From our inception, The Esther Project was created to address the issue that up to 75% of the orphaned in Myanmar when they age out of their orphanages end up doing menial labor, end up as criminals or worst yet fall prey to human trafficking. This past Thursday we were reminded that for the orphaned in Myanmar, a simple bike ride to one of the Esther Project training centers can put you in danger of the latter.
While on their way to the Esther Project two of the teenage girls from one of the orphanages were followed and an attempt was made to take them. By grace, when the attempt was made, it was within a couple hundred feet of the training center, hearing the struggle our staff was able to respond in time to prevent the disappearance of the two girls. Had the attempt been made anywhere else along the girl’s bike ride to the training center, the outcome would have been much different.
A United Nations report has called attention to the sever human trafficking issue in Myanmar, adding that orphaned girls are most at risk. Much of the trafficking of women and girls are for commercial sex work (both in and outside the country, specifically Thailand) or to China for forced marriages (a legacy of the one-child policy).
The Esther Project staff in response to the attempt to take two of our students notified each of the orphanages that partner with us that the students should come to the training centers either in groups or with older male companions. In addition, The Esther Project has brought in outside subject matter experts to teach sessions on personal safety at each of our locations, as well as to conduct training sessions with the caregivers of the orphanages that partner with us.
While our purpose is to teach English and computer skills, we must not only teach our students the vocational skills to prosper, but to provide them the life skills they will need to possess to survive in a country that is going through enormous growing pains as it moves from a military dictatorship to a democracy and in a city that is expected to double in size from 5 million to 10 million residents in the next 20 years.
We work in a messy world, fighting the long-term battle to provide hope to those without hope, community to those who have been abandoned, skills to those who need it most. While it is easy to see all the darkness in this world, to retreat and close our eyes, to believe you can do nothing about it…we engage anyway, and because of those of you who support The Esther Project, we know that this week, two young girl’s lives were protected and changed for the better. This time the good guys won.