Monday, April 5, 2010

Our Blog Has Moved

Hey all! Thanks for following our blog. However, we have recently changed over to using Wordpress. You can find our blog here...

Check it out!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Life in Thailand #2

One of our main goals in developing The SOLD Project: Prevention Program is to create a program that is completely Thai run and (at some point) self-sustaining. So, the first thing on our agenda was to hire Thai staff. Well, not only did we find someone to fill the role of Program Manager, but we found THE PERFECT person! Blah Chermui. Born and raised in Thailand, Blah is a mother of three and has been out of work for sometime to raise her family. She was looking for a job just like this when we approached her about the position... perfect timing! In one month, Blah has taken off full steam ahead. She has found 150 more children in need of scholarships in Chiang Rai, built relationships with 4 more schools in the area, and spent a lot of time in the villages with families of our scholarship kids to find out what their individual needs are. Check out the "Who We Are" section on our website for Blah's profile! Next month we will have the new profiles ready of children in need of scholarships and will be looking for many new sponsors. $365 dollars a year is all it takes to help keep one child in school. Let me know if you are interested!!

On another note... we recently purchased "The SOLD Mobile," an old pick-up truck that we will use for many different activities with the kids and with volunteers who come to Chiang Rai. When Nate and I leave the truck will continue to be used for SOLD work, so we are happy about the little investment. It's fun to drive and definitely feels like I'm back home in Crawfordsville, IN driving around in an old pick-up on country roads... although these roads are lined with rice fields (not corn fields :)

The last update on SOLD is that we are beginning to raise funds to build an office/drop-in center. Our Program Director, TaWee Donchai, purchased land in the village where he grew up and where a large portion of our scholarship students live. He has decided he wants to give this land to SOLD to build a building that we can use for the following puposes: 1) As a drop-in center for students to visit after school for help with homework, English camps, and to hang out with SOLD staff and volunteers 2) SOLD Project Offices and 3) Long Term Volunteer housing. Essentially, This building will further our efforts of relationship building and mentorship for our scholarship students and will allow our staff to easily host events for students in the afternoons/weekends. Long term volunteer housing would provide accommodations for long term volunteer staff in Thailand - allowing them to experience village life and Thai culture. The estimated cost is $10,000 and could be done by January if the funds are raised quickly.

My personal thoughts on all things SOLD...
I continue to be amazed and encouraged by the continuous growth that is occurring and that the vision continues to be "caught" by so many different people in so many different places with such different backgrounds. I feel so grateful to be in Thailand with the opportunity to see the fruits of our labor.

Our staff continues to dream and to not let the size of our dreams get in the way! We have so much to accomplish and at times I feel the only thing getting in the way is finances. We are approaching the next stage and are in need of major funding in order to accomplish what needs to be accomplished here. If any of you have relationships to foundations or other sources of funding... we could definitely use your help!

Life in Thailand

Soon after Nate proposed to me, we decided that we wanted to move to Thailand. For many reasons really, but first and foremost to further the work of The SOLD Project and begin developing "The SOLD Project Prevention Program" in the high risk areas of Northern Thailand. With our documentary film project now complete, The SOLD Project's main focus is now on preventing child prostitution in Thailand (specifically), but also around our world. The SOLD Project Scholarship Fund was founded in June of 2008 because we found that alleviating the financial burden education causes was the first step to preventing young children from being lured into the sex industry in Thailand. Since that time, Rachel Goble-Carey and myself began to dream about creating a holistic prevention program that would become more than just "throwing money at a problem", but a program that would address many struggles that adolescents face in Thailand.

In short... Nate and I are here to develop this Prevention Program, hire Thai staff, build relationships with the communities that SOLD has a presence in, and immerse ourselves in the culture while doing so.

Before family, friends, and God we professed our love... said our good-byes... sold our possessions... and headed to Thailand. After a glorious honeymoon in the island of Koh Tao, we spent the next 1 1/2 months leading a group of volunteers through Thailand to experience both the heartbreak and hope that exists throughout the issue of child prostitution. We had a total of 12 volunteers on 2 separate trips. I don't want to put words in the mouths of these amazing volunteers, but I would guarantee most of them would sum up the experience in 2 words: life changing

The volunteer trips ended in Cat's village.... the location that Nate and I will be calling home for the next 9 months. We found a beautiful home to rent after learning that there are no such things as "apartments" in Chiang Rai. The house came fully furnished, including dishware, bedding, and Tokay Lizards (I won't get into how SCARY!!!! these creatures are.) To help combat the lizard issues we decided to get a dog. However, our new little French Bulldog, Ooshki Graeser, is currently smaller than most of these lizards that roam around. Mommy is hoping that soon he will be able to at least bark to warn me that they are near :) Don't get me wrong, our home does have redeeming qualities, such as a beautiful yard and plenty of room for guests (**wink wink**).

