The Secrets the Bridge Holds

Spread the love

Thai GirlI am not sure what I would do in her situation. What lesser of the inevitable evils would I choose to fall prey to? Would I have the strength of resolve to be able to choose anything better than she did? Is it possible that had I been her that day and she had been me, would she see me the way I was looking at her? Would she ask the same questions of me that were running through my mind about her situation? The answers to these questions may not even exist, because the truth is, I wasn’t her, and I have no idea what it is like to struggle as she does.We were standing on the bridge that for countless hundreds of thousands of women and children was a symbol of pain, exploitation and slavery. This bridge was the only physical link between where they had come from and where they were being forced to go. We were standing on one of the major border crossings between Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand, and it has the horrible infamy of being known to have one of the world’s highest numbers of humans trafficked across it. Below us was sludgy water, with embankments of ramshackle tenements, cardboard houses, and endless garbage littered on its banks. In the water were children, cows, women doing laundry, and always around us was the endless hum of crowds of people desperately trying to keep going until tomorrow; being forced to do whatever it takes to make sure there is a tomorrow. It was because of this bridge that I had a context to try to understand her story, and it was because of this bridge we became inspired to try something new.My friend was talking to her in Thai, and asking her some questions, as they knew each other from when she was a community worker in the region. She was surrounded by fiv  e children, ranging in age from about 14 to the infant at her breast. They were all dirty, hungry, and sitting on the bridge hoping for some kindness from the tourists that passed by. Her husband had left a long time ago, and a couple of the children did not share the same father. It wasn’t by choice. She had made many decisions she was not proud of, but in an effort to feed hungry mouths, she felt there were no alternatives. Some foreign men had seen her older daughter and offered her money to have her for the weekend. You could see the pain in her eyes and the shame of a mother’s desperate choice. She had sold her. Probably for less than $20. But when you don’t know what it is like to have money in your hand, $20 can seem like a godsend. But at what cost? I wonder if it became easier the next time they came back to ask for her again? Did it cut as deep to betray your child like that, or was it easier to accept it as a necessary evil? As we left that family that day, we already knew that we were now responsible with what we had learned.Group of Thai ChildrenMy Mom loves me, and my Mom is a good woman. She has sacrificed countless times for us as a family, and I am proud of who she is. However, that day, I was thankful that she was never faced with the choice of this woman. Choice is a luxury that is not always afforded to the world’s poor, and when you are a stateless, caring refugee mother on a border between Thailand and Burma (one of many thousands along the border), choice is not even a word you can dare hope to utter. In selling her children to avoid the starvation of her family, that woman was forced to make a decision we know nothing of. With one look at her face you would know that it was never a choice – it was an unavoidable nightmare.She may not have felt she had a choice for her actions, but I have a choice, and we have a choice: it is the choice to care. On that bridge that day we began to see how you cannot just look at the numbers and make the judgment calls; you have to see the face behind them.Thai Boy in a vehicleThat was how we came to decide to start doing Hero Holiday in Thailand. To look objectively at what is happening in trafficking and exploitation, it would seem the bad guy is winning. And maybe he is. But hope still lives, and that hope needs us to continue to recognize that compassion requires action, and action requires people, and people are what the human experience is about. This is why we wanted to bring Hero Holiday to Thailand. Our numbers may seem small right now, but we are adding our voice, our hands, and our passion to a bigger picture that is determined to eradicate slavery and exploitation.Dropin CenterThe following year we came back to this city with our first Hero Holiday team. Two blocks from the bridge where we originally met, the young daughter walked in to the drop-in centre we were working at. However, she now had her own baby in her arms.The child may have come in to the world as the result of one man’s evil actions against her innocence, but it was beautiful nonetheless. When I asked to hold her baby, she said to me,”You came back, and you brought friends!” It mattered to her, and there are many more just like her that need to know that they matter.Thai WorkWe are currently in Thailand, working in the same area with some of our heroes. Each year, as we spend time with them, work alongside of them, and help to believe in what can be, we realize that this is how change starts: it requires us to change first.To find out more about our projects in Thailand, check out

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: March 15th, 2009