From Risk to Resilience

Som is from a very poor tribe in Northern Thailand. When she was a little girl, only 11 years old, she was trafficked and forced into the sex industry. She was a sex worker for four years before she escaped and settled in the only home she could find – a room in Bangkok’s largest slum.

Som worked hard to make a life for herself, build a family, and stand on her own two feet. But her past trauma and current poverty, domestic violence, and instability continued to plague her home and the lives of her children. A neighbor told Som about Step Ahead – a nonprofit that works to help strengthen families in the slum where Som lives. She applied to our KFT program and was accepted in 2019.

Som’s story could have gone very differently. Orphanages in Thailand and around the world often take advantage of families like Som’s and convince mothers that their children would be better off in an institution with all basic needs provided. If an orphanage had gotten to Som first, she may have in desperation given her children up.

Instead of investing more money in institutions that take children out of their families, Step Ahead believes in strengthening the capacity of vulnerable adults so they can raise their own children. We believe in keeping families together.

Holistic in nature, KFT covers topics including health and hygiene, family finances, healthy communication, child protection, internet safety, domestic violence, and so much more. Our methods are research-based, as well as, backed by years of experience of serving vulnerable families in Thailand.

2020/21 have been difficult for the entire globe and especially for families like Som’s. Covid-19 is devastating. Most of the families in our KFT program have lost jobs, income, and financial stability. Some have lost family members. Som and many other families have received relief from Step Ahead and other organizations in the form of goods, dried food, etc. This support helped her stay on her feet through the economic fallout brought on by the city shutting down due to Covid-19.

But one day, Som’s house was broken into and she was robbed of the things she had received. The invader had broken her door and Som didn’t have the funds to fix it. Without being able to properly lock up her home, suddenly her life was not only unstable, she was not safe. She shared her fears with our KFT social worker and volunteers from our church partner, who were visiting her regularly. The church volunteers purchased a new door and lock, and also installed it themselves — a simple fix that provided Som and her family safety and security they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Som has graduated from our program and says she is more hopeful than before and now knows how to budget, save and decrease her debt. Her relationships are better and she knows how to keep her family safe. We are so grateful to our financial partners for supporting Som’s family and others like her.

Freedom for Families

Step Ahead was contacted about a refugee mother immediately after she was arrested and sent to Bangkok’s notorious and overcrowded Immigration Detention Center. The mother (a widow) fled her home country because of religious persecution with her two young children. They were granted refugee status from UNHCR and lived in hiding after overstaying their tourist visas.

Occasionally, there are police raids in communities where refugees live. Refugees live in fear of being arrested while they wait for transit to a third country, which can take years. The day this mother was arrested, the children were left terrified and all alone. We are grateful a local Bangkok church member became a foster parent for the children. While the mother was in detention, she suffered from heart disease and experienced some respiratory problems. She was so depressed to the point of wanting to kill herself.

Step Ahead has a great relationship with Immigration Police and despite Covid-19 restrictions, Step Ahead was able to organize a visit for the children to meet their mother, which helped her to see they were doing ok and relieved some of her stress.

Step Ahead then applied for bail (USD 1600) and the application was approved. The mother was released and reunited with her children! They are finally safe and sound resettled in Canada. Besides USD 1600 for bail, mothers often need rent and living expenses or money for therapy because of all the trauma experienced fleeing a country, living in hiding, etc.

We are grateful for our partnership with Liferaft International and the support of so many generous donors.