Several years ago I was hired as a contract English teacher for a school in Northern Thailand.  Rotary became a part of my life during those years and I became involved with many disadvantaged students, several having no Thai ID.

While working on a Global Grant for a mountain school, I became acquainted with a gentleman from Washington state.  His foundation focused on the education and well-being of women and girls.  We began to work together.

Another friend, one of my fellow Rotarians, had a student needing help for her education following graduation from M6.  I had another and wrote my friend in Washington to see if he might be interested in helping the two girls.  He said yes and sent me money to begin the process.

The Rotarian was out of the country and wanted to wait until his return to contact his student.  He learned his student had already obtained support from another organization when he returned home.

Not wanting to give up available money, I began to search through my scholarship applications.  None met the criterion needed for the available money.  One day, I was on the mountain school checking on the grant and asked the teachers who were there if they knew of any students who might fit out guidelines.  After a bit of thought, one said, ”We have two.  They are twins.”

It turned out that the girls had dropped out of school after graduation from M3 in order to support their mother and grandmother.  They moved off the mountain and went to work even though what they really wanted was to continue their educations.

I wrote my friend with the information and suggested that if he would sponsor one girl, I would find someone for the other.  He wrote back saying that they should not be separated and he would sponsor both.

The school staff assisted and the girls both returned to classes.  All seemed well until I received an email saying the mother wanted the girls to leave school again and go back to work.  One didn’t want to go and the other said, ”But mother says…”  My response was to ask the teachers to keep them in school until my friend and I could visit I person.

The two of us went to the school as quickly as we could.  We picked up the girls and two teachers and drove to the family home.  There we were met by a very dour faced lady who turned out to be the mother.

It took a while, but after observing the interaction between the girls, the teachers and the two of us, the mom relaxed and became more friendly.

We discovered that the Mom had been concerned that because she did not know us or her girls and we did not know them, she feared we were going to steal her girls.  I had not thought of that before and was rather taken aback.  We were simply out to help.

While she was wrong in her assessment of us, she was right to be concerned.  We could very well have been traffickers as what we did was exactly what traffickers might do; gain their trust and then move in on them.  I told her we appreciated her concern and congratulated her on her astuteness.

By the time of our departure, mom was smiling and accepting of what was being offered her daughters.  My friend said laughingly that he was unable to take her home with him as he already had a wife.   All in all, it was a very good visit.

This was a defining moment for both of us; be aware of traffickers’ methods and make sure all parties are fully aware of who you are and what you are willing to for them.  Establish guidelines agreed to by all.  It was a lesson well learned.

It should be noted that the two girls completed secondary school.  One chose to enter the HomePro work/study program and the other went on to the university and, just this year, is completing her student teaching.

PP Carol AcostaRotary Club of Mae Chaem, District 3360