Lin Thai's Story
Lin’s life was at risk before she turned 14. She was a member of the Ahka hill tribe living in tranquil hill region of Thailand’s Chiang Rai district. But despite living among her peaceful people, poverty, prejudice and a lack of education left her and other young Akha girls at risk. These na´ve young girls were at risk of being sold, snatched or deceived by outsiders who were involved with human trafficking and Thailand’s notorious sex trade industry.
Like most Ahka families, Lin and her parents live under extreme poverty earning fewer than two dollars a day per family. It is often out of duty to their families that the young Ahka girls decide to go to the big cities to find work.
One day Lin’s good friend returned from a working stint at a large Karaoke bar in the city of Chiang Rai. She invited Lin to come work with her and her “boyfriend” at a “restaurant.” Having lived such a sheltered life in the hills, Lin did not realize that the restaurants and karaoke bars were places where adult men go in hopes of meeting young girls who often ended up victims of sexual exploitation.
“My friend dressed so nicely and she told me she bought many nice things with the money she earned at the ‘restaurant,’” recalls Lin. “I only wanted to help my family. They really needed the money. And besides it would be nice to buy some nice clothes and makeup.”
The temptation was great. She could stay at home in the hills living a life of poverty, or go down to the city and make good money in the karaoke clubs. If she made money she would be able to buy nice things for herself, and also to help her family out financially. Lin was torn between the lure of money and staying home with her family. Unbeknownst to her as she struggled with this difficult decision her future was already planned.
Her father decided to take Lin to a center for young hill tribe girls. He knew that if he did not place Lin in this center where she would be taught a trade, she could easily fall victim to the sex trade. With only a kindergarten education she was told she was not suitable for government schools. Now at the age 14, she only spoke her Ahka dialect and did not understand Tai, making her more vulnerable. However, with the help of a non-traditional education program, she would learn Thai, continue her primary education and lean a trade.
“I was so glad to be in this education center. If I had not been accepted my life would be so different. I really don’t know what would happen to me. I really don’t know if I would still be here,” said Lin.
Lin was one of the lucky ones. She was not only able to finish her primary education, but she went on to vocational school where she trained in accounting. Today, Lin has come full circle in a way. Now 22 years old she is an office assistant with ADRA Thailand’s Keep Girls Safe Project that identifies, supports and educates young girls like her who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
“I’m so happy that I can now work with ADRA to help the young girls of Thailand avoid the sad life many of my friends had,” says Lin with a big smile.
Lin can often be found talking to the young girls at the ADRA center, giving them advice and often just being someone they can talk to about their lives and the families they’ve left behind and hope to someday help.
“This center ADRA has started is so very important for these girls,” says Lin with a determined look on her face. “They are lucky to be in this place. If not for ADRA I don’t even want to tell you where these girls would be. Thanks to ADRA they now have an education and a future.”
Lin also has a future. Working with the girls at ADRA’s Keep Girls Safe Project has inspired Lin to pursue and complete her university degree in accounting. ADRA will help her follow her dream and obtain her accounting degree as part of her professional development. Lin would like to use her degree to help her family have a better life without financial worries.
“I really feel I owe so much to my family that helped me get an education. I think working with ADRA is special because I cannot only earn money for my family, but I can help girls like me. And that’s very important to me,” Lin says with a twinkle in her eyes.