Together, Building Futures – Vuthy’s Story

What does our tagline ‘Together, Building Futures’ really mean?

For the young man in this story, it means many others working alongside him to help him shape a better tomorrow for himself… and his family.

This is Vuthy’s story.

It is not his real name, but everything else in this story is real. This story shows how the many different programs and projects powered by Friends-International work together, along with Governments and others, in this case to break the cycles of poverty that had driven a young man into a potentially dangerous situation, and to help him to build a better future for himself .

Thank you to James Farley, our Social Work Technical Advisor in Siem Reap, who tells us Vuthy’s story…

‘Varin District, 70km north of Siem Reap, is a rural area dependent on agriculture to provide employment and income to the majority of families living there. With only one rice harvest per year work is scarce, and the district suffers high levels of deprivation. Most adults and youth here migrate illegally to Thailand to seek work laboring in the agribusiness  and construction industries.

Working illegally in unregulated sectors of the Thai economy they are  exposed  to risks of exploitation, dangerous and abusive working conditions, lack of access to health care and arrest.

In 2010 15 year old Vuthy was rescued by Thai authorities whilst working on a construction site in Thailand and placed in Ban Phumvet Detention Center for Boys, Bangkok.

Ban Phumvet is a Royal Thai Government reception home that provides accommodation and protection to boys suspected of being human trafficking victims.

Friends International Thailand (Peuan Peuan) work in Ban Phumvet and two similar facilities for trafficked girls and families. The multi-lingual Friends team based in Bangkok run regular sessions in these shelters delivering lifeskills, Non Formal Education, counseling and sports and games to Cambodian, Burmese and Laotian children and youth whilst they are detained  prior to legal proceedings and repatriation.

Peuan Peuan project staff – Bangkok, Thailand

Through regular contact the Peuan Peaun staff are able to gain the children’s trust and collect information on the family backgrounds and circumstances that led to their being in Thailand.

“Case Management” refers to the system whereby every Friends International beneficiary has an allocated social worker with whom they meet regularly to agree and progress the actions needed to build a better future for the child.

Whilst detained in Ban Phumvet Vuthy regularly attended Peuan Peuan activity sessions and gave the social workers an approximate idea of where to find his sister in Varin District, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

Peuan Peuan staff offered to continue to support Vuthy after he had been repatriated –  and presented him with the vocational training options provided by Friends in Cambodia.

Moto repair, hair cut, sewing, cooking are all popular trainings – but following discussions with staff Vuthy selected the welding training  –  as it has good employment and income potential.

Peuan Peuan then contacted Kaliyan Mith (Friends International in Siem Reap, Cambodia) who arranged to trace Vuthy’s family.

Vuthy’s mother and step father are both alcoholic and Vuthy was raised by his elder sister. She had had no news of Vuthy since he had left for Thailand 6 months earlier and was relieved to be told by the Friends team that her brother was safe and well and in detention in Thailand. She was very supportive of the plan for Vuthy to attend vocational training with Kaliyan Mith in Siem Reap.

The repatriation of trafficked children is processed by the Cambodian Government via the Transit Center at Poipet on the Thai/Cambodian border. Friends International enjoy a good relationship with this agency, and liaised with them to facilitate Vuthy’s release from Ban Phumvet and placement in a Friends Transitional Home in Siem Reap.

Vuthy arrived in Siem Reap in January 2011 and within a week had begun his welding course as well extra Khmer, English and maths lessons. He proved a keen student, and after 6 months  had completed  his training and was placed with a local welding firm as an apprentice.

Vuthy at work

Vuthy has now been working for over 6 months and is a team leader within the welding shop. He continues to improve his skills and earns a reasonable salary (part of which he gives to his sister on his monthly visits to see her). Vuthy’s younger sister is also now beginning vocational training (sewing)  with Kaliyan Mith.

Today, Vuthy  has the skills, stability and support to build a decent life for himself in Cambodia. His story is just one example of how the Friends International  social workers in Thailand and Cambodia, as well as government partners in both countries, the FI vocational training teachers, staff at the Transitional Home, and Vuthy and his family have been able to work together towards building  a better future.

The Friends International network of holistic services and the skill and dedication of the staff have played a part in this successful outcome –  although ultimate credit lies with the spirit and determination of Vuthy –  who grabbed hold of the opportunities on offer and worked hard to make the most of them.’

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