This year 23 of our students graduated from the equivalent of junior high & high school – and ALL of them have plans to continue their studies! In a community where nearly half of students drop out by middle school, these students’ accomplishments are amazing. And so are their dreams. They have battled challenges that many other kids around the world could scarcely imagine, and yet, here they are, conquerers for a day.
The graduation festivities on Saturday included speeches from all the staff, a few older students, and fellow graduates. We celebrated with flowers and gifts to honor their hard work and success, and finished it off with a BBQ dinner at a restaurant and a trip to Chiang Rai’s Saturday walking street.
One speech from an older student stood out in particular. This student told of the challenges he has had to face. Though he loves studying and learning and dreams of one day becoming a lawyer, not everyone has encouraged his dreams. His mother told him after Grade 6 that he should quit school and work. Yet he kept going. After Grade 9, his father who told him it was really about time he quit school. He kept going. The walk from the bus stop to his school was a kilometer each way, and as he looked around him, he saw he was the only one to walk it; everyone else was on motorbikes or could afford other kinds of transportation, so he walked it alone. He laughed about how he sang songs as he walked to keep himself occupied, and about how he really hated the days that rained. He is in law school now, but because he is one of Thailand’s stateless, there is no guarantee he will be able to work in his field when he finishes. That never stopped him. He said he doesn’t know what the outcome will be, but he has a dream and will continue to follow it, come what may. He told the other students to follow their dreams too. He said the worst part has been the fear he lives in due to being stateless. His identification papers prevent him from leaving the local area. To go even to the next major city would be to risk getting caught by police. That includes going to Bangkok where he would need to go to take tests for his degree – some he wouldn’t even be allowed to take without a national ID card, which he does not have. He told the other students that though they might think they have less than other people, they should remember he has had even less than they.
Our students are dreamers. They dream hard, and given the slightest opportunity, they run with it.
We stand and applaud them, each and every day.
Big news for The SOLD Project! We’re featured in the news!
The Bangkok Post featured a video and article showing part of what The SOLD Project does, and in some of our kids’ own words, what being a part of SOLD means for them.
This is such big news for us for at least two reasons:
1) We get to see the kids make a direct connection between their daily lives and the support and guidance provided by SOLD and how the opportunities provided by SOLD help protect them from risk. To see them say, in their own words, what human trafficking is and how their choices and opportunities have changed because of SOLD…well, it’s beyond gratifying.
2) Because there is a huge culture of saving face, the work that The SOLD Project engages in broaches a topic that is, in many ways, taboo. There are many forces that want to keep this topic under the table, to hide it away, and pretend it doesn’t exist. And some of those forces are incredibly powerful. To bring such a positive message about what we do to national media attention marks a huge achievement, and that is priceless.
Major congratulations go to our Thailand Director, Tawee Donchai, and of course, to our fabulous students!
her own mission fields in Mexico, South Africa, France and now Thailand. Emily’s background is teaching, so education is near and dear to her heart. Emily speaks and writes and encourages others to help make the world a better place for all, even if its just one person at a time. You can find more of her writings on her blog at www.beyondtheredchair.com.
If you follow us on Facebook, you might have picked up hints that The SOLD Project is celebrating its 5 year anniversary with a couple new film projects. We have two new films in the works. One is meant to be a short inspirational video. The other will share a couple of our students’ stories, and provide updates to show just how far we’ve come.
Of course, our kids were only too excited to jump in the fray – so you’ll get to see several of them in action!
Stay tuned for the release – we’re only to excited to share them with you!
To keep apprised of The SOLD Project’s daily movement, be sure to follow us here and on Facebook!
Big news came last week, as the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) has passed both houses of Congress and is on its way to President Obama’s desk, where it is expected to be signed forthwith.
The TVPRA, which is an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act, reauthorizes key federal anti-trafficking programs for the next four years, funding law enforcement as well as providing support for survivors. As Mary Ellison, Director of Policy at The Polaris Project stated, this legislative “action helps fill critical gaps in our nation’s response to human trafficking and builds on the impact of the original law passed in 2000.”
Provisions include, among other things:
- The U.S. will work with key governments and agencies to ensure that U.S. citizens do not use any products extracted from the labor of trafficking victims.
- Measures to establish and uphold minimum standards & best practices for the elimination of trafficking.
- Measures to prevent child marriage.
- A Child Protection Compact Act, which authorizes the State Department to partner with cooperating overseas governments to stop child trafficking in key areas.
- An emergency response provision which will help the State Department respond quickly with teams of experts into crisis areas, such as disaster areas, where the breakdown of civil society and sudden increase in impoverished circumstances can leave children or others especially susceptible to trafficking.
- New tools to help prosecute traffickers and people who exploit the poor, such as: enhanced state & local collaboration and law enforcement efforts.
- Continued support for existing programs that support survivors of trafficking both in the U.S. and overseas.
The full text of the bill can be found here.
We express our many thanks to our friends at IJM for rallying national support at to friends of The SOLD Project who have joined in countless ways, from supporting our Stand 4 Freedom campaign to contacting representatives, to continue the fight for freedom, in the defense of justice. Thank you!
Last week, people from around the world stood up with Eve Ensler (of The Vagina Monologues fame) and danced to protest violence against women. From ordinary citizens, to major celebrities – even members of the European Parliament joined in the dance to combat violence against women. It was a global event to speak out against what remains a global problem (warning: that link is to a video that contains graphic images that may include trauma triggers). And likewise several states are adopting legislation to strengthen anti-human trafficking endeavors. It would seem efforts to combat trafficking and other manners of oppressing and bringing harm to women are gaining momentum.
But let us not be fooled about how deep and how wide this problem is, nor how stubbornly it persists.
While activists were dancing, the U.N. issued a new report that human trafficking has been found in 118 countries, and the vast majority of victims are women and children. According to the report, “trafficking for sexual exploitation accounts for 58 percent of all trafficking cases detected globally while the share of detected cases for forced labor has doubled over the past four years to 36 percent.” (Associated Press) Meanwhile, “women account for 55-60 percent of all trafficking victims detected globally, and women and girls together account for about 75 percent,” and the trafficking of children is apparently on the rise. (Associated Press)
We sing and dance and yell and scream to stop these atrocities and our voices are only growing louder. But we fight a many-headed monster, and it, too, continues to feed and grow. And so we must soldier on.
I don’t know about you, but we’re getting excited for the upcoming 2013 Justice Conference next weekend from February 22-24 in Philadelphia!
This year, our film The SOLD Project: Thailand was selected for inclusion in the Justice Film Festival. We’ll be showing the film at 12:10 p.m. on Sunday, February 24 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 114. (You can find the full festival schedule here.)
We hope to see you there!