A Christian charity has partnered with other organizations in Thailand to host "Night of Freedom" parties to offer women entrapped in the country's sex industry the opportunity to escape leave prostitution behind and find their true value in Christ.
The Virginia-based humanitarian organization World Help and its local partners have hosted three separate Christmas parties in Bangkok and Pattaya in the last two weeks in an attempt to convince women in the sex industry to escape the "cultural slavery."
This month, a total of 244 women and girls attended the parties and were given the opportunity to leave the sex industry and create a real future for themselves through education.
Noel Yeatts, vice president of World Help, told The Christian Post on Monday that the girls are forced to work in the industry because of poverty, noting that in Thailand, it is the daughter's responsibility to provide for the family.
Some of the girls from rural areas come to the big city looking for work to send money back to their families, but they often end up in bars due to their lack of education and skills, Yeatts explained.
"They may start off innocently as a cashier and before they know it, they are sort of trapped in this industry because they are making money and are able to send it back home but they are doing something that they never thought they would do. It's not that they can't leave the bar, but that they have no other option," he said.
Prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, but it has been tolerated by authorities. According to Huffington Post, at least 80 percent of the country's sex workers are single mothers, and all of them are supporting some combination of parents, grandparents and sometimes siblings with their sex work.
Over $26,000 have been raised by World Help donors to fund the "Night of Freedom" parties this year. Yeatts said that one of the difficulties in organizing the events was raising the money to cover the girls' "bar fines," a penalty that the women must pay to keep their jobs should they decide to skip a night shift.
"[Local partners] are going in and paying the bar fine and taking the girls for the night. They are able to rent a nice big banquet room at a facility or hotel. The girls come in and they feed them a wonderful meal. They have gifts for them. They have a Thai evangelist who comes in and presents the Gospel message," Yeatts narrated.
He said that the girls are also given their own Bibles, but during the party in Pattaya, the organization ran out because so many girls lined up to receive the Scriptures.
Those who attend the parties are offered an opportunity to leave the industry and live in a local safe house, and school-age girls are also given the option to attend a school near the safehouse.
During Yeatts' trip to the safe house, he was able to hear the stories and aspirations of some of the girls who decided to leave the industry.
"One wants to be an engineer, another wants to go to cooking school. For the first time in their lives, they have a choice in what they want to do and they have a hope that those dreams are going to come true," Yeatts recalled.
Yeatts said that he cannot give the exact number of girls who decide to turn away from prostitution after attending the party because it could take a year or longer before they are able to leave.
He noted that while some of the girls would choose to leave the industry quickly, some would take a year to decide.