Jeremy Kraus, founder and president of Thrive Rescue, provided an overview of conditions most of us do not want to even imagine, child trafficking and exploitation. His message included the dark side of global injustice that affects societies, primarily in the most vulnerable countries of the world. However, it is unfortunately, a global issue. His talk primarily focused on solutions, even if it is too limited. The emphasis is quality, not quantity.
To introduce the Thrive Rescue Foundation, a seven-minute video explained the background of, specifically, the Rescue Home of Pattaya that he and his wife, Jenifer, founded. Jeremy explained that they have about 20 years of family-needs experience and have a passion to see people reach their full potential. Jennifer talked about their mission as an anti-trafficking organization, working to provide effective and restorative aftercare for survivors of child trafficking. The vision is to raise the standard of after-care for the children, so that they can live in in a home environment, where they can receive the best care, counseling, overcome the past, and then move to a happy and healthy future.
Jeremy related to the challenges of planning a move from the U.S., to a city that they only knew from the internet. When they arrived in Pattaya, they did not have a place to stay but soon found an ideal home and eventually a Community Center. Jennifer talked about the many Community Center activities, including a rice giveaway program that provides enough rice to feed a family of four, for about a week. This program also allows interaction between the staff and local families to try and understand what can be done to prevent child abuse and trafficking.
Most children arrive with nothing but the cloths they are wearing. To try and make them feel safe and secure they are given a “welcome home basket” which includes a stuffed animal to cling to at night, new PJ’s, toiletries, etc. They are given their own bed with fresh linen. Once they have been in the home for a few days, they start to open up, once they feel that they are in a safe environment. Private schooling is provided and they soon blossom and begin to thrive. There is no “age out” policy. They are supported as they move on to universities, their own businesses or whatever their dreams might be, because they are always a part of a family.
After the video, Jeremy talked about their beginnings; his success in business, the starting of a ministry in Southern California and the desire to start a family. They were given the devastating news that they could not have children. After looking into several options, they decided to try the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure, only to lose the child at birth after 7 ฝ months. At about the same time, in about 2007, the U.S. market dropped, he lost his job, the ministry slipped away and they lost just about everything. They moved to Florida; Jenifer worked at Starbucks and Jeremy took a job as a telemarketer. His belief system was severely shaken.
Their experience with directing, building and managing residential treatment facilities in the U.S. led them to research projects that might be available abroad. They accepted a 3-month mission to teach in Kanchanaburi with several 18-year-old interns. Life wasn’t easy and he described having to get up very early, to chop banana trees to feed the goats and eventually losing a lot of weight. A few weeks into the adventure they made contact with a church that was looking for people to work in Pattaya for one or two years.
Jeremy and Jenifer went back to the U.S. and planned the move to Pattaya. Jeremy had learned that he really needed some of the comforts of U.S. living. He liked the BMW’s, Mercedes Benz, Harley Davidson motorcycles, hamburgers, etc., but narrowed his requirements list down to three items. He insisted on having, a sit-down toilet, a hot shower and air conditioning. With those requirements in mind and a strong desire to get back to their passion of seeing justice and hope for the neediest, they prepared for the move to Pattaya, Thailand.
The church they were now affiliated with provides the support, allowing Jeremy and Jenifer the opportunity to plan their vision: Provide aftercare and advocacy to survivors of trafficking & exploitation, with educational opportunities to fight injustice. They then founded Thrive World in 2009.
They arrived in nearby Jomtien and made friends with a local realtor who found them an ideal home to start their project. Their first child was a 10-year-old girl that had been raped in her very dismal home. Social workers brought her to the new Thrive Rescue Home and she was accepted as part of the family. Contacts with the local police, city government and social workers soon established trust, then more and more children were referred for help. The first home soon exceeded demand and eventually, Thrive Rescue Home expanded to four homes, each having seven to ten children. A Community Center was also added to the Foundation and a school was founded, providing educational opportunities beyond the nine-year requirement by Thai law.
Jeremy shared his experience of traveling with the children on public transportation and being asked if the children were orphans and his response, no, they are his children. The goal of each home is to treat the kids as part of a family and treat them as family, even after they leave the home. When asked what he hopes for the rescued, he will ask you, what would you hope for your own children?
Jeremy concluded with an encouragement for anyone wishing to be a part of the foundation to visit the http://thriverescuehome.org site. However, he cautions everyone that they are very protective of the children, do not exploit them in any way, and thus, do not allow guests without proper background checks or a compelling need.
The presentation was followed by an update of current events and activities and the Open Forum, where questions are asked and answered or comments made about Expat living in Pattaya.
For more information about the PCEC, visit their website at www.pcec.club.