GRACE confronts the scourge of human trafficking

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Jon, Angie and the choir.
Jon, Angie and the choir.

Although the Pattaya City Expat Club meeting last Sunday began lightheartedly with two delightful dance song presentations by Thai children aged 4 to 13, this belied the most serious nature of the presentation to follow.

Our guest speakers Jon and Angie Sullivan spoke passionately about the horrors of human trafficking and what their organization, GRACE (Global Relief Association for Crises and Emergencies), is trying to do about it. Jon has a PhD in Counselling and has discovered that once a person is trafficked, the horror of that experience will forever mar their thinking and subsequently the direction of their lives.

Highest fives all round.
Highest fives all round.

So the organisation focuses primarily on the principle of prevention as the most important tool in fighting this dread activity. Fighting traffickers directly is dangerous and often nonproductive; whilst subsequent rescue of victims has also proven to be a disappointing strategy. But if you can save potential victims from the vulnerabilities that lead to trafficking, then you will indeed save them.

Thus the mission statement of the GRACE organization is to ‘foster social change’ through two significant means: by strengthening families; and by eradicating the vulnerabilities that are exploited by traffickers.

Trafficking comes in many forms, including child abduction, forced prostitution (emphasis here on forced), forced labor and marriage, baby selling, organ theft and child begging on the street. Poverty and ignorance are fertile growing grounds for all these exploitations.

To offset these vulnerabilities, GRACE provides safe havens where children can live in a protected and encouraging environment, getting proper nourishment and receiving (sometimes for the first time in their life) vital medical care including important dental work.

They offer the children sponsorships, with after school and day camp programs. They also run Family Resource Centres (now in Pattaya and Korat but many others are planned for Thailand) where children get loving care, learn English and build dreams for a real future.

The program is working. In the three years that Jon and Angie have been living in Thailand and working in this program, the children have seen improved educational scores, greater English acquisition and, most importantly, many who otherwise might be looking at bleak times can now begin dreaming about real possibilities for a bright future.

They implore others to get involved and they offer many ways to do so. For about $100 a month one can sponsor a child — that will cover all a child needs to succeed. Become a Friend by pledging a monthly or single donation. Become an Ambassador by returning to your home country and encouraging donations from sympathetic businesses or individuals. Volunteers are always welcome for a variety of tasks that need attention at a Family Resource Centre.

Lest you think that this battle is not at hand, during the question session two situations were described that would make your skin crawl and get your dander up.

Jon dressed to save.
Jon dressed to save.

The local fishing boats (whose lights are seen dotting the bay and the evening Pattaya horizons) may employ cheap foreign labor but when it comes time to pay these undocumented workers, to save money they are often just thrown overboard. Who would know or care? Even worse are seemingly legitimate businesses doing the same things: on a recent prison visit, an aid worker discovered whole families of Cambodians languishing in crowded cells. When asked how they got there, the men replied that they had worked on the Terminal 21 project until it was finished but instead of getting the pay they were promised, immigration was called and these ‘illegal’ workers taken off to prison.

That dear friends is human trafficking, clever but horrid — it makes my blood boil. Thank you Jon and Angie for bringing this cancer to our attention and for the work you are doing to combat it!

Thank you Jon and Angie for bringing this cancer to our attention and for the work you are doing to combat it! GRACE can be reached via the website: www.globalreliefassociation.com  or by email to [email protected]  or [email protected] . Their phone number is 097-021-5095.