Six years ago, Not For Sale Co-Founder and CEO, David Batstone, met Kru Nam in Thailand, an abolitionist working on meager resources, who still managed to show incredible dedication in the fight against modern-day slavery. Despite her personal struggles, she continued to work, undeterred by the setbacks, to provide a future for hundreds of stateless children in the Golden Triangle region of Thailand. So inspired by her story, she soon became the catalyst behind the creation of Not For Sale. This is her story.
Living in Chang-Mai, Thailand, Kru Nam was a practicing jewelry designer and artist. Walking along the river in the region everyday, she soon noticed that children were sat and populated the riverbanks. Interested to find out more about this fairly sporadic population, these fairly directionless children, and armed with only her vocation, she would take canvases to the river. There, Kru Nam sat and simply painted with the children. What she discovered from the paintings were images that would shape her life, and unbeknown to her, the lives of thousands of others. What the children were painting were horrific images, images that no child should ever be exposed to. She learnt these children were stateless. She learnt that they were being trafficked into the illicit sex and labor industry. And she learnt that they were coming from the border shared with Burma.
Kru Nam was moved to found the Volunteers for Children Development Foundation (VCDF) and soon opened a branch by the border. Stateless children along the border often fall victim to the difficult situation faced by their parents. Due to their lack of governmental identification and thus government services, many of the parents still, to this day, are exploited by traffickers. Their children often face the same fate, and are forced to beg in this geographical and governmental no-man’s land.
Using the little resources she had, Kru Nam managed to finally raise enough money to build shelters and facilities for the children who so desperately needed them. However, after paying a contractor all that she had earned, he only built half the houses, before disappearing, taking with him the money, and leaving Kru Nam in the precarious situation of having to house these vulnerable children with minimal capacity. Showing the kind of dedication that has inspired so many, she built temporary shelters from bamboo. However, soon after they burnt, and soon before she met David Batstone, she was left with nothing, the children were left with nothing.
After hearing her story, David gathered his resources, and reached out to those who were willing to help her. He and his relatively small staff worked endlessly to provide Kru Nam and the children with housing, medical supplies, education and anything that could help in the rehabilitation process. What once started as a make-shift shelter for exploited children has since become four dormitories, a clinic, basketball court and organic farm. It is here that children have the opportunity to gain an education, receive healthcare, learn valuable life and job skills, and perhaps most importantly, receive official identification, restoring their dignity and sense of worth. Over 500 stateless individuals have been assisted since 2007.
Through Kru Nam, Not For Sale was able to take inspiration and create ventures across the globe and through Not For Sale, Kru Nam has been able to expand her own efforts. It is the sort of mutually beneficial relationship that has the ability to impact the lives of so many exploited individuals.
Kru Nam will tell her story in person at Fromm Hall at the University of San Francisco on November 30th. The event is free and begins at 5:30pm. Two days later, she will be speaking at the Global Forum in Sunnyvale, CA. Through these events, Not For Sale is able to bring Kru Nam’s story to the world. But in truth, these events are really our opportunity, and the opportunity for the hundreds of people she has moved, to say thank you.