I wrote and recorded a short summary of my first week and a half in Thailand, intending to make an update video to show everyone what I’ve been doing. Unfortunately I had a lot of other shooting projects going on, and now that I’ve been here three weeks, it seems silly to spend time working on a “first week” video. But I wanted to post the text of it here for all those interested, since I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people asking what I’m doing. So the video’s script is pasted below.
I’ve been in Thailand for just over a week now, and I feel like I’ve already experienced so much. After a brief layover in Hong Kong, I flew in to Phuket, a tiny island in Southern Thailand that’s a popular tourist spot. It was supposed to be a relaxing few days to acclimate to Thailand and hang out at the beach, but it rained the whole time, and the beach was covered in trash. Although the vacation part was something of a let down, it did give me a chance to get over jet lag and relax in good company. Oh, and I ate a fish eye.
A few days later we flew to Chiang Mai, a city in Northern Thailand that I quickly fell in love with. It’s very westernized, but still feels uniquely Thai. At the sprawling night market you can get a get a great meal for under a dollar, and the city’s rustic urban feel allowed me to get a few shots I’m really happy with.
In Chiang Mai I also met Tawee, The SOLD Project’s program director. He’s a brilliant man with an incredible story. Tawee grew up poor but always dreamt of becoming a scientist. He now studies microbiology at Chiang Mai University, researching HIV. He’s a perfect role model for SOLD’s students, and I’m so thankful he’s working with the organization.
Although I love Chiang Mai, it is no exception to Thailand’s reputation for sex tourism. The first night I walked through the red light district, I was somewhat in shock. When you know everything that’s involved with prostitution here and finally see first hand these girls’ bodies being sold to tourists, it’s heartbreaking. I didn’t manage to get much usable footage, and for the rest of that night I was shook up by what I had seen.
The next night we went back, and I kept reminding myself of my reason for being there. More confident, this time I was finally able to capture the tragedy on film; exactly what I had come to this country to do. I’m so thankful that I had this second chance, as the footage is essential to the final film.
The next day we took the bus to Chiang Rai, where The SOLD Project is based in Thailand, and where I’ll be staying for most of the trip. Their resource facility here serves as both staff office and classroom for their child prevention program. Here, they host daily after-school activities and tutoring for students who are at risk of becoming victims of prostitution.
The kids are just like kids anywhere; they love games, crafts, cartoons, ice cream, and joking around with their friends. But many of them are neglected by their parents, and have little hope for the future. Children this age are often taken out of school to work, and some are stolen from or sold by their families into the sex trade, where they are trafficked or put on the streets against their will. It’s this tragic reality that broke my heart in Chiang Mai.
But after seeing the confidence of these students, and their eagerness to work hard in school, it’s obvious that SOLD is having a huge impact on these kids who before had little hope. It’s made me so thankful that I have the opportunity to come here and do my small part to further SOLD’s efforts.
Next week, we’ll be taking the 12-hour bus ride to Bangkok, where sex tourism is heavily prevalent. And although I’m nervous about what I’ll witness there, I realize more than ever just how important it is to tell this story. I feel a true sense of purpose in my work, capturing this story so it can be told to those with the means to help.
I’d like to thank everyone who donated to The SOLD Project in my name. Without your help, this trip wouldn’t have been possible, and I’m so appreciative that you’ve allowed me to come here and do my small part in fighting this tragedy. Kop khun maak khrap!