Yesterday, I was underemployed, teaching English for Thai language centers that were awful at best. Before that, I was teaching KG.1 and that was really fun until the novelty wore off. Turns out working for conservative Turkish business men doesn’t bode well with my western feminism. But I’ve been stubborn, lingering around in Southeast Asia waiting for the right door to open. Waiting to get back into paid NGO work which I haven’t had since I left Mae Sai last May. The right door. Where is it? Cambodia? Thailand? Indonesia? Burma? I’ve been knocking on them all. But the doors haven’t opened for months and months. So I was thinking it might be time to pack it in. I’ve given it a good run, but I know what I came here to do and doing anything less than that is, well, not doing what I came here to do.
And then something amazing happened. I met with a small NGO I’ve known about for over a year. We talked. We exchanged ideas and experiences. It was very personable and informal. We met again and I toured the shelter, office and site. Within hours I was hired as Project Manager for the NGO, which runs a shelter for girls who’ve been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked. The girls are ages 5 and up, all of them from the ethnic minority hill tribes of northern Thailand. The founder started out as a documentary photographer exposing the issue of human trafficking through his images, but telling the story wasn’t enough. Action was necessary and so he built a shelter. That is where he differs from most documentary photographers and earns my admiration. Instead of exploiting peoples’ hardship for his own prestige, he decided to do something most documentary photographers don’t. He put down his lens.
This couldn’t be more perfect and it couldn’t come at a better time. Human rights and photography. My two loves together under one roof. There couldn’t be a bigger smile on my face right now. Tenacity and perseverance. Gratitude and faith. Following your dreams at all costs. Never giving up even when you’re on your knees. And trusting that it will all fall into place somehow even when that seems like the most unlikely reality. And so I’m back in the saddle! Doing what I came here to do. Oh Thailand. Kop khun mak jow!