The Orphanage and the CPDC are both locations and homes of children who have been credited on this blog after the amazing things and environment they provide for the children. However, it is still important to remember that these places can only help a handful and that there are a larger amount of children who still need help and who daily faces a rough life on the streets. As mentioned in the previous blog article, I’ve asked a co-volunteer to give you all some insight into how life really is at the street for the children of Pattaya. Without further ado, please sit tight and take in what Sarah Hansen has to say.
“We Help Children”
In 2008, thankfully, HHN Foundation Thailand (HHNFT) was developed as an independent branch of HHN and it began working in Pattaya. Unfortunately for Thailand, but for Pattaya in particular, an international reputation for child prostitution has grown. Pattaya currently hosts between 1,500 and 2,000 homeless and impoverished children, and research suggests that these figures are continuing to rise. Here I volunteer my weeks and my skills as a qualified Nurse in the UK. The Human Help Network (HHN) is an internationally active, NGO rooted in Germany. Its key objectives are to fight for children’s rights-combating exploitation, poverty and child discrimination.
It pains me to write these facts; whilst I am sat in my comfortable, safe home there are children just around the corner that have been trafficked from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; their homes. They will have endured paedophilic attacks, physical abuse, emotional abuse, exploitation, a lack of adequate care, food, shelter, education, love, loss and more. Recent field research conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) approximated that 3,750 women and children are trafficked each year into Thailand for sexual exploitation from these countries, and that most will end up living in Bangkok or Pattaya. Further research from UNICEF reported that 30-35% of all sex workers in the Mekong sub-region of Southeast Asia are between the ages of 12-17. These are children. And this is where HHNFT begins its work.
The work HHNFT undertakes can be broken up into three main sections, but the heart of the work comes from the Child Protection and Development Centre (CPDC), which runs in partnership with the HHNFT. The CPDC is a home for the children that were sold to slave traders; kidnapped, trafficked to work in Pattaya’s dubious industries. They are children who lived on the streets, stealing, begging and every day at risk of slipping in to the dangerous world that lays beneath the neon lights and party atmosphere that Pattaya is so infamous for. There are around 60 children living at the centre between the ages of 5-18. Some children only stay a few months and are able to be reconciled with their families. For others whom there are no known family members or who cannot return home due to risk-the CPDC become their permanent residence. Here they become part of a family and slowly regain what they lost in the vortex of poverty, crime, and exploitation. They learn the ability to laugh, play, and to accept care and love. They can adapt to a healthy, structured environment; going to school, eating regular meals, living in the same house, getting medical care. This is a long way to come for a child who has experienced humiliation and abuse and there is a wonderful team on hand to help with the child’s rehabilitation.
The second piece of the puzzle is the Drop-in Centre which opened in 2010. Here vulnerable children can get immediate help and shelter. They have access to food, advice, medical care, clothes, or a safe place to stay the night. This centre is the first step towards rehabilitation and the children can access many resources (including counselling) if they are willing to accept the help. Whilst the child stays at the Drop-in Centre, the team evaluate possibilities for family reintegration, repatriation, or a referral to long term facilities such as the CPDC. However, for some children, accepting help after everything they have experienced is too difficult for them and they frequent the Drop-In Centre spontaneously but are unable to commit to anything further that is offered.
The work I do is the third area: outreach work. This is the initial step to help reach street children and those that have been or are at risk of being abused or exploited. Myself and a specially trained team of people head out in the mobile training unit (MTU) and target known slum/trafficking hotspots. Here we teach the local populations of children about the dangers of living on the streets including human trafficking, drugs, crime and sexual abuse. Alongside this we provide education, food, water, clothes, and medical care to the children. We also gather knowledge about offenders and paedophiles directly from the street children and work alongside the local and international police forces. I must admit-although hugely rewarding, this work can also be absolutely heart-breaking. Just two days ago I was presented with a 9 year old girl whose back was covered in bruises from being forced to carry things that are too heavy for her. This is forced child labour-yet it occurs so often across the 17 slums of Pattaya that it is almost accepted. I do not think any of it should be accepted; the lack of access to medical care, the shacks they call a “home”, the lack of food, clothes, clean water, education, the vulnerability….
I am running a 10.55km race on Sunday 30th November in order to raise money for this great charity I am lucky enough to volunteer for. If you have read this and want to do something to help then please sponsor me; Thailand is so cheap that no amount is too little.
To learn more about this organisation go to their website:
The Wandering Humanitarian’s note of the day:
Let’s all wish Sarah the best of luck in her race and please do donate to support the important cause. I can’t emphasise enough how important financial support is for such outreach work and also how important it is that you readers help us get the word out about organisations like the HHNFT. Myself did not know about it before I came here and it would take me another couple of weeks before I was fully up-to-date on who they were and what they were doing. Next week I’ve been allowed to join with the mobile unit so I will definitely be reporting back to you. Until then, please help support Sarah by following the link provided above!