A New Beginning in Pattaya

Pattaya was never part of the plan.

Bonita would be the first to tell you that. But the Home of New Beginnings, our partner in Thailand, now has a second location smack dab in the middle of the "Sex Capitol of the World." The journey to this simple statement has been nothing short of a miracle. Now, what lies ahead is blossoming with promise in a place that so desperately needs light.

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As many as 50,000 sex workers can be found on the streets of Pattaya on any given night during high tourism seasons. This is hard to fathom and statistics fall flat when compared to reality. Seeing it with your own eyes is overwhelming and sucks the breath out of your body. On Friday night, we traveled down Walking Street, Pattaya’s notorious "sex for sale" drag which contains 70 bars, and then drove through the surrounding blocks within a 2-mile radius of Walking Street. Down every side street and alley are bars as far as the eye can see, busting at the seams with people—those for sale as well as the mostly gray-haired white male customers ready to make purchases.

 A view down Walking Street.

A view down Walking Street.

We saw whole districts devoted to customers seeking boys and lady boys, others catering to retired military seeking to reliving their "glory day" fantasies, and of course, those selling girls and women and even children. Lots and lots of them. According to Bonita there are 1,200 bars in Pattaya, each employing anywhere from 10-100+ sex workers. Combined with the endless sidewalks full of street walkers, it is easy to see how estimates quickly arrive at the 50,000 mark.

The problem is evident; a ferocious monster vastly overgrown, having so overtaken the city that there seems no end to its tentacles and no solution in sight.

It is in this mess that Beginnings is choosing to step into the equation. Just like in Bangkok, where they are admittedly a David going up against Goliath, they are now readying their slings in Pattaya. Beginnings' model is to bring rescue and restoration to one girl at a time. They do this with intentionality, through long-term housing, community, counseling, and especially education. The fruit of the lives they have impacted over the past decade resonates loudly through the graduates who have now completed college and, with valuable degrees in hand, return to help the home that first gave them freedom. Others are in the process of earning degrees in Engineering, Business, Design, Accounting, and Criminal Justice.

 The whole complex: Pattaya residential house, garden lot in the center, and the two 5-story shop houses to the far right.

The whole complex: Pattaya residential house, garden lot in the center, and the two 5-story shop houses to the far right.

With this model established, the Pattaya location is adding several new plot twists. Beginnings, through the support of generous donors, has purchased two shop houses completely in cash. These 5-story, adjoining buildings will host a first-floor restaurant, which will provide income and job training to women leaving the sex industry. The top floors will provide housing for them, as well as a 3-bedroom home on a connected lot. In the middle green space adjoining the home and the shop houses, plans are coming into place to build a large garden space.

 The large garden lot between the main house and the two shop houses.

The large garden lot between the main house and the two shop houses.

This garden will supply not only fresh produce for the residents of the house, but also for the restaurant. The whole property is contained within a larger housing and commercial development of about 140 households that currently have few nearby restaurant options (in other words, built-in restaurant customers). The goal is for the restaurant to sustain the financial needs of the shop houses, thus sustainably bringing freedom to exploited and trafficked women.

 Bonita shows us around the shop house. The bottom floor level will hold the restaurant.

Bonita shows us around the shop house. The bottom floor level will hold the restaurant.

Another potentially critical piece to the puzzle lies just across the busy highway at a vocational school for at-risk girls. The location of this school is something Bonita believes is more than a happy coincidence. Beginnings' goal is to work in tandem with the school's girls to help advance their skills in sewing, baking, restaurant management, and hospitality through real life experience. All factors combined, Beginnings hopes to reach not just young girls who want to escape the sex industry but also older ones who would not qualify for high school or college education due to age.

 Measuring and planning for the garden, which will hopefully be planted in early 2017.

Measuring and planning for the garden, which will hopefully be planted in early 2017.

Home of New Beginnings Pattaya is now up and running and ready to receive girls seeking freedom from the sex industry. But many needs are yet to be met, including furnishing the shop houses, kitchen supplies for the restaurant, and funds to build the garden. To give to the home, please click here and write "Beginnings" in the comment section when you donate.