Kimberly Vrudny

Archive for the ‘New Life Center Foundation’ Category

Participant 25

In 30/30 Participants, New Life Center Foundation, Thailand on August 12, 2010 at 2:29 am

"Participant 25," now seventeen years old, was sent away from home at the age of eleven to work in a restaurant. The owners arranged for her to meet several "customers" daily.

When I finished the third grade, I did not think I would meet with the issues that I faced next but shouldn’t have. But when we have passed a certain stage, we shouldn’t destroy ourselves. We are bearing the consequences of what we have done.

Sometimes I think of having HIV, and I think that nobody will love me. And sometimes when I see others enjoying their lives while I am suffering in my life with the virus, [I am sad because] I should not have it. Sometimes it also causes me to think back to the past. It gives me an experience [to say] that we do not have to work in those kinds of jobs again. There are many other people who are suffering more than me, and they are not going into despair about the problems they are encountering.

When we come to a safe place, it gives us happiness and joy. I want to tell everybody that is like me that I wish they did not have to go through this. Please obey your parents. If [girls] want to work, [I want to tell them to] find appropriate work for their age, and to find work that is legal. Don’t think that all work is good work. It is not true. It might not be suitable or appropriate [what people are asking you to do]. I don’t want any woman to do the work that I have done.

I have had this experience. I want to share this with people who have not done this work in the past. I cannot change what happened that gave me the virus. The only thing that I can do is to look after my health and to exercise regularly.

I am concerned about women because we have the same hearts.

Participant 26

In 30/30 Participants, New Life Center Foundation, Thailand on August 12, 2010 at 2:28 am

"Participant 26" is a graduate of the New Life Center Foundation. She hopes to protect her daughter from the trafficking to which she was vulnerable.

I remember the Lahu New Year’s celebrations when I was little. It was so much fun. It was the only time of year that we had new clothes made and we enjoyed showing off our clothes with our friends. I remember playing games in the village with the other kids, catching fish and swimming in the rivers. It was so much fun.

I am interested in the well-being and development of my daughter. If I was well, I’d be able to work and earn more money for my daughter. But I can’t really do that. But my main interest, the thing that is most important to me, is my daughter.

I’d like the broader public to understand how vulnerable young women are, to being trafficked and becoming HIV+. Becoming aware of exploitation and AIDS after the fact is too late. You must have awareness beforehand. Why do young women believe the people who lure us into these types of places? Why do we believe others so easily? You must not be so vulnerable, so easily tricked (like I was).

My hope for my future is that I’ll live long enough to see my grandchildren. I hope and pray that we can find a medicine that allows me to live for many, many years, so that I can see my grandchildren. Right now, I don’t know how long I’ll live, but please help find medicines that will keep me alive. This would be a good thing.

Participant 27

In 30/30 Participants, New Life Center Foundation, Thailand on August 12, 2010 at 2:27 am

"Participant 27" has been traumatized by the experiences that ultimately brought her to the New Life Center Foundation. She is charting a course free from exploitation.

When I was a little girl, I loved to go fishing with my big sister. This actually is my happiest memory, because I was living in the forest [at the time]. There was a river and I loved the environment with fresh air and clear skies. Even though during my childhood I did not get to eat delicious food—and even went without meals sometimes—I was so happy because I was with my family—my father, my mother, and my big sister. In terms of my interests . . . I like to play the guitar. I like to look after the fish (in the fish pond), and plant trees and flowers—especially orchids. I like orchids so much because they have beautiful fragrance and beautiful colors. In terms of the things important in my life . . . my relationship with God is important to me. God has provided me with a place to live, food to eat, and medicine to care for me. Also, what is important is that God is healing my heart and making me stronger.

I’d like to tell tribal women in northern Thailand to have awareness, to have knowledge and not be so easily manipulated. Because in today’s society, [there are] many areas in which you can be duped or tricked. If you believe people too easily you might be tricked easily, into many different things.

I want to recover fully from this disease. I dream that one day there will be medicine to heal me. I place my hope (and trust) in God because if that day could truly come, I’d like to have a complete family.

New Life Center Foundation

In New Life Center Foundation, Non-profits / NGOs, Thailand, Trafficking on August 10, 2010 at 1:15 am

In the hill tribe regions of Thailand, more than one million ethnic minority people live—including the Karen, Hmong, Lahu, Akha, Mien, and Lisu. Each group proudfully preserves its own customs, language, dress, and spiritual beliefs. However, young men, women, and children are leaving their villages in pursuit of work dishwashing in restaurants, cleaning in private residences, and sewing in factories, as well as working in Thailand’s fishing and farming industries. Sometimes, their movement is initiated in answer to advertisements and personal promises that jobs are available to support their basic needs, paying wages that will enable families to secure food, shelter, clothing, and an education. In other situations, familial drug and alcohol abuse, parental disability, or destitution propels them from the village into Thailand’s larger cities.

