It’s a beautiful morning here in Chiang Mai. The rains have been heavy but have tapered off in the past few days; the sky is a mottled grey, and birdsong abounds. The last part of my commute into the office includes driving down a dirt path, and this morning I had to stop to make way for some chickens and cows. The latter happens often, and it always makes me laugh!
The New Life Center Foundation works with victims of all forms of forced labor and human trafficking. Because we’re focused on caring for emergency cases and staying in touch with what’s going on in the region regarding these issues, things can feel quite discouraging at times. Yet in the midst of tragedy there are also joys - and wonderful progress is being made, slowly but surely.
This past summer, 4 of our precious residents (two of whom came to us through emergency circumstances) secured employment at the Wacoal garment factory. Temporary or part-time employment can be hard to find in Thailand, as most employers want full time workers. In this instance, this branch of Wacoal was willing to hire our residents just for the summertime. For ten weeks, our girls lived in clean facilities on the extended factory compound, worked from Monday through Saturday, and were paid well! Each girl worked on a different team that was responsible for cutting, sewing, or processing the fabric that results in Wacoal brand underwear.
The opportunity to work in a professional environment, implement skills they learned at the New Life Center, and earn money was tremendously important for these young women and for us, too! After hearing about so many factories that exploit their workers, getting to meet the staff of Wacoal - and getting to see the professional way that they run the company - was so encouraging. We hope that this positive experience will result in future summer job placements for more of our residents.
In other news, the NLCF staff and I are gearing up for meetings when we re-assess and review our NLCF goals and objectives. We track our program outcomes over a three year cycle. We are currently in the third and last year of our current cycle, so we’ll be meeting later this month in order to adjust our objectives for the upcoming period. Now many of you might think that this sounds really boring! But the truth is, it’s great stuff – especially for someone who loves organizational development as much as I do!
To prepare ourselves for these meetings, we hosted a “Changing Trends” workshop, attended by NLCF board members, former and current residents & staff, and tribal leaders. We invited four community experts and NGO partners (in the areas of social welfare, migration, trafficking, and human rights) to speak about changing trends in their particular area of expertise.
Duang Wongsa is the senior lawyer and project manager for TRAFCORD (www.trafcord.org) – an organization that works on trafficking prevention, investigations, and prosecutions. TRAFCORD has been quite successful in its efforts, and Ms. Wongsa’s name is often in the Bangkok Post and other news media related to trafficking cases. Her presentation at our workshop was outstanding, and she closed by commending the work of the NLCF and encouraging our continued partnership.
Working alongside Thai and tribal national organizations is an area in which the New Life Center Foundation really shines, and I can’t speak highly enough of these partnerships. It is a blessing and honor to be a part of these networks, and share burdens and joys with others working on the same social issues. So the “Changing Trends” workshop was a big success, and the right first step as we prepare to adjust our program objectives.
Will you pray with me and the NLCF staff about the next set of meetings, scheduled in just a few weeks? Please pray for staff unity; that we would have a clear sense of how God wants us to use all our resources; that every objective we adjust would be completely in line with God's ideal will for this ministry. Please pray for God's protection over us and His continued guidance and presence as we shape our goals for the upcoming 3 years. Thank you...!
Another blessing is that we are finalizing the details of a new micro-enterprise program. Special funds received to implement micro-enterprise will be allocated in the community by:
1. Partnering with a micro-finance provider. The NLCF will provide “business development services” alongside an NGO that provides the loans. Our role will be to create and implement a women’s literacy program, accounting, math, and bookkeeping training, marketing and handicrafts assistance, and discipleship and evangelism programs alongside the micro-finance components of the program.
2. Promoting the formation of church based, member funded & managed savings and credit associations with the “Micro Enterprise Development Foundation”.
These new initiatives are so exciting! The staff and I are thrilled to be able to continue to empower tribal women (and men) in these new, creative ways through the provision of micro-enterprise services.
Rev. Lauran Bethell, the NLCF’s first program director, was here for a visit this past week. She joined our meetings and worship services, visited with former residents and staff, and generally just spent time with us, catching up with all that’s gone on since her last visit. Lauran and I had the chance to reflect together on the incredible blessings that God has poured out on this, His ministry. We are both so grateful, honored and blessed to see what God is doing and to personally witness the transformation of so many precious new lives.
Through your support of the American Baptist World Mission Offering, each one of you contributes to this mission and shares in the joy of each new life touched by the Spirit of God. I can’t thank you enough for your generosity, and for your support of me and my colleagues.
Please let me know how I can pray for you.
With love, thanks, and deep appreciation,
PS: Pictures of the "Changing Trends" workshop will be posted shortly!