January 21st, 2007
AKHA HILL TRIBE VILLAGE SENJAI, NEAR MAE SAI, THAILAND – It happened like it has in the past, FEAR Project style, where someone comes forth to say they have a story to share.
I was climbing up a rickety ladder to try and make an overview shot when Phi Duan (Carole) called me over. A woman introduced herself and invited me to return for an interview. (at left: Ayee, right, her sister Booka, and her nephew)
Her name is Ayee, she is 35, and she comes from an impoverished hill tribe village. At the age of 12 she was ‘married’ to a German who took her back to the land of bratwurst. There she found he had a German wife. And there she found herself seeing things 12 year-olds shouldn’t.
Whatever else she experienced Ayee chose not to share. I didn’t push; while “qualifying” a story for dramatic effect and reader credibility is often requisite, however recalling those months in Germany was unnecessary, it was enough to say she was trafficked. The story I wanted to learn was the one she wanted to tell: that DEPDC helped keep her younger sister safe from trafficking and that when Ayee was repatriated DEPDC helped her find herself.
Under the tutelage of Sompop Jankatra’s staff and volunteers she found a new home. It taught her how to socialize, gave her hope, and showed her her own humanity. It helped her recover from the trauma of her experience. (at right: Ayee with her nephew in the kitchen)
Today she is living with her younger sister. Unable to have children of her own she enjoys the extended family of village life. In her municipality of 40-50,000 residents, comprised largely of hill tribes scattered throughout the mountainous border region with Burma, she is an advocate for women and children as well as an educator for anti-trafficking.
In spite of her work, and that of DEPDC and other NGO’s, her municipality had 40-50 cases of trafficking in the last year. That’s 40-50 young children, much like Ayee was at the age of 12, who were promised better lives. And lied to.
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