As I boarded the plane that July morning, I could feel my heart sink into my stomach as I heard several middle aged men in line for the bathroom whisper their crude plans for Bangkok, Thailand. As I laid back in my seat, I still felt more uncomfortable than I had been in my entire life. My mind filled with regret and my stomach seemed to fill with rocks. What had I gotten myself into?
When I volunteered to go to Thailand with my church last summer, I was fully aware of Bangkok’s thriving underground industry of prostitution and trafficking. In fact, it was one of the reasons I was so determined to go. One year prior to the trip, I was made aware of the harsh reality of human trafficking, and in an effort to make a difference, established the non for profit organization P.A.S.T. (People Against Slavery and Trafficking). We spoke at churches and schools to help raise awareness, and I organized a fun run that raised over three thousand dollars for the cause. I thought I was completely prepared to go to Thailand, but little by little, I was convinced otherwise.
I traveled to Thailand with a team of five other teenagers, my mother, and our youth leader. Our mission was to share the gospel with college students, and, while that was accomplished, it was entirely different trip for me as soon as we entered the red light district. We volunteered with Nightlight ministries (link to website provided), an industry that rescues women from prostitution or human trafficking and provides them with a job in jewelry making.
Walking the streets of Bangkok was like no other experience I’d ever had before. I looked into the eyes of women tormented and enslaved by their occupations, and the sorrow and desperation behind their eyes struck my heart. I felt so passionately for these women, for the pain they were suffering, that I felt the need to reach out for them. And then the real blow came. A girl stepped in front of me, holding the hand of a middle aged man. She couldn’t have been older than fifteen. The instant anger and aggression towards the man and the pity and desire to help the girl flooded over me, and too afraid to do anything else, I cried. Through Nightlight, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. There was hope for these women. I saw the jewelry factory Nightlight had provided, and again, I was so overtaken with emotion that I cried. But this time it was not out of frustration, but relief. Before me sat thirty women that would never again have to subject themselves to the vileness of the streets. Their faces were decorated in joy, and everywhere you looked, there was hope.
As I boarded the plane on that late August night, only two weeks after my arrival, I left Bangkok forever changed. I fully understood the freedom I had back home, and how much has to be done to free those elsewhere. I hope to further my education as a nurse, return to Bangkok and be able to provide not only a safe house for those rescued, but also medical care. For now, I think I will stick with raising awareness in the hopes of one day making an impact.
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