From within her office, 22-year-old Lin sees all the girls who come through the front door of the shelter. Some are just children, cowering in the doorway. Many are on their own, without family to protect them. All are vulnerable to the devastating sex trade that is rampant in Thailand.
The office in which Lin works is housed within the Keep Girls Safe compound, an ADRA program designed to identify, support, and educate young girls vulnerable to sexual exploitation. At the age of 13, Lin was one of those girls.
As a member of the Akha hill tribe in Thailand’s rural Chiang Rai district, Lin was oblivious to the crime and violence of the big cities. She was very poor, spoke no Tai, and had only a kindergarten education, but her community was peaceful and she was happy.
Then one day, just before her 14th birthday, an old friend returned to the village with new clothes and beautiful makeup. She had been working in the city for several months at a large karaoke bar and said she had lots of money to buy nice things.
Lin wanted to buy nice things also, but more than anything, she wanted to help provide for her family. They were all living on less than $2 per day, and she was desperate to give them financial security. She agreed to join her friend in the city, working in the position her friend only vaguely described as “the service industry.”
When she spoke to her family about moving to the city, her father rejected the idea, and instead enrolled her in an educational center for rural girls such as herself. Lin was dismayed that instead of alleviating her family’s financial stress, she was contributing to it. She felt like a burden to her family.
As the weeks passed, however, she began to respond to the education. The center provided language courses and vocational training. Lin especially enjoyed accounting, and began to advance herself through class work and independent study.
When Lin finished the program, she immediately found a job working as an accountant for ADRA. Not only is she able to provide money to her family, but also she has the opportunity to work with girls who are fleeing the same fate her father helped her avoid.
“This ADRA center is so important for these girls,” said Lin. “Thanks to ADRA, they now have an education and a future.”
Lin has a future now too. With ADRA’s assistance, she will soon finish her degree in accounting, which will help her give back even more to her family and to ADRA.
“Working with ADRA is special, because I don’t just earn money for my family—I can help girls like me,” Lin said. “And that is very important to me.”