Pattaya is known as the perfect holiday getaway for a growing number of tourists: sunkissed beaches, amazing food, stunning resorts and adult entertainment are all available at a reasonable price. Think many. Unfortunately, there are always two sides to a coin and Pattaya seems no exception. Many resources are being put to the test in order to satisfy the ongoing demand for an ‘anything goes’ tourist scene. When it comes to prostitution, the bicycle ride with Krit from Openaid was a true eye opener into the side effects of this seemingly glory business.
Krit is working for Openaid 1000 Villages, an international, non-profit organisation that works to prevent and combat the trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of girls in Thailand and across the Mekong region. With a variety of activities and events they work to reach the following goals:
1. Address the key factors that make woman and girls vulnerable in local communities;
2. Raise awareness about the side effects of prostitution among visitors;
3. Support girls already caught up in prostitution.
Krit and the other team members from Openaid took the effort to take me to different project sites around Chon Buri province where they work towards the first of these goals. The sites ranged from peaceful communities where help is focused on prevention of exploitation to underpriviledged slums where it is a complex challenge to protect vulnerable children who were rejected by their mothers. Krit and I also got to cycle through a famous red light district that is obviously subject to sexual commercial exploitation.
One great example in the prevention of the exploitation of girls is their work at the Pansadejnok school. Krit is working with the management of this school to develop micro-enterprise initiatives to teach them about profitable alternatives rather than the alluring work in Pattaya city. Open Aid also improves the mental health and wellbeing of the schoolkids. It became very clear to me that Openaid’s focus on long term relationships and addressing underlying vulnerabilities is unique and underpins successful projects in many locations. They have developed expertise, knowledge and skills over many years and continue to hone focus to achieve strategic objectives.
Krit introduced me to the director of the school before they proudly showed me three specific projects that came into existence in close collaboration with Openaid:
1. Growing catfish;
2. Growing vegetables;
3. Teaching in the school.
The first two projects teach the schoolkids how to succesfully grow and market food and generate sufficient income while maintaining local food supply at the same time. With funds from Openaid the school was able to attain a professional fishpond and hydroponic gardening equipment. By creating clear manuals about growing, harvesting, maintaining and selling the food, the investment becomes not only a playful way to teach children but also provides a sustainable path for the future that provides children with pride and hope.
At the time of writing there are plans to build a greenhouse to grow bonsai plants for home decoration, an idea thought up by the school director who has the skills and knowledge to successfully grow and market this product. Yet another example of a high potential project that came into existence thanks to the long-lasting partnership between the local school and Openaid.
The third project, teaching in the school, is performed by female teachers with bespoke education. Unfortunately, the standards regarding personal health education within the Thai learning system doesn’t always seem to be sufficient to the hard reality. According to Openaid: “Girls need a foundation of knowledge, skills and experiences to gain control over their lives, better articulate their needs, and participate in decisions for their futures. But they can’t do it alone. Girls need access to quality education, safe spaces and supportive environments that promote and encourage change. Openaid designs and deliver various educational programs and workshops with partners in village communities.” Again, this can only work if Openaid can maintain the long lasting relationship. And while it doesn’t cost a lot of money to bring people together, it takes resources and time to achieve results.
I am really thankful to the team of Openaid 1000 Villages that took me on this impressive trip. I could sense the honest and dedicated approach of all team members and I fully share their vision. I hope that the story of my ride will raise awareness for their work, it’s been a ride that should be a compulsory for all visitors to Thailand and Pattaya specifcly.
Openaid welcomes donations. There are many challenges to confront to continue the quality programs. Get involved at Openaid.org.au