So, what does The SOLD Project Prevention Program look like? And, what will Nate and I be doing over this next year?

The Prevention Program is 4-fold 1) Scholarships... we currently have 54 children receiving financial help to stay in school. 2) Mentorship... each child receiving our scholarship must be in a mentoring relationship with a community leaders (these leaders are currently being chosen). 3) After School Program... each child must participate in the after school program which includes sports, art, and tutoring. 4) Human Trafficking Awareness Program... we are putting together curriculum that will be taught in the school to teach adolescents about the risks of trafficking in their area and also about the sex industry in Thailand.

Nate and I start full-time at Bassan Wittaya Primary School (the school Cat attends) in late October. We will be teaching English, as well as running the After School Program and developing the Trafficking Awareness Program curriculum, alongside our new Thai staff. Our time here will also consist of expanding this program to reach other high-risk areas in Thailand, as well as developing a long-term volunteer program that will enable people to come and work with SOLD for months at a time.

In the meantime, we are taking Thai language class, which I admit is a lot harder than I had imagined. I believe this has a lot to do with the fact that I haven't been in school for 3 years and don't like the whole studying thing :) We are also using this time to get acquainted with places, smells, driving, and married life.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

American paedophile arrested in Chiang Mai

American paedophile arrested in Chiang Mai

2009 July 9

CMM reporters
At 4 p.m on July 1 at Chiang’s Provincial Police Region 5 headquarters, Pol.Lt.Col. Apichart Haptasin announced that US citizen, Robert Ward Cutler, 37, had been arrested on charges of paedophilia involving at least 5 young boys under the age of 15 years, the most recent victim being 13 years old.
n3-paedophile Robert Ward Cutler, an American citizen who had been working as a guest lecturer and researcher in Chiang Mai, shown being questioned by police after his arrest for sexual abuse of underage boys.

At the time of his arrest, the accused was working as a guest lecturer and researcher at a university in Chiang Mai. Previously, Cutler, a Fulbright scholar, had taught at Bard College in New York. A search of the his rented house in Muang district resulted in the seizure of a laptop computer, boxes of pornographic CDs and sex toys for use during anal intercourse.

Police were initially alerted to Cutler’s identity, place of work and crimes by the Australian police in Thailand, and subsequently contacted the Foundation of Child Development. Cooperation then took place between Region 5’s Office of Protection against Transnational Crime and other relevant organisations, including Rights of the Child in America and Australia, which resulted in Cutler’s interrogation and subsequent arrest.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Settling into our new home...

Just like our last blog stated "Rachel and Nathan Graeser are heading to Thailand for 9 months." Well, here we are! We spent a restful romantic week on a southern tropical island of Thailand... Koh Tao. Now we are settled into Chiang Mai for one month as we lead a trip of 11 volunteers from the US. (more on that later :)

At our wedding I was asked, "Do you think you'll be able to relax on your honeymoon in Thailand knowing what you know about that country?" I responded quickly with, "Well, the US has child prostitution and trafficking and I relax here just fine. Plus I have fallen in love with Thailand, so I'm sure we'll relax just fine."

I've come back to that question a few times since returning to Thailand. This is my fourth time here, and every time I return I find a hundred new reasons to love this country. Sure, there are a lot of things about Thailand that I would like to see change... the education system, racism against Burmese and Hilltribe people, ripping off foreigners because we (supposedly) have lots of $, an abundance of street children, sex tourism feeding the economy, and extreme poverty. However, it doesn't take long to notice that there is so much this country has to offer besides red light districts and injustice.

This trip to Thailand is different in so many ways... this time I have returned as a newlywed with my husband (who has never been here before!), this time I have a visa that allows me to stay for one year, this time I am here to work with and serve the people that SOLD has built relationships with over the past 2 years.

I am sure that it will be an adventure that allows me to fall in love with Thailand and the people of Thailand even more. I am also sure our time here will be purposeful, change will begin to occur in Cat's village (Village of Pazaang), and we will continue to see why prevention work is beneficial and so needed.

My husband, Nate, and I will be blogging as much as possible. So, please stay up to date via this blog and twitter (@thesoldproject).