Although Thailand’s laws legislate against exploitation, including child labor, when children are born in these regions, traditional midwives attend their births. Babies not born in hospitals are not issued birth certificates. Without birth certificates, people coming into Thailand’s cities in search of work are officially considered illegal laborers, much like those coming in from the countries bordering Thailand in the north: Myanmar and Laos, for example, until or unless their legal status and age can be authenticated. Acquiring such documentation can be a lengthy and expensive endeavor.

Business owners, in the meanwhile, desiring to turn a higher profit, know this kind of cheaper labor is available. Therefore, they hire from this vulnerable minority population in order to pay, for example, 50 baht per day (or about $1.50/day), rather than having to pay the legally mandated but higher minimum wage to of-age and documented workers (170 baht, or about $5/day). Cases have been heard in the Thai courts where workers were paid with rice rather than with currency. Moreover, working conditions are often poor and abusive.

The practice of human trafficking, the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation, is pervasive in this context. Laws meant to stymie this trend are only marginally enforced. Too often, young women are especially vulnerable to trafficking that is prolific in a situation of poverty where thousands of migrant workers are also seeking a better life.

Young girls who travel an hour or more to the nearest cities to do their work too often learn that the advertisement or personal contact that attracted them was not truthful. In many cases, parents are unaware that their children are being exploited. Very often, the bodies of young girls are being sold by brokers for the sexual pleasure of men. The baht goes to the trafficker rather than to the girl, who is sometimes beaten until she complies.

During their careers that spanned more than four decades, anthropologists Paul and Elaine Lewis observed this pattern firsthand, so in 1987 they founded the New Life Center Foundation. The non-profit organization is headquartered in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with offices also in Chiang Rai, and is devoted to empowering and equipping at risk or exploited tribal women through education and training, in order to create positive change in their lives and in society. The founders were interested in creating an organization that could provide minority girls with skills that would enable them to find meaningful work, including fluency in the Thai language, while simultaneously preventing the loss of their tribal heritage. Today, the New Life Center has nearly 120 young women in residence. The girls range in age from 13 to 23. About 50% of these minority women are identified as at risk for exploitation; the others have been referred to the Center through the Thai welfare system after experiencing forced labor or sexual exploitation.

The Center has evolved over the year to provide eight primary services:

1. Education. By matriculating the residents of the Center into mainstream schools, running an adult education evening school, and providing education through a weekend school, the goal is to give the residents a quality education and literacy skills through the high school level.

2. Vocational Training. By paying for training for work in beauty salons, tailoring, and nursing, the Center equips its residents for meaningful work, free from exploitation.

3. University Scholarships. Due to a generous donation from a Foundation in Sweden, 75 residents are now receiving scholarships to attend University.

4. Citizenship Advocacy. Staff working in the area of citizenship advocacy undertake the lengthy and expensive process of helping residents acquire Thai citizenship through navigating the complicated labyrinth of offices and paperwork in the government that attaining citizenship requires.

5. Life Skills. Because many of the girls did not have good role models or mentors in the villages of their birth, the structure of the Center provides residents with the opportunity to develop valuable life skills through formal training, conducted by various professors and teachers from the region’s NGOs and Universities. Workshops cover a wide range of topics, such as health and human hygiene, reproductive health, recycling, care of the environment, fire safety, leadership, human rights, and gender equality.

6. Spiritual Development. The Foundation is supported by American Baptist International Ministries, as well as many other religious and private sources. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, along with the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California, generously support the work of the New Life Center Foundation. In addition, the Foundation receives financial support from the U.S. State Department’s Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons, the Royal Thai Government, Diakonia, Sievert Larssen Scholarship Foundation, the Rotary Foundation, as well as from many private donors. The Foundation deeply respects the diverse spiritualities of the young women who arrive at the Center. The community is comprised of people from many religious backgrounds, including Catholic and Protestant Christians, Buddhists, and those practicing traditional tribal faiths. Residents are given the opportunity to participate voluntarily in Bible studies, devotions, and discipleship training in preparation for baptism.

7. Income Generation. The handicraft program is a supplementary program of the Center, and provides some of the women an opportunity for income generation by selling jewelry, dolls, handbags, and needlework through the Center’s shop. In this way, the Center is able to support the preservation of the traditional embroidery practices of the tribal women, and the young women earn an income as their skills develop.

8. Therapeutic Services. Rehabilitative and therapeutic services, such as art and music therapies, are offered to support the women in coping with the traumas they have experienced.

The New Life Center is a place that provides a more promising future for ethnic minority girls in Thailand. Please support their work if you are able, by writing a check to New Life Center Foundation, and sending it to:

New Life Center Foundation
P.O. Box 29
Chiang Mai 50000

If you would prefer to send a wire transfer, please e-mail the Center for banking details: