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Saving teens from the brothels of Bangkok

Apichit Jinakul | BANGKOK POST | AFP

Breakthrough Thailand offers hope when the sex trade seems like the only option.

The problem of sexual exploitation in Thailand is an age-old story, and one that keeps repeating itself: young girls and boys leave the poverty of rural Thailand for the “easy” money of the red light districts, and cycle continues, passed on from one generation to the next.

While working in the bars, young women often become pregnant, leave their children to virtually raise themselves in the villages, and then those children grow up to head off to the cities to work in the sex industry as well.

Cori Wittman and Benjamas Phaypromnuek, co-founders of Breakthrough Thailand, are working to stop that cycle by providing the support and opportunity young people need so they don’t succumb to pressure to leave their villages in order to make money in the bars.

By mentoring families, investing in education, and providing alternative economic opportunities, Breakthrough Thailand hopes to break the cycle and realize their full potential.

Many Thai youth don’t complete high school because of pressure to support their families, and a key part of Breakthrough Thailand’s mission is to help keep kids in school and show them an alternate pathway to a successful future.

The organization provides residential education and leadership training for at-risk teen girls, teacher training, supplemental educational activities, and a safe hangout for village youth. By working to boost economic development in the villages and provide support to keep families together, they give these young people a chance to succeed.

Seeing the youth she works with flourish is rewarding work, says Breakthrough Thailand co-founder Wittman.

“I grew up on a farm. I’ve always loved to watch things grow. I grew up on a farm so that was part of my upbringing,” says Wittman, “I started to realize how much I love to see people grow. It gets me up in the morning.”

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