their capacity to inform their intervention and services, and identify gaps in therein; and to provide guidance, purpose, and intent in their outreach. We start with attainable goals, according to the organization’s ability to mobilize the work at the moment, and then build on that.
Being able to personally visit so many organizations gave me a rich expansion and well-rounded knowledge regarding the different perspectives of the various organizations. There are varied responses on a variety of themes including openness to foreigners working with them, their governmental relations, and ideas on how best to help these marginalized people. By listening to them and seeing where they work and meeting the people for whom they sacrifice, I’m able to develop a well-rounded perspective on the work at large.
Last but not least, Jason Nicholas is a volunteer consultant for the trip. He produced these photos and many more excellent photographs and other media. Look for more in the near future!