Suzie* sat on the grass strumming her guitar. Her nimble fingers moved from chord to chord. Her dimpled smile lit her eyes. She looked for all the world like a happy 11-year old girl, enjoying a beautiful day in the sunshine. And that was what she was. But she could have been a very different 11-year old girl.

Suzie grew up in rural Thailand. Her home life was shattered when her parents divorced. Her mother moved on to Bangkok, not be heard from again. Her father left her at her grandmother’s house to pursue his musical career.

Suzie’s grandmother would forget to cook meals. She would prevent Suzie from going to school, adamant that it was Sunday and not a school day. Her grandmother forgot many things and confused many others. Suzie’s grandmother had Alzheimer’s.

With her absent, divorced parents and her sick grandmother, Suzie was at risk. In her region of northern Thailand, an estimated 40,000 children under the age of 16 are trapped in the sex trade. In her situation, Suzie was vulnerable to sex trafficking, whether through recruitment, coercion, or abduction.

When a concerned neighbour called ADRA’s Keep Girls Safe shelter, the house mother responded immediately. She met with Suzie and her family. She explained that the Keep Girls Safe shelter would do just that, keep Suzie safe. She would be able to go to school. She would learn gardening skills. She would live with other girls who would become her friends. She would have support, love, and a purpose. She would have a more secure future.

The ADRA Keep Girls Safe shelter in northern Thailand has been in operation for at least 10 years. It has been a safe haven for girls vulnerable to the sex trade, shielding them from harm and preparing them for a better future. It is currently home to 27 girls.

At seven years old, Suzie moved into the shelter. Any dread she may have felt soon faded as she was welcomed by the bright, pleasant, polite, and gentle girls who would become like her family. She was given a tour of the clean, cheerful building, and shown the beautiful garden and the banana tree field.

Suzie shared a room with three other girls. Two of them were much older than her and they mothered and mentored Suzie and her other young roommate. Suzie’s days were filled with school, chores, and play. Her weekends were spent at church on Sabbath and gardening on Sunday. But above all, Suzie loved her music. If she wasn’t playing the guitar, she was practicing the piano. She dreams of one day becoming a singer.

Four and a half years later, 11-year old Suzie is safe, content, and looking forward to a more promising future. She has learned much about the love of God through the words and deeds of those at the shelter and at the nearby Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Your support of the program through ADRA Canada’s Really Useful Gift Catalogue has rescued girls like Suzie from dark paths and set them on the path to a safe, healthy, and fulfilling life. Thank you so much for helping ADRA to keep girls safe!

*Not her real name.