Setting captives free in Thailand

Bars of Bangkok's red light district; inset photo of smiling Helen and blurred face of former sex worker

Around three million women and girls are trapped in Thailand’s sex industry. But Asia-CMS local partner Helen Avadiar-Nimbalker (inset above, with friend Chinda) has an exit plan.

Helen’s amazing work has inspired this year’s Harvest Appeal. Please make a gift today to help someone else find freedom.

Why are so many people trapped in this?

“Many say some women make a choice to say yes to this life. When you get to know them, you understand that a lack of options is not choice,” Helen explains.

Some girls are sold to traffickers by their parents, who desperately need the money and don’t realise that their daughters will be forced to sell sex. Women who have left home on their own often can’t get a job due to a lack of citizenship papers. Others are single mothers who can’t provide for their children on a minimum wage.

Once women are in the industry, their dignity is eroded and it’s not long before they feel worthless. But in this dark situation, God is working.

Glimmers of hope in the darkness

Local partner Helen has a passion to reach women and girls who are trapped in Thailand’s sex industry and help them get out.

“I visit the bars, massage parlours and places that employ women for the commercial sex industry almost every day. I talk to the owners and spend time getting to know the ladies. My background as a trauma counsellor helps me a lot during these informal chats with the women, knowing what to ask them and how to help them to feel safe with me and be comfortable enough to talk.

“What I have learned is to not see them as women in the sex industry, but just women who need a new friend or someone who cares with no agenda for further exploitation.”

three women) one with blurred-out face) link hands roudn a table, with their eyes closed
Women find solace and spiritual support

One woman who needed a new friend was Chinda, a single mother who was drawn into the world of prostitution because she couldn’t afford her son’s medication and her children’s education.

In a bar one evening, Helen remembers, “I noticed Chinda, standing in the corner looking depressed. I asked her if she wanted to play pool with me. She immediately had a huge smile on her face. We played a few games, and I asked her what her favourite food was. I started having dinner with her once a week. A deep bond and relationship grew from there.”

Through spending time with Helen, Chinda has discovered Jesus’ love and her life has changed dramatically. Now, Chinda has committed her life to Jesus and made the bold decision to leave the sex industry. She is building a new life for herself and helping others to do the same.

You can offer hope to more women like Chinda

  • £10 could help people like Chinda to learn new skills and discover a new future with Jesus
  • £50 could enable local partners to walk alongside new Christians at the start of their journey with Jesus
  • £100 could support new disciples as they reach out to their communities with Jesus’ love

Helen’s exit plan: heal…

Helen and her team have set up a centre called Baan Romyen (“safe, protective, peaceful home”) in the middle of the red light district, where they run the Heal and Build plan. They have close to a hundred women come through the centre every month, but they want to reach hundreds more.

Their one-year transition programme is designed to offer at-risk, vulnerable or sexually and physically exploited women a place where they can prepare to walk out of the industry and safely into a world that has become unfamiliar.

At the heart of the programme is community; friendship and mutual support is key to every woman’s journey to freedom. The women worship and study the Bible together daily and do church together every Friday at Baan Romyen. Meals at the centre always involve lots of fun and laughter.

Every week, Helen and other collaborating organisations also meet to pray and worship at a bar, with the permission of the owner. This is the same bar where Chinda used to work and meet clients. Now the owner of this bar and her daughter work at Baan Romyen, too!

The programme starts with basic healthcare, one-on-one trauma counselling, group therapy, art therapy and sessions that encourage women to dream again. “This has been the key to seeing a breakthrough with the women, giving them hope that they do have the options to choose a better life, one that they can create with our help and guidance.”

… And build

The programme goes on to teach women about their true identity in Jesus and builds their confidence through life skills training, self-defence workshops, basic English classes, and helps them to finish school and get their driving licence.

Helen and the team offer empowerment through alternative job skills. Women can learn to sew, make jewellery, journals and household items, and do simple beauty treatments, giving them a new source of income.

Women (identity protected) learning to sew with machines
Chinda is helping teach women new skills

“We currently have more than 30 women on our Heal and Build plan, 15 of whom we employ. We hope to be able to support at least 10 more women over the next few months.”

Chinda was the first to get her driving licence and sign up for school to get her high school diploma, and several other women are following her example.

Now, she is the director of the programme alongside Helen, who is the trauma counsellor and project adviser teaching and guiding Chinda as she takes on leadership responsibilities.

The most important role Helen carries, alongside her husband Vincent, is that of a spiritual adviser and teacher to people on the edges.

Published 4 October 2021

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