Poverty is a serious issue in these villages, and they live very primitively (compared to the rest of Thailand). Situations here can get so desperate that parents will sell their own children for a bike, rice, or money for medicine. These kids are often sold into sex slavery, forced labor, or drug trafficking.
Banya and Rapee have been working in these villages for over 20 years, and they have good relationships with the people there. They know the issues they face and they know which kids are at risk. That's the main reason why they've been dreaming of building a Children's Home - so they have a way to rescue these kids and give them an opportunity for a better life.
Of course, we fell in love with these little cuties! They ran and hid from us at first - I think half out of fear, and half out of curiosity about the "farangs" (foreigners) they were seeing. At first it was hard to get a picture... they were a laughing blur in half the images I shot! haha!
It didn't take long for me to join the game - "hiding" behind Rusty's tripod and peeking out at them. They quickly understood that I was "in" on their idea and giggled with glee!
Getting ready to run!
"Hiding" on the ground, haha!
"Hiding" behind her arm!
After a while we were able to get a little closer, and the boys actually enjoyed "posing" for Rusty's camera...
...and looking at their pictures on mine!
They were total hams - showing us their muscles, doing ninja kicks and giving us the peace sign....
He was cute as could be, but both his front teeth were completely rotten. Poor thing!
And this little girl completely stole both our hearts. Isn't she beautiful?
At the end of our visit, they were brave enough to want to "help us" with our tripod....
And when we started walking back to the truck Rusty had a little shadow....
Then I turned around to see some little "shadows" following closely on my heels too!
Though our visit was short, the time was precious. It is easy to get discouraged in this line of work... to wonder if the sacrifice is worth it, or if we'll ever really make a difference in the world. But looking into the eyes of the children always renews my resolve to keep going. It reminds me that they are more than just a statistic. It reminds me that they are worth fighting for.
You can GIVE HOPE to at risk kids in Thailand, India, and Swaziland HERE.