“After work, my dad would usually smoke and drink alcohol. But that night, he had too much alcohol and lost control of himself. He tried to hurt me. He tried to kill me. When he went out to sharpen a knife, my siblings and I escaped through another door. If I hadn’t escaped that night, I may be dead,” says Yok.

Yok is the middle child of six children. Her mother was a member of the Hmong ethnic group; and her father was Thai. They lived in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, in a small hut with no electricity or running water. Yok had to walk to the river and carry water home for the household every day.

Her father worked as a construction labourer and her mother worked at a farm as a day labourer, performing tasks such as gathering beans. Her mother earned 200 baht ($7 USD) per day.

“My dad received a daily wage of around 300 baht ($10 USD), but he would spend all his money on drinking and smoking. My mom was the one who paid for all the expenses and her income was never enough,” said Yok.

The family rarely had enough food to eat. A typical meal consisted of rice and chili paste with a vegetable. Sometimes, when there wasn’t enough money for vegetables, Yok and her siblings ate only rice with salt and chilis.

“When I was young, my mom took me and my siblings to stay at my relative’s house nearby. We stayed there just during the nights and would come back to my house in the mornings to cook breakfast. I was afraid that my dad would hurt me. When he was drunk, he became very aggressive and threatened the family. He had hurt me a number of times already and I didn’t trust him,” Yok whispered.

The Keep Girls Safe project (KGS) aims to help and support high-risk girls from being trafficked as a result of abject poverty, abuse, abandonment and parental deaths from HIV/AIDS. The project provides a shelter filled with love, care and attention for vulnerable girls. The girls receive educational support from the shelter and study in public schools. They have nutritious food to eat and receive training in vocational skills such as agriculture or cooking. The project partners with government agencies, local non-government organizations (NGOs) and community groups to raise awareness and reduce sexual exploitation and human

From the moment Yok stepped into the shelter her life changed forever. She had proper food to eat, no longer feared her father and had a better chance for a proper education. She has been in the shelter for four years and is grateful that the shelter has a place for her. In the evenings staff members tutor her to help improve her grades. When she arrived at the shelter her grades were below average, but now she is studying sewing in a vocational college.

“Most of my friends in the village stopped studying and work as farmers like their parents. Some of them even have children already. I often hear from their parents that they didn’t encourage their children to study. They didn’t think that education was very important and necessary for their future. I feel very sorry for them,” says Yok.

“I am the first and only one in my family who made it to vocational college. I’ve turned my anger, my suffering from the past from what my dad did to me, to motivation for my studying. I want to help my mom to have a better life. I hope I can support her financially. I dream to have my own wedding dress store. I dream to buy a little house in the city and bring my mom and my siblings there to stay with me.”

Yok speaks now with a wide smile on her face.

“I would like to express my gratitude to all the donors for sending money to support the KGS project and for helping me.”