Testimony of Sr. Grazia Patthayaporn Sangkarat from Thailand
I am Sr. Grazia Patthayaporn Sangkarat, a sister from the Sisters Ministers to the Sick (S de M). As a religious, I am part of the inter-congregational network of Talitha Kum Thailand. I also currently work with Caritas in refugee camps and the mountains. Our identity as religious and members of Talitha Kum is to raise awareness among the most vulnerable and give them the capacity to sustain themselves economically either by growing or building something. Additionally, we provide them with education so that they can protect themselves and their families. It is a heartwarming experience to be in contact with many religious sisters to promote Talitha Kum efforts to prevent and end human trafficking.
What does it mean to you to work against human trafficking in Thailand? What are your biggest challenges?
Working against human trafficking in Thailand is a really important challenge because we have borders with Myanmar. Thailand also welcomes people from Vietnam that come through Laos. For example, in the mountains, many people are running and escaping from Myanmar because of the violence and war that have been going on for many years. In addition, our previous government promoted prostitution for women, men, boys, and girls, and people thought it was a way to get easy money. I feel that as social workers, we cannot live in a passive way in front of this reality. We try to do our best so that we can help people improve their quality of life through education for everyone, reaching out to not just Thai or Christians but to every person who needs support.
I believe that the biggest challenge is being able to raise awareness among the youth, who sometimes are not able to distinguish between what is right and wrong. I am very concerned when I see them in the refugee camps, where they live in poverty and have a lot of free time. They tend to follow everything they see on the internet, mass media, and video games, which can be very violent. Young people can also get caught up in drug dealing and consumption; once they entered the drug trade, it is very hard for them to get out and find other jobs. We struggle to inspire them to make themselves useful to society. For me, this is tragic. That is why I pray and try to help these victims.
Please share some of the most beautiful and painful experiences during your work and accompaniment of victims and survivors of trafficking (women, men, teenagers, children), and/or vulnerable people at risk of being trafficked.
The most beautiful experience is when I help women, men, teenagers, and children, who used to be victims of human trafficking, overcome these bad situations. It makes me feel blessed to help and walk by their side as they immerse themselves in society. That brings me so much happiness; it is truly beautiful to see someone overcome such hardships.
My heart aches when I see new cases and complicated situations of people who experienced human trafficking. Sometimes, it is not easy for them to overcome such traumatic experiences, and some of them may take a long time to heal. I feel like a mother. A mother whose child is suffering. As a mother, it rips my heart to see my child ill, not able to continue with his life because of the trauma he faced. As a mother, I would do anything I can to help my child. I keep in my heart my prayers and although it is difficult to overcome this struggle, I trust in God and try to heal and help where needed. I believe that my painful experiences are not passive but active. In fact, I only wish for the healing of the victims and survivors. It is not about my success but for the glory of God, who helps us overcome these painful experiences. I trust in God and I know he tells me to grow in hope, confidence, and love in Jesus Christ.
What things have you learned that you carry in your heart in this anti-human trafficking work? What are your most powerful takeaways? What does being a part of Talitha Kum mean to you?
I feel very strongly in my heart that being part of Talitha Kum helps us to better overcome human trafficking. I hope and pray for youth ambassadors from many countries such as Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam to join our efforts and networks; they give me hope. I also believe that we should be active in sharing our understanding of human trafficking and helping victims find strength in Talitha Kum. Within this interfaith collaboration, we need to put into practice Talitha Kum's Call to Action. This will help us learn from other countries as well as strengthen information, communication, prevention, networking, and advocacy. If we are able to do all this, we will be increasing young people's commitment and interest in Talitha Kum's mission and vision in anti-human trafficking.
Talitha Kum Thailand collaborates with the government thanks to the Thai law against human trafficking. Nevertheless, we do not stop there. As brides of Christ, we are part of religious congregations that bring care and hope to restore human dignity. We aim to achieve this by promoting access to justice and helping people in their journey. I feel empowered when working alongside and meeting with many different religious congregations. I believe that the hands of Jesus Christ guide everything and Jesus loves us, me and you. He helps us to become love, to help the victims of human trafficking to be lifted up and have a life of dignity.