More than eight thousand miles and an entire way of life separate midcoast Maine from Thailand. But an enterprising group of local volunteers are helping non-profit organization Friends of Thai Daughters (FTD) to bridge the cultural divide and take on one of the country’s most pressing problems – child trafficking.
Now, fresh from a fact-finding tour of the organization’s facilities in Northern Thailand, these volunteers are gearing up for a summer of fundraising in order to make sure that the vulnerable children taken on by the program – all with histories of abandonment, abuse, illiteracy and extreme poverty – continue to get the care they deserve.
The two Sunflower Houses run by FTD are located in Chiang Rai and Chiang Khong, near the Laos border. There the thirty children are brought up in a loving and supportive family environment, led by indigenous house mothers.
‘The Chiang Khong house is a recent expansion of the program, made possible by the generous support of midcoast residents, visitors and businesses,’ said FTD co-founder and Barters Island resident, Patty Zinkowski. ‘Their donations and support for our Summer Celebrations over the past several years have been a key part of FTD’s anti-trafficking work.”
Amongst others on the trip were FTD co-founder and Boothbay resident Jane McBride, FTD Global Program Director Julie Lamy of Nobleboro and staunch supporters Rotarian Marty Helman and long-time advocate, Dr. Charles Koch, both of Boothbay Harbor.
Helman was impressed by the way the girls had overcome the terrible disadvantages of their early lives. “In all my years of involvement with international development, I have never met young people who are so conscious of how they are being supported, or so eager to “pay it forward” and magnify the value of what FTD can accomplish,” Helman said.
Koch made the trip to Thailand with his family. “Our visits to the Sunflower Houses were the highlight of the trip,” he said. “They were in stark contrast to the hill tribe villages with their extreme poverty, primitive living conditions and the social decay of drugs and the slave trade. The girls at FTD, who mostly grew up in the villages, were joyous, outgoing, engaging, self-confident and secure. The triumph of the FTD program is that it enables these young girls to achieve their full potential.”
On Friday, August 4 a Sunflower Celebration will be held at Darrows Barn in Damariscotta to raise funds for FTD’s growing program. Mexicali Blues, Gallagher, Villeneuve & DeGeer and The First have stepped up as sponsors. Morning Dew Farm, Oxbow Brewery, Mook Sea Farm, Best Thai and Camden’s Long Grain are all donating food and drink. Country Coach Charters will provide courtesy transportation for Boothbay area guests. Attendees will also have a 1 in 300 chance to win $3,000 in a reverse raffle. Event tickets and additional raffle tickets are available on FTD’s website. For more information about the event, sponsorships, or FTD, visit www.friendsofthaidaughters.org or email Julie@friendsofthaidaughters.org.