Prevention Is Best: Educating Rural Villages
Filed Under: Blog, International News, Restoration, Thailand
Traveling up a steep, muddy hill with a threatening precipice on one side and intimidating mountain on the other, we found our car either slipping slowly towards the edge or straight into the mountainside itself – wet season makes rural visits an adventure in itself.
A few of our team members bravely rode their motorbikes ahead of our car, but often found themselves having to push their bikes uphill through the mud and rain when traction was nowhere to be found. At various points we didn’t think we could make it through with our car and so we walked sections of the swampy road losing our shoes to the thievery of the mud along the way.
Following a few hours of slipping and sliding up the hill – keeping in mind we still had to get back down – we arrived at our destination in one mud-soaked piece and it quickly became glaringly obvious how much this trek was worth the effort. We arrived into a village of 130 warm and smiling community members of village elders, parents, teens and children gathered together pens and notebooks in hand eager to learn!
It is clear that we live among communities here in South East Asia, and in the rest of the world, that are unaware of the dangers of human trafficking, what it looks like, and what to do when we suspect something is not quite right. It is even more clear that the children of today, who are bombarded daily, hourly even, with hyper-sexualized media content, don’t yet know what to do with the images they see or how to safely navigate their way through behaviors so foreign to them. Sadly, as a result, the rate of which men, women, and children across the globe are being trafficked is rapidly increasing with sexual exploitation being reported as the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.
Destiny Rescue is a family of people who are passionate about seeing the end of sexual slavery in our lifetime and we see the absolute necessity to fight the issue of sex trafficking before it reaches the bars and brothels we rescue children from. We are desperate to spread the word to local communities far and wide to ensure prevention through education is achieved.
This trip through the mud to a Lahu village in the hills of northern Thailand was our most recent effort in raising awareness about human trafficking. Lahu hill tribes in particular are renowned for encouraging girls in their community to be married off in their early to mid-teen years. Sadly, there is a common belief that by marrying a young girl an old man can absorb youthfulness as some of his age is absorbed by the young female. In addition to this dangerous tradition, drug abuse is high with opium cultivation being a major cash crop, and on top of this many hill tribe members are found to be stateless and unable to attain citizenship in their own country.
Factor all of these challenges into one community and you have prime targets for human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Lack of access to resources, little to no formal education, and no understanding of the law has left many communities within Thailand at risk, and it is our heart to equip and empower one community at a time with the tools to protect themselves and lay the foundations for future generations to flourish.
After arriving at the Lahu village we spent the next five-and-a-half hours watching video interviews of labour and sex-trafficking survivors, pimps who quit the trade and shared about the horrors they inflicted upon others and their reasons why they felt justified in doing so, and heard from families who had lost loved ones to exploitation. We discussed the various forms of trafficking, what they look like and ways individuals and families all over the world can fall into the trap of exploitation. We teamed up and practiced the art of storytelling using human trafficking narrative to equip each community member in how to raise awareness with others. We discussed child protection laws and how to report suspicious activity, and alongside this we ran a workshop for all the children on ‘safe touch’ where we gathered together, watched short clips, played games and discussed ways we can protect ourselves and others, and identify safe people to go to with any concerns of suspicious or unwanted behaviour.
As part of Destiny Rescue’s aftercare team I see on a daily basis the effects trauma has on the children we rescue. It is nothing short of heartbreaking to come alongside children who have been so broken they are unable to see themselves as nothing more than a body to be used. Their worth has been shaken to its very core and they are made to believe that their value lies solely in what their body can do to satisfy others.
A large part of what we do involves removing the veil of lies from each child we rescue and help them to see that they are more, far more, than their bodies, that they have value beyond measure and they are worthy of love and freedom. There is so much joy that comes with seeing the penny drop and eyes light up in the life of a young heart who has just realised her own uniqueness and true value.
And yet, when we enter these village communities passion is ignited in ways stronger than ever before, because it is here in community education that we can see the penny drop before any damage has ever occurred. When we take the time to educate, equip, and empower communities we are fighting exploitation at its root. This is the stuff that saves lives.
Be encouraged that your voice counts. Human trafficking exists today in every corner of the world. There is not one country or region that hasn’t been touched by the exploitation of others, so share that knowledge with your friends, neighbours, school communities, and workplaces. It costs far less to prevent human trafficking than it does to bring healing to those who have survived it. We are committed to both.
By Renee Chopping – Destiny Rescue Head of Aftercare