Fountain of Life Women's Center, Pattaya

Offering a safe empowering environment

 

See Global Sisters Report, a project of National Catholic Reporter.  

Article by Gail DeGeorge and Sr Joyce Meyer, April 2017

 

Click hereSisters empower women to escape sex tourism trade

 

The Background to the project

Pattaya is a tourism hub, with particular focus on the sex tourist industry.  Exploitation of marginalized women is common. 

In 1988 the Sisters of the Good Shepherd commenced work in Pattaya, making connections with the women and offering them support.  Today the Fountain of Life Women’s Center is well established and is known by women working in bars in Pattaya. 

Many of the women who access our project are at risk of or have been at risk of human trafficking, and/or abuse - physical, mental or emotional.  The aim of the Center is to provide a place where friendship, education, healthcare, counselling and support are provided in a safe and caring environment. The project offers courses in Thai, English, German, Hairdressing, Massage, Typing and Computer Skills. The project is also able to offer individual counselling and health education. The center works closely with the Public Prosecutors office which is able to offer regular meetings with the women attending the center offering advice and guidance which would otherwise not be available to them.

Who manages/administers the programme?

The Thai staff, volunteers, and the sisters.

Who is the target group?

Marginalized women and teenage girls who are exploited by the sex tourism industry and/or who have been trafficked or who are at risk of being trafficked.

Most of the women have come to Pattaya hoping to improve their economic situation and support their families with their earnings.

Who benefits and how do they benefit?

The people attending the center benefit in many ways including the opportunity to access education. We believe education is the key for transforming feelings of helplessness and passivity into new life giving energy and self-confidence. The skills training we offer also helps the women find alternative employment should they choose to do so.

Opportunities provided - 

  • Spiritual and psychological guidance through counselling and group therapy.

  • Health education.

  • A safe environment where participants can meet women in the same situation as themselves and discuss personal matters.

  • Awakened sense of worth and dignity in the women oppressed by society.

  • Building relationships essential to help them bring about change in their lives.

  • Education of women, or for their children – who otherwise would not have opportunities.

  • Providing information on trafficking:

                     - Trafficking routes

                      - Rehabilitation facilities – within the country and outside the country.

How many people are assisted?

Approximately 450 women and teenage girls use the services of the center each week.  This number fluctuates depending on the season.

Every day about 15 male tourists visit the center – many of them are lonely and are seeking a direction in life. 

Approximately 50 men study English language in the evening classes which are held twice weekly.

Motivation and Core Values

Through the work of the center Good Shepherd values of respect for the dignity of each person, compassion, non-judgmental support and opportunities for empowerment are shown.

How is the programme evaluated?

Every morning we pray together.

This is followed by the training sessions conducted by staff -

  • Challenges are detected and ways are found to overcome them.

  • Success stories are shared.

  • What is not working is highlighted and action is taken.

Students are asked to evaluate the project/center each year.

Teaching is evaluated quarterly. Feedback from these evaluations is given to the appropriate person/s and any suggestions are acted upon, where possible. Any areas for improvement within the teaching is talked about with the appropriate member of staff and developmental training is provided.

Yearly evaluation is conducted.

What outcomes are achieved?

Approximately 2000 students receive certificates each year.  These confirm that the students have reached Level 2 grammar in English, or German and/or have reached a proficient level to gain employment in Thai Massage or Hairdressing.

Contribution towards UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Goal 1        No Poverty

This is worked towards by teaching the women new skills and self worth. This can be taken from the project and used at home or to find new employment.

Goal 3        Quality Education

The center offers many courses from Basic English to Grammar 3. German basic and intermediate. Traditional Thai Massage, Hairdressing Skills, Typing and Computer skills.

Goal 5        Gender Equality

All women including transsexuals are warmly welcomed at the center. Men are welcome to the evening classes.

Students attending the center are offered one to one advice meeting with a member of the Public Prosecutors office to learn about their human rights.

Violence issues.  The center is able to offer a safe environment where women can come to receive counselling and to meet with other women and share their experiences.

One to one interviews are also available at the center with a member of the Public Prosecutors office of Pattaya.

What are the obstacles, difficulties, challenges?

First challenge is to keep ourselves updated regarding matters that affect our ministry.

Cultural and religious values sometimes hinder the empowerment of women.

Traffickers come sometimes disguised as students.

There are many obstacles/barriers in the way of the people accessing the center.  These include fear of the unknown, not knowing anyone, lack of self esteem and self worth, lack of knowledge as to what to expect, lack of confidence in self, partners or bosses forbidding the women to attend, all waking hours of the day needed to earn money.

What would make the project more effective?

On-going formation and updating ourselves.

Working more closely with the police.

Learning to maintain a healthy balance between the charity model – and the professional model.

 

Read about an Information Session run by the Center - Session for women travelling abroad to gain employment