Even after the sun has been tucked away for many hours, the heat lingers.
The drums beat. Voices plead for love to fill the atmosphere. Girls in miniskirts at the neighboring bar begin to sway along. The heat rises. Male tourists stop to listen for a moment, then move along to their next stop. One bar girl, sullen-faced with desperate eyes holds a sign pleading with someone to hire her. The drums beat louder, dancers twirl in the street. The crowd joins in by beating bongos and the thumping crescendos. The bar owner next door shifts uncomfortably in his seat as he watches his girls tap their feet and give the band leader a wink. At 9 PM it’s just starting to heat up on Soi 6.
Their stilettos are much higher than their self-worth. They try to take the hands of passing men. I smile at them, knowing it may be the only one they see all day. The girls are working for money, just like the rest of us. Many have kids living in another town with relatives who eagerly await checks in the mail each month. Some girls are hired by one man, while others are hired for a group. They often tell their customers they have AIDS (they want to be honest) and the men hire them anyway in disbelief. The “lucky” ones keep a “boyfriend”; these types of relationships being much more desirable.
The stories are many, and the circumstances mostly the same. They come from poor families or don’t have an education. They have children who need to eat. They have families who need money. They got married young and their husbands drink and gamble their money away. They do it because nobody has offered them another choice.
There ARE choices now, thanks to many organizations that reach out to the bar workers and assist them in creating a new life. We were fortunate enough to help some of these groups while we were in Pattaya. One of these places is the Tamar Center. They often play live music on one of the busiest sex tourism streets in Pattaya. The girls watch and listen and have a chance to talk with volunteers if they want to. I like to think that the nights they get to hear live music is a treat for their boring work lives.
Tamar Center also has a “bar ministry”. One night our group went into bars on “walking street” (another street known for the bars and girls) with translators and gave out hand-made jewelry and cards to the girls working. They were so excited to receive a gift! It’s all part of a bigger plan of course. A plan to build relationships with these girls, get to know them and their needs. They are invited to take English classes at the center.
Once a year, Tamar runs a three-month training course for women who have chosen to leave prostitution. Our friend, Oh, took that course. She said she had plans to go back to the bars after taking the classes, but a class on inner healing changed her mind. She worked for Tamar for many years, and now works for Bridges to the Nations. (More on this organization later!) When she shared her story, it made me realize just how important the Tamar Center is.
Here is a video link to a more in-depth look at what Tamar offers the girls: (this is such a great video. If you have time please watch it!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v13WyMfVnCg&feature=youtu.be
Our team had the opportunity to eat lunch at their bakery and we also did a lot of shopping at the center. The girls who go through the training are offered jobs making greeting cards, jewelry, journals, bags, scarves and more. You can purchase all of these items on-line too!
The Tamar Center not only offers work for the girls if they decide to leave the bars, but emotional and spiritual support in their daily lives. They have opportunities to work in the art center making cards, baking in the cafe or working in the Tamar Hair salon. These options give the girls newfound self-worth and inspiration.
If you like what the Tamar Center is up to, here’s a link to their site: http://www.tamarcenter.org/en
They also partner with Project L.I.F.E. Foundation. Here’s a link to their site: http://www.projlife.com/
Our team had so much fun sorting through all the greeting cards they had to offer. You can’t buy a decent card in the US for $2.75 these days-let alone a HAND-MADE card all in the name of a good cause! They are all lovely and I personally purchased some of the “Thai Style” cards to frame. Here’s a link to shop their cards on-line: Tamar Cards
It was so encouraging to meet people really making a difference in these girls’ lives. I hope this inspires you to support their cause by donating or shopping on their site next time you need a gift. The Tamar Center’s motto is “Every Life Counts.” I couldn’t agree more.