I was concerned when a couple weeks had passed and there was still no word from Noy. (see https://anniedieselberg.com/2014/03/01/hope-of-freedom/) On our next outreach night, we popped our heads into the upstairs bar to see if she was there before committing ourselves to go in. At first glance I didn’t see Noy so I asked the mama-san if she was there. She turned and called for Noy. Noy’s face lit up when she saw us and she led us to the back corner where we could talk away from the groups of men.
Noy had just returned from her hometown. Her elderly father had broken his knee and needed surgery. Noy didn’t have enough money for the surgery though so she left him behind in the hospital and came back to the bar in Bangkok to get the rest of the money. Noy was surprisingly optimistic. She had been thinking about the job opportunity and was excited and eager to work at NightLight. She planned to collect her salary at the end of the month and return home to pay for the surgery. When the surgery was over she would spend about 5 days with her dad for his recovery and then come to work at NightLight.
I sympathized with Noy at the bad news. I broke my knee four years ago and I remember how dependent I was on others for help. Noy’s father is elderly and I knew he would need help for more than five days. I told her that it could even be six weeks. Noy protested, “But I want to come work with you!” I nodded sympathetically and asked her if any of her 7 siblings could help out. “They are all selfish,” Noy said. When a cobra bit her mother a few years ago, none of them came to help. She didn’t have enough money to get the treatments that might have saved her and she watched her mother die alone. Noy insisted she would come to NL. She really wanted this job. I assured her the job would be there for her when she’s ready.
I left the bar sad for Noy. She was so eager for an alternative. She hated working in prostitution and finally she had been given an opportunity, only to have tragedy strike. It’s not uncommon. There are so many challenges and obstacles to success for these women. Family pressures and situations are one of the strongest push factors sending women into prostitution and one of the biggest obstacles to exiting. The women carry the burden for their parents, siblings, children, and even extended relatives. A family illness, tragedy, financial loss, or siblings in school can burden the woman to the point that prostitution feels like her only option. Freedom can feel like it is always just out of reach.
I haven’t heard from Noy since that visit over a month ago. Most likely, she returned home and realized that her father needed her for a longer recovery. Having been the good daughter of the family she isn’t likely to abandon him in his time of need. I am concerned though because if she is not working she is vulnerable to debt. Loan sharks in Thailand are plentiful and merciless. The high interest rates create a deep black hole for so many of the women. Hopefully she will find a job back home that will support them both through this crisis.
Noy wanted to work at NightLight for the income, but she also had high hopes of learning to read and write and developing other personal skills. It feels like bad timing to have met her, to offer her a job, and then to have tragedy strike and pull her away. As I think about it though I realize that maybe it was actually good timing. We were able to give her good news just before things took a turn for the worse. When the recovery time has finished and Noy is under pressure to return to work in Bangkok, she now has an alternative to prostitution. This time she can return with hope. This time she can choose to work in freedom.