Kid Slaves and Hunger

Ruay Thai, 90, an industrious lady, walks four miles a day in her rice field. After two years on that treacherous dirt road in Thailand’s northeast, she has transformed herself into something of a local folk hero. But can this story be any more common of the thousands who have left their villages in search of greater wealth and safety? In reality, many people throughout the world are motivated by similar reasons to flee their towns and villages in search of a better life.

Ruay is currently a camp counselor at Camp Seadream, an international center for children. She volunteers to help new arrivals in Thailand with basic life skills, such as cleaning, cooking, laundry and hygiene. Each week, the campers pay a visit to the rice field and Ruay helps them identify problems and start planning solutions. In doing so, she finds time to share her own experiences living in a rice field – from starting out as a young child picking okra and noodles to washing and cleaning clothes, to tending to the cows and pigs that keep the farm running.

“Life on the street,” says Ruay, “is tough.” Her voice cracks as she recalls the early days of her own life. “I used to get beaten up for no reason. Some people would even kill you for stealing. It was terrible.”

ruay Today, however, her courage comes from the knowledge that others see her and know her story. “I don’t have to hide who I am,” she says. “I’m no longer in the streets.” And Ruay isn’t just talking the truth. According to the United Nations’ Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), one in every four Thai girls and one in every ten Indian girls are victims of violence in their home, most of which is caused by members of the local Thai community. In addition, trafficking rackets in Thailand and India are also involved in forced child labor and other forms of slavery.

“Slave trade! You’re kidding me,” laughs Ruay. “I was just thinking of how she might react when I said that word. But once she understood that I wasn’t talking about slavery but child labor, things started changing. Now, when I talk to children, I tell them that you can do better than what your parents or even older family members did.

“If you want to change your situation, you have to be able to stand up for yourself. Otherwise, no one will help you,” she continues. Ruay’s words have touched the lives of countless child victims, empowering them to break free from an unthinkable situation and go on to find happiness and security in their own homes. Thanks to Ruay’s powerful words, Thailand has become a much more respectable country for trafficked children.