Nestled in rural Chiang Mai (Thailand), not too far from the Tiger Kingdom, is an amazing shelter called Baan Yuu Suk (pronounced bahn yoo sook). This shelter is home to 34 girls, aged 6-19, who were at great risk (and some rescued from) to become victims of human trafficking. These girls are from the Hill Tribes of northern Thailand, where their existence isn’t really even recognized by the Thai government. Despite being 10th + generation Thailand-born, the government doesn’t provide them with Thai citizenship. Thus, they are stateless. This statelessness causes great obstacles in the areas of education, travel, work, geographic location in general, and whole plethora of other areas. Because these girls essentially don’t exist on paper, it is quite easy for a trafficker to exploit both them and their families. That’s where COSA comes in…
I “happened” upon an organization called COSA, Children’s Organization of Southeast Asia, while searching for volunteer opportunities in the area of anti human trafficking. COSA seemed to be a perfect fit for the contribution I wanted to make and I started the application process to volunteer on my next vacation.
COSA believes in “Prevention through Education” which basically means that by providing a quality education, not only through high school but in some cases, on into university or vocational training, these girls are given a fighting chance to earn a solid income for themselves and their families. In Thailand, as in many parts of the world, children are expected to contribute to the (financial) betterment of the family. There is MUCH less emphasis on individualism than on family and the group as a whole. This is of particular challenge due to statelessness. Without the documents to prove their rights, these girls are denied an education beyond high school. However, most of them don’t make it past an elementary level due to this need for them to contribute. Girls are often sold into brothels in order fulfill loan obligations her family might have, or simply as a way for the girl to provide additional income for her family. It’s hard for us to even fathom, but this happens every single day, all over the world. These children must stay in school in order to escape this destiny. Yet another task that this organization takes on, getting proper legal documentation for each girl, so that she can get a proper education and be successful in life.
The girls live, play and learn at Baan Yuu Suk, go to quality schools in the area, and are growing up in a safe, loving environment where they can have opportunities that may not have existed for them if they hadn’t come to COSA.
Volunteering has been a major part of my late teens/adult life. I have been exposed to many different organizations, and have even co-founded a non-profit organization myself. It’s not easy running an organization, nor is everyone really in it for the good of others. In COSA’s case, however, I must say that I have been extremely impressed with the vision, operation and hearts of those involved. If you’re looking for a place to plant some seeds, financial, time, talents, or even literal seeds- they do organic farming too, I would highly recommend this organization! I have spent 4 weeks (so far) here and plan to spend my next vacation volunteering again. You can check out my other entries about my volunteering experience here, but I wanted to dedicate this entry to getting the word out about COSA. Many of my friends have tons of gifts to give and are looking for a place to give them. Might I humbly recommend this place as a place to start!?
For more information, or ways you can become involved/contribute, please check out their website: www.cosasia.org. Together, we CAN make a difference in the fight against modern day slavery!