On February this year, I took a brief break from ceramics to travel through some of the roughest parts of Thailand and Myanmar to learn more about the situation of children at risk.
My heart has always been in helping children in need and this journey was a way for me to witness the dire situation with my own eyes and hear stories directly from the families who are suffering injustice and are in desperate need of help.
We briefly visited an area at the boarder of Thailand and Myanmar where human trafficking happens the most. (In the Thai side) the (Burmese) families, who've crossed over with hope for better lives, live with no identity and are unable to get jobs, children have zero basic needs and are vulnerable to many problems. Then we traveled through Myanmar, visiting several states and met with different ethnic groups. In the group we spent most time with, most men are drug addicts and are in jail, fifty percent of the women are drug addicts and tragically, so are many of their children. Some children manage to find themselves in orphanages in the big city where they are able to get basic education. Unfortunately, most children don't have that opportunity and inevitably end up being at risk.
During this trip I quickly learned that my concern about not being qualified enough to help was nonsense. In situations where little children are being sent away to work as they are expected to send money back to their families, we are all qualified to help in any way we can. Especially when the 'work' turns out to be unpaid and it is something unimaginable that no children should ever have to go through.
I became overwhelmed with the complexity of the problems involving children at risk (trafficking, child soldiering, child labor to name a few). It is definitely not a black and white situation as before (this trip), I only saw the surface. Figuring out ways to help is an overwhelming endeavor. Understanding the history, the current political situation, the different belief groups and then the problems which are sometimes not seen as problems but part of the culture, is crucial in order to help in a sustainable way.
Talking to the people on ground who dedicate their lives to these children and their families and hearing directly from the affected families helped me encapsulate the general sense of the situation. I realize that focusing on the women's need is perhaps the best starting point as by helping them, they in turn can help the children.
I have yet to fully process this trip and am far from developing a concrete plan of action, but I know I need to learn a lot more. Meanwhile, I will continue to bring awareness to children at risk worldwide and support Save the Children*. ~ Re Jin
* This trip was private and not in partnership with Save the Children.
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Copyright © 2017 BDB NY. All images by Re Jin Lee. All rights reserved.