It is the year 2563, and happy people in the streets of Thailand actually wanted to celebrate the turn of the year by splashing each other with water. Monks wanted to wash Buddha statues in religious ceremonies with consecrated water and make offerings. Families would visit their elderly relatives, pay their respects and receive their blessings through ceremonial hand washing and gifts in the traditional way. Countless women from the bars of Pattaya hoped for more sales than in the rest of the year due to the many additional tourists. But the COVID 19 crisis changed everything, even the Songkran festival to mark the start of the year 2563 B. E. Buddhist calendar.
“The Songkran New Year’s Festival is usually a high-turnover festival,” explains our founder Tobias Schüßler, “but this year everything is different. To protect the population, Songkran was postponed by the government to a time after the Corona crisis, all non-essential businesses were closed, a curfew was imposed and travel restrictions were introduced. No tourists and closed bars mean no turnover for the women working there, so many of them had to vacate their rooms in the bars and now live without shelter and without income. Many of these women are desperate. They are not even able to go home to their families in the villages because of the travel restrictions.
Together with the Thai organisation Tamar Center we have been helping women from the bars who want to start a new life away from prostitution for several years. “Alcohol, drugs, HIV, unwanted pregnancies, frightening sex practices, humiliation – often it is these things that lead women to look for a way out of the bars and turn to our partner organisation”, Tobias explains.
In addition to free accommodation and psychological support, the Tamar Center offers courses in which the participants learn to organise their everyday life themselves. In a creative workshop, the women make greeting cards and other things that are sold through an online shop. In addition to a regular salary, the women receive a number of additional benefits, such as free accommodation, rice, transport to and from work, day care and sponsorships for their children’s education. “For these courses, GMI provides donation-financed starter sets,” Tobias continues. “In addition to the materials needed, these ‘sets’ also include extensive training and the women learn about various professions. We also help finance these training courses for hairdressers, cooks and seamstresses.
Unfortunately, the Tamar Center had to close and can only help sporadically. “But already now the staff is preparing to be there for Pattaya’s women even more intensively after the end of curfew. We are also in regular contact with the Tamar Center to discuss strategies and possibilities for the time after curfew. We are happy that we will be able to support the Tamar Center even more thanks to our donors.
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