Safe at Home
Stepping up to stop human trafficking
Liv Olsen, 82, has a passion for children, especially children at risk. When Olsen, from Moss, Norway, was 78 years old, she traveled from Norway to Chiang Rai, Thailand, to visit the newly constructed Keep Girls Safe shelter, which she helped finance through ADRA Norway in cooperation with ADRA Thailand.
“I haven’t really grasped everything that has happened yet,” Liv said at the time. “Imagine, being able to be a part of this work. It feels unreal, like a dream! The greatest thing about this journey is being able to meet the children and to see with my own eyes this wonderful building. In this home children are surrounded by care, and they can feel safe. They get a bed to sleep in and healthful, good food. The people working here are wonderful, qualified persons.”
The Tragedy of Trafficking
Thailand ranks among the highest in terms of countries where human trafficking takes place. An estimated 40 percent of girls and young women who are engaged in prostitution worldwide come from northern Thailand. It also has high levels of poverty. Often parents are told about employment opportunities in Bangkok, or one of the country’s other large cities, and are presented with an amount almost equal to a year’s salary. Although their children are promised good jobs as waiters, actors, or musicians, they often end up being forced into prostitution.
Over many years Liv Olsen has saved money to be able to give poor girls in northern Thailand a home. To be able to do that she has, for example, ridden a bike instead of taking the bus to get around town. “But the Lord has blessed me,” Liv says. “Probably because of all the bicycling, I’m the only one in my family without a heart condition.” Olsen grew up in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, at the time far from schools and shopping. She knows a lot about working hard to survive.
The girls at the Keep Girls Safe shelter are all from extremely poor families, most of them from different villages in the hills and jungles of Northern Thailand. The shelter is able to accommodate up to 40 girls, most of whom have come from difficult backgrounds caused by sickness, death, drugs, abuse, and lack of care and education. These and other factors may lead to human trafficking, which is prevalent in this area of Southeast Asia. Reports say that girls as young as 8 years old are forced into prostitution, but others are exported to developed countries in Asia, North America, and Europe, where they are forced to do menial tasks with little or no pay, work long hours, and receive no benefits or medical care.
Making a Difference
In collaboration with ADRA Norway and ADRA Thailand, Liv Olsen has contributed to great changes in the lives of the girls. The girls in the Keep Girls Safe shelter have a safe home. From the shelter they go to school every day, and they help out with daily tasks of cooking, watering the garden, doing laundry, and other tasks similar to the activities they would do in the villages where they come from. Older girls receive vocational training, and are helped to find suitable jobs.
The Keep Girls Safe program consists of three components: The home for vulnerable girls; educational support for girls who remain in their villages; and value-based awareness campaigns and training for parents and adolescents that seeks to warn them about the dangers of human trafficking and exploitation.
In addition ADRA provides support for rural development projects in several villages in cooperation with local government and village leaders. ADRA contributes to systems for clean, safe, drinking water; health maintenance; education; and improved agriculture methods. The longer children stay in school, the more remote is the chance that they will leave home.
For a 82-year-old, traveling all the way to Chiang Rai, Thailand is not something one does without careful consideration. From Norway it is a long, tough journey that includes a time zone difference of six hours. It also means different foods and cultures. “But it’s worth it,” says Liv. “There are so many who say that it is no use, that it does not help with these ‘tiny drops in the ocean.’?”
But have a look at these girls! It certainly works for them, focusing on one life at a time. n
Gry Haugen lives near Oslo and works for ADRA Norway in communications, public relations, and marketing. She loves singing and is music coordinator for the Norway Union Conference.
FUN AND GAMES: A girls’ singing group visiting from Norway plays with some of the girls in the shelter.
BACK FOR A VISIT: Two years after Liv Olsen first visited the Keep Girls Safe Shelter, she returned to track its progress.
SAFE AND SECURE: Children who benefit from the Keep Girls Safe Shelter can look forward to a future that won’t be marred by the prospect of human trafficking.