Chiang Mai, Thailand: It is no secret the hill tribe people of Northern Thailand are some of the most vulnerable people groups to human trafficking, especially the sex slave trade. Children as young as seven years old have been sold, stolen, and forced into the sex slave trade due to poverty, lack of access to education, limited awareness of trafficking, and sheer desperation. According to the 2016 US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, sex trafficking in Thailand remains the most prominent form of trafficking.
Thirty-three years ago, Rev. Sam Yangmi, a Lisu missionary to Northern Thailand, saw a need to begin a home where children from the hill tribes of Thailand could live while they studied in a quality, public Thai school. He had seen the devastating impact of the increasing sex slave trade on the Northern hill tribe people. He felt the need to begin a hostel where these vulnerable children could live while in school so that they would have an opportunity to be fully educated. School in the villages is only offered through grade 6. Sam also saw the development of Mae Taeng Tribal Children’s Home as an opportunity to talk to the parents and village leaders about the realities of trafficking. He wanted to make a difference in the lives of these children that would change the generational cycle of poverty, limited education, and risk for sex trafficking.
Most importantly, Sam wanted to provide a safe environment that teaches the children about Jesus and the abundant life. While Thailand is a primarily Buddhist nation, the hill tribe people groups are coming to know Jesus through various evangelism outreach projects.
Over thirteen years ago, my family and I were asked to spend a year teaching English as Nazarenes in Volunteer Service (now known as Mission Corps) in Maetang. During this time, I conducted a program evaluation about the effectiveness of Maetang for a research project related to my sabbatical from teaching social work. After interviewing teachers at the primary and high schools, community leaders, village leaders, pastors, and current and former students, it was clear the focus and mission of the school to prevent trafficking and disciple young people to know Jesus was being met.
In 2017, we had the pleasure of leading an Olivet Nazarene University Mission in Action team back to Mae Taeng. After thirteen years, Mae Taeng is still making a difference in the lives of children by preventing human trafficking. However, the funds to support the project are extremely limited. During our visit, two young people who were at the home when we volunteered came to visit and help our team paint the boys’ hostel. FuangFa was our sponsored child while she lived at Mae Taeng. She has since graduated from high school and university and is a pediatric nurse at a private hospital in Chiang Mai. Alon, another former Mae Taeng student, visited and spent the day helping us paint. He is a professional tour guide in the area, who now speaks fluent Chinese. Both wanted to give back to help the home that helped them with these opportunities. Fuangfa said she plans to work for about ten years then hopes to be able to volunteer to help others who are in the same predicament.
Arthit is the pastor of Mae Taeng Tribal Children’s Home. He is a graduate of Mae Taeng who went on to Bible College and returned to minister in the place that helped him earn an education. He said if he hadn’t been able to attend Maetang and graduate from college, he would probably be stuck working on the farm. His love for the children and God is so clear in his ministry.
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In addition to these three young people who were students thirteen years ago, many others shared stories of how God used Maetang to protect them and their villages from sex trafficking. Sara was among the first to go through Maetang. She recalls the opportunity to minister back in her village on a ministry team as having a great impact on her decision to go into the ministry and study at Southeast Asia Nazarene Bible College at the Maetang Nazarene Center. She is now serving in ministry with her husband at Nong Wua Daeng, a Black Lahu village near the Myanmar border. Even though they struggle to make ends meet, with very limited funding and staff who receive little to no support, Mae Taeng Tribal Children’s Home is finding ways to help support children at greatest risk. Mae Taeng Church of the Nazarene is paying school fees for one orphaned student because they know being orphaned puts a child at the greatest risk for trafficking. There are other students who struggle to pay, but the school is committed to protecting children, so many staff use their own limited resources to help.
The vision going forward is to serve more children by providing a safe home in a community where good government primary and high schools exist, to teach them about Jesus, to send ministry teams back to their villages to share the gospel, and to warn villagers of the risks of human trafficking, to teach the students English so they have a greater opportunity for gainful employment after high school, and to encourage graduates to invest back into the lives of children at Mae Taeng.
How can you help? You can:
- Take a team to help renovate the buildings at Maetang.
- Volunteer to teach English on the campus.
- Donate money directly to the home through 10 percent giving identified projects.
- Sponsor a child or provide a scholarship to those most at risk for human trafficking.
- Pray for Maetang and the leaders as they seek to serve Him and the children who are at risk for being trafficked
Prevention is hard to measure! However, let me assure you that Mae Taeng Tribal Children’s Home is doing what it can with the limited resources they have to prevent and protect His little ones from the devastating life of sex trafficking! They’re doing their part – will you do yours and partner with them.
Article submitted by: Dr. Denise Anderson (professor at Olivet Nazarene University)