Friends of Thai Daughters, Inc.
Barter's Island residents Jane McBride and Patty Zinkowski founded friends of Thai Daughters, Inc. in 2004. The group is the United States' sister organization to the Thai-based, Development and Education Program for Daughters and Communities (DEPDC), founded by Sompop Jantraka in 1989.
Both groups work tirelessly to prevent child trafficking in the Golden Triangle. The Triangle is comprised of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). Children as young as eight are sold or kidnapped into a life of prostitution.
"If we can help 10 or 12 of these children, it is worth doing," said McBride.
McBride and Zinkowski first visited Thailand in the early 1980s. They returned in 2002 when they had semi-retired from the aviation industry.
"We had a little bit of money and a lot of time. We thought, what do we do now?" said McBride. "We found the DEPDC Web site prior to the return trip, contacted the organization and went to see the facility."
After touring the main building, the pair then visited an abandoned school being used as a shelter by the DEPDC for students aged 7 to 15.
"We spent a few days with 15 girls and just fell in love with them. They were just the sweetest kids," recalled McBride. "They had never been trafficked."
After taking the girls shopping, McBride and Zinkowski also made a financial donation to the organization. But, they wanted to do more.
They returned in 2003 with financial support from friends and family. In 2004, they began filming their documentary, "Daughters and Sons - Preventing Child Trafficking in the Golden Triangle." It was completed in 2005. The documentary was directed and produced by Sarah Feinbloom.
The 25-minute film focuses on eliminating the trafficking of human beings, particularly children. It has already been shown at the Boston International Film Festival and the Peace Corp Festival.
It is scheduled to be one of the 70 films to be presented at the Third Annual Artivist Film Festival (www.artivists.org) in Hollywood, California, November 9-12.
Locally, a screening of the documentary will be held in the Coastal Club room of the Boothbay Region YMCA on Saturday, October 14 at 4 p.m. A reception will follow at Flying Passage Farm on Barter's Island.
Three Thai daughters will be the special guests at the Boothbay screening. They are Suwimon "Pui" Kantharath - 16, Suparat "Khai" Kongsri - 15, and Pitchaya "Mee" Aryi - 20. McBride will be driving to New York City to pick the girls up on October 10.
They will be joining McBride at the Rotary's October 12 meeting and at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on October 13 where they will be participating in some volunteer work.
Because education is key, Friends of Thai Daughters instituted the Tantawan Scholarship Program in 2005. The scholarship dollars afford an opportunity for highly motivated girls to continue their studies, in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai schools, beyond the age of 18.
In Chiang Mai, three girls can attend the Varee School, a private institution that prepares students for university. There they study physics, English and Chinese.
In Chiang Rai, 14 students study home economics, accounting, computers, social studies and English. Here they also participate in the Girl Scouts and play a little "B-ball!"
McBride and Zinkowski are seeking donations for Friends of Thai Daughters to continue helping the DEPDC save as many children as is possible.
They will be contacting various organizations in the near future as they begin their fund-raising venture in earnest.
It runs $750 for each child at the DEPDC facility per year. Some fund-raising suggestions include inviting 50 individuals to a screening of the documentary at $15 per person; pooling office coffee and cocktail monies until $750 is reached; and church congregations could sponsor a child, or children!
Since 2004, Friends of Thai Daughters, Inc. has raised approximately $150,000 that has been sent to the DEPDC.
"They are there combing the villages looking for these kids," said McBride, "so we leave the allocation of the funds to them."
Since 1989, the DEPDC has saved over 1000 children from sex traffickers by housing them at the DEPDC facilities. There they attend school, learn life skills and are safe from harm. Children remain there until they are 18 years of age. The DEPDC also helps find them employment.
At present, $75,000 is needed to operate the DEPDC shelter. Enrollment numbers hover around the 400 mark with roughly 75 full-time students and 300 half-time students - primarily children of the hill tribes.
The children of Thailand's hill tribes, without citizenship, and impoverished families throughout the "Triangle" are prime targets for brokers. Often families sign contracts believing their daughter, sometimes son, will be working in a reputable atmosphere for a specific length of time, others know what they are doing, but do not see a choice.
DEPDC also spends time educating parents about traffickers and their methods of procurement. Primarily, however, the DEPDC and Friends of Thai Daughters, Inc. are committed to the prevention of child trafficking and exploitation.
For more information and to find out how you can help, please contact McBride at 633-5775 and visit the Friends of Thai Daughters, Inc. online, www.FriendsofThaiDaughters.org
For further information, visit the DEPDC Web site: www.depdc.org.
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