Fah grew up in rural Laos on her parent’s farm. She remembers being happy and not having to worry about anything. She went to the village school until grade 10, when she dropped out and began to look for work.
“I was 16 when my relatives invited me to work in Thailand. They told me I would be serving drinks.”
She decided to join another young girl in her village and take the opportunity to go to Thailand and make money. She didn’t have a passport, but she got a border pass that allowed her to travel into Thailand. Once there, she was taken to her place of work and found out it was a karaoke bar. Her “work” wasn’t only selling drinks; she was also expected to have sex with paying customers. The house that was provided for her and the other girls was filthy. When our social worker saw it, she was shocked at its condition — a very dirty and neglected old house that she thought looked uninhabitable.
Nevertheless, Fah lived there and starting going out with customers. Each morning, she would wake up at 6 am. She would spend her day doing laundry and watching TV. In the afternoon, she would get ready for work, putting on makeup and doing her hair. Around 7 pm, she would go to the bar and sit around, waiting for customers. Once they came in, she would try to get the men to buy drinks and snacks. They would sing karaoke Thai songs and she would pretend to have a good time. After some hanging out at the bar, customers would pay her bar fine so that they could leave the bar with her. Usually, they went to a hotel room for sex. Some of the men were nice to her, and some were bad. Even though she wanted to, she didn’t know how to go home. She was brought by her own relatives; she couldn’t find a trusted person to bring her back to Laos, which was already an illegal journey since she had overstayed her border pass.
She didn’t even know it, but a LIFT investigator had identified her as a trafficking victim. One night, police and LIFT’s team joined forces to remove her from exploitation. In the immediate aftermath, she was very scared. LIFT’s social worker Chu was there and explained to her that she wasn’t arrested, even though she thought she was. Chu stayed with her and helped her that night. Fah thought she would only be held at the government shelter a few days, but in order to testify in court against her offender, she had to stay for months. When she was there, LIFT’s social workers visited her and brought her a Love Pack of toiletries and supplies. When she finally testified in court, she was excited because she thought after that she would be home and the process would be finished. But she had to stay in shelter and wait for verdict. Eventually, she was sent home to Laos.
In total, she worked at the karaoke bar for three months. She brought the money she made home to her parents. For awhile, when she was detained by police and then in the government shelter, her parents didn’t know where she was, and they cried every day. She doesn’t know if they know about the sex; they believed she was working at a restaurant in Thailand.
Fah is currently 18 years old and has returned to live with her parents in their village. She helps take care of the house and cook for the family while they are farming. They get home late from hard work, and they depend on her to take care of her younger sister. She has a Thai boyfriend she met on Facebook. Her life has returned to normal for a teenage girl. She’s happy. She is maturing, learning more about herself and how to fight for herself.
“I told him about the work I used to do after awhile. I didn’t want to lie or hide anything. If he cannot accept me, then I don’t want to be with him.”
She hopes to get married one day and have a family. She also wants to learn more skills. She took several months of a beauty salon vocational training course provided by the Laos government. During that time, the LIFT Survivor Fund helped her have money for rent and food. She has developed a close relationship with LIFT’s aftercare team and seeks out their advice and support as she navigates her future.
Fah shared her story with us in hopes that it would help other girls like her. Thanks to One Day’s Wages, until December 31, your gifts are doubled up to $15,000, meaning we raise a total of US $30,000 to support more survivors.