This was my fourth trip to Thailand to serve alongside of ZOE. Every time I go I make sure I have the mindset of no expectations. I always want to make sure of that, because I want to see what God has in store for myself and the team. Each trip has been different in many ways with the teams all having their own flow and unique characteristics. There is an awesome dynamic when people come together as a team to complete tasks, do service projects and outreaches. I love how God uses each of our strengths to work together!
On July 21, 2016 over 500 individuals representing 71 Thai government agencies gathered at Chiang Mai’s Lotus Hotel. Those present included the Vice Governor of Chiang Mai Province, the Chief of the Department of Social Welfare and a host of Thai and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss best practices to combat human trafficking in Thailand. The meeting stressed and the need for cooperation - working together collaboratively to eradicate trafficking, not only among government and NGOs, but also to encourage, educate, and empower citizens to join the fight.
The high point of the meeting was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the assembled parties to support common goals and strategies in the fight against trafficking. The MOU highlighted eight action points with a goal of restoring trust in Thailand in the area of human trafficking while asking the directors of the province’s 25 districts to take responsibility for the effort.
The eight points are:
Help and protect victims of all forms of human trafficking
Arrest and prosecute criminals to the fullest extent of the law
Train and provide enough resources to all personnel
All signatories should do all they can do to prevent children and adults from becoming trafficking victims
Chiang Mai province will gladly reduce or eliminate human trafficking
Instill and educate people of Chiang Mai in sufficient economy
Promote private organisations to participate and receive information relating to the fight against trafficking
Determine to create human trafficking watch and use all measures to ensure greatest punishment for criminals
ZOE took an active role the proceedings. In addition to being a signatory to the MOU, ZOE team members participated in the discussions on topics ranging from the U.S. 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report, trafficking in the Thai fishing industry, the Blue Heart Campaign, the use of modern technology by both traffickers and anti-trafficking forces.
ZOE was honored at the event by being presented with one of three special awards recognising excellence in combating human trafficking.
Can you believe that our ZOE Rescue Walk is in just 75 days? I love this event for many reasons but the greatest reason is that on this day, we get to meet and see all of you who have supported our organization face to face! Some of you have supported us from the very beginning and some of you are brand new. Regardless of when you joined the fight to combat child trafficking, you are all passionate, doing your unique part to make a difference. Some of you drive hours and some bring your entire family just to be a part of our Walk. Some of you have even been Team Captains and formed a group every single year! What a humbling experience to join hands together with all of you; our supporters and our friends, to fight injustice!
The stories that were shared about human trafficking during my brief time at ZOE absolutely broke my heart. I was overwhelmed with righteous anger and felt compelled to do something about it.
Micah 6:8 says
Living in the western world, the majority of our society, are blissfully unaware of the horrors that take place everyday.
In organizing the trivia night I wanted to not only raise much needed funds for ZOE, I wanted to raise awareness.
You can't listen to the children's stories and remain the same person you were before.
The work ZOE does for these children is absolutely incredible. They rescue them out of slavery and darkness, into a place of love and freedom. I am reminded of the verse from Matthew 25:40 which states, "The King will reply 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
It was an absolute honour to organise an event like this. I would do it all again in a heart beat. I pray that the people who attended the evening will be touched and inspired to continue to raise awareness and to help make our world a place without slavery.
A place filled with love, compassion and freedom.
- Jessica Welsh -
Proceeds from the night run by GBAB were given to ZOE Foundation Australia and Baan Op Un
Thank you Jess Welsh and your incredible team and also to everyone who donated auction items, prizes and to all who came to the trivia night.
What began as a 40 minute session was extended well past an hour as the students in year 5 & 6 continued to seek answers to their questions.
Their hearts had been touched, the injustice they felt for kids their age was evident.
They needed to know why it was happening and they needed an answer…today!
This is often what is so hard for all of us to grapple with as we work to fight slavery. We sit and have the questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’ has this happened. Then, given the enormity of the task, we can feel it is too big to solve, so we shift our focus onto other ‘more solvable’ matters.
But what happened amongst this group of students is that the questions started to shift, as they wanted to know what they could do ‘right now’ to help.
As we ended the session, their teacher, Miss Lucas asked the children to write their personal reflections of what they had learned about.
Immediately a student approached me with a serious question. He asked if I would keep doing ‘this’ for a while. Though unsure of the reason for his question, I answered "Yes, my plan is to continue for some time." He then asked if it would be 'years', to which I also answered "yes, I plan to continue this for many years." Satisfied with the response he said, "Good, 'cause once I finish school, I’m gonna come and help you."
The reports from Miss Lucas continued into the next day and the weeks to come. Some kids raised awareness through telling friends and family while others did fundraising by buying or selling ZOE colouring books. She wrote:
"You have definitely inspired our students. The kids have been continuing to learn about the issue of human trafficking at school and have explored further the different perspectives of those involved in the trafficking and those trying to stop it, reflecting on the teachings of Jesus and Scripture and learning about human dignity." - Miss Lucas
...To be honest Miss Lucas, your students have inspired me!
After 14 years in the fight against child trafficking we have learned a few things about caring for children who have suffered at the hands of human traffickers. When we first began rescuing children in Thailand, our rescues were considered prevention rescues. In other words, we rescued children before they were trafficked. These children were highly at risk because of their circumstances: orphaned, extreme poverty, drug addicted parents, on the market to be sold and other heartbreaking situations. These precious children had multiple trauma issues to deal with and our staff did an incredible job pouring the love of God out and ushering these children in to a place of restoration in their lives.
A couple of years ago Emily and Alice Lawes visited ZOE as part of the Maranatha Mission Awareness Team, so this year, when Alice and her husband Wayne heard about the new pool at ZOE, they decided to send us some really cool things!!!
A huge thank you to Wayne, Alice and the team from Fastlane Aquatics and the suppliers who have given ZOE some kick boards, goggles, swim rings and arm bands!
As ZOE don't show the faces of any children in media these pics don't quite capture the fun ...
... but take our word for it, these kids are smiling from ear to ear!
For the past five years the dance ministry, Word in Motion out of Life150 Church in North Hollywood, has been hosting a dance show to spread awareness about human trafficking and raise financial support for ZOE International.