International Ministries

Suwanee's Story

March 13, 2012 Journal
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Since 2007, the New Life Center Foundation’s “Specialized Vocational Training” program has assisted over 100 tribal women gain viable work skills and secure employment. As a result, tribal women have on-going security and income for themselves and their families, decreasing their vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking.  This is one program graduate’s story, written in her own words…

 “…My name is Suwanee. I was 26 years old when I entered the NLCF’s vocational training program. I am an ethnic Lisu woman, born in a rural village in the Phrao region of Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have an older brother and sister, and a younger brother and sister; there are 5 of us altogether. Unfortunately, drugs was a theme in my family. My older brother was put in jail for life because he sold drugs. My younger sister acted as a drug mule for our brother-in-law; she got caught, and was also put in jail. My parents died when I was about 18 – my father in some type of drug fight and my mother from general sickness.

 I have a 6th grade education, and I got married when I was 18 years old to a Hmong man from a neighboring village. We were so happy when our son was born! But I wasn’t happy for very long, because when our son was about one year old, my husband also died as the result of a gunshot wound from a drug fight.

My older sister is the “minor wife” of a Thai man who owns a karaoke bar and massage parlour. They have two children. My older sister encouraged me, after my husband died, to go to work in this place. At this time, I was supporting my son and also my youngest brother on my own. They needed food and shelter, and I felt that I had no other options. So I did it. It was the first time I had ever lived and worked in the city. I had to perform every type of massage, every type of prostitution in this place. After a year, my brother-in-law decided to transfer  me to a prominent brothel in Bangkok, and I continued to do this work for 5 - 6 years. After doing this for so long, there’s just too much pain that builds up in your heart. I knew I was going in circles, and the pain finally became too great to keep up the facade.

I traveled back to Chiang Mai for a visit, and happened to meet a friend who was a graduate of this NLCF program. She was working in an upscale beauty salon. My friend told me about this opportunity, and gave me the contact information for the NLCF. I called the manager and discussed the details with her. I wanted to enter the program, but I was still too afraid about what would happen to my son and youngest brother (my son was 6 and my brother was 8 at this time). Who would care for them while I studied?

The NLCF's ‘vocational training’ case manager helped me understand my choices, and we went together to look at some hostels that might be able to care for my son and brother. We found a good, safe place to care for the boys, and I was able to enter the program. I studied beauty salon, hair cutting and styling for six months at a good school, and was able to go to work immediately after I graduated. I worked hard and saved money which I used to support myself and my relatives. I also wanted to save money in order to open my own beauty salon!

On January 18th, 2011, my dream came true. I was able to open my own beauty salon in an area close to Chiang Mai University. It’s a tiny little shop, but I earn enough money to pay my bills and support myself, my son and youngest brother. Previously, if anyone asked me what I did for a living, I would never want to answer. I did not know what to say, and felt very embarrassed. But now? My vocation gives me confidence and I am proud of my accomplishments. I want to thank the New Life Center Foundation and its donors who gave me this choice and truly gave me the chance to have a new life.” 


Without your support, young women like Suwanee would still be trapped in exploitative labor. Thank you for your role in helping to create a new life for Suwanee and others like her!


Gratefully,


Karen