The Freedom Story: A Chance for Mayuree*

Mayuree* simply wanted to study and enjoy time with her friends, like most girls her age. However, as the second eldest in a family of six, she shouldered the responsibility of caring for her younger siblings and harvesting tea. Her parents, day laborers on a tea farm, worked hard to make ends meet for their family, but money was tight. Mayuree faced the looming pressure from her parents to abandon her education after junior high to help support her family financially.

In her hill tribe community, girls' education often is not valued. Although some families embrace more progressive views, many, like Mayuree's, hold onto traditional beliefs that daughters will eventually get married and “belong” to another family. Thus, deeming girls’ education as an unwise investment.

Yet, Mayuree's challenges extended beyond educational barriers. Her father liked to drink excessively which led to him abusing Mayuree’s mother, creating a stressful environment at home. Mayuree was also subjected to his abuse, but being fearful of repercussions, she endured the abuse in silence…

Luckily, Mayuree had noticed staff from The Freedom Story visiting another student in her village, and she jumped at the chance to apply for their programs! As The Freedom Story staff got to know Mayuree, they grew concerned about the many factors putting her at risk of trafficking, such as living in poverty, dropping out of school early, and a history of abuse from her father. They also worried about her father’s drinking buddies who were frequently around and put Mayuree at risk of sexual abuse. Even more concerning was a neighbor trying to convince Mayuree’s father to send her to work at the massage parlor the neighbor worked at. Massage parlors are known sites of abuse and sex trafficking and highly unsafe and inappropriate environments for an underage girl to work in.

The scholarship program truly changed everything for Mayuree. “After receiving the scholarship, my life has been better. I had opportunities and a good future. I could set a goal for my life. I could do what I would like to do. I felt more positive. If I had a chance, I would pay you back”, she shared. 

She was able to graduate grade 9 and finally had a person she felt safe to turn to — a staff mentor she could talk to and ask for advice. The Freedom Story staff advised Mayuree to continue her education by pursuing a hairstylist course at the vocational school. This has allowed Mayuree to work in a beauty salon and make her own money until she can finish her high school diploma.

Securing her own income from the beauty salon marked a pivotal shift in power dynamics within Mayuree's household. With newfound financial independence, she felt empowered to confront her father's abuse and assert her voice. With staff support, she transitioned to a dormitory, distancing herself from the toxic environment at home. Now living independently, she chooses to visit her mother and relatives, while avoiding her father's presence altogether.

Now, at 19 years old, Mayuree finally feels a sense of safety and stability, confident in her ability to care for herself and her family. She can graduate from The Freedom Story’s prevention programs this year, but she will continue to receive mentorship as she navigates her career and educational aspirations, including the pursuit of citizenship to fulfill her dream of owning a salon.

Mayuree's transformation is not the only one. The Freedom Story also supports her siblings and collaborates closely with her family, guiding her father in his journey through alcoholism towards sobriety. Through positive encouragement and programs like Family Camp, The Freedom Story team has witnessed significant improvements, including Mayuree's father significantly reducing his alcohol consumption. 

Unseen is honored to partner with The Freedom Story to accelerate their growth and ability to expand their reach. New marketing materials allow them to raise more funds and awareness within communities and expand their programs to mentor, educate, and reduce trafficking vulnerabilities for more people like Mayuree.

*Name changed for protection.

Photo courtesy of: The Freedom Story