We have met many children who have lived with crushing anxiety and fear because they have been used and abused. Others are but a few steps away from being caught up in such tragedy as they are lured and deceived by traffickers. Most often they are children with no legal status and who do not appear on any official registers. They come from remote villages nestled in the mountains and are easy prey because of the extreme poverty and the high level of family breakdown.
At the heart of our ChildWatch programme are children themselves. They are included amongst volunteers from the villages. They are tasked with making sure that all the children, young people and women in their village are safe and protected from traffickers and abuse. The volunteers feel that they and their neighbours are really ‘empowered’ to care for their children and their villages in a way they have not experienced before. Hands staff support by providing on-going training and development.
When the family heard about the ChildWatch network they sought our help. Their daughter, Giga, had gone missing from their village on the Thai/Burma border. Initial searches provided no leads but then one day Giga managed to make a hurried phone call to a relative and cried for help. With the information that she gave over the phone our team found the building in Chiang Mai where she was being held and organised an ‘unofficial’ visit from the police. At first the owners of the place denied that she was there, but after further pressure was put on them, they released her the following day into our care. She was 14 years old and had been held captive for 2 years.
Shur, only 13 years old, had travelled from Burma because she had lost both her parents. She was invited by distant relatives to come and live with them but instead they arranged for her to work in a karaoke bar (often where the traffickers begin). Many children have been led down the same road and it has led to being held captive in a brothel somewhere a long way from home. Our team heard about her and were able to intercept and give her a safe place to live and invited her to train at our Vocational Training Centre.