U of M students travel to Thailand to learn about sex-trafficking

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For the first time ever, a group of University of Memphis students traveled to Thailand to learn more about and how to prevent sex-trafficking.

They are social justice students hoping to bring back what they learned to our city.

“This is the way we wash our face early in the morning,” sang Thai youngsters, surrounded by the U of M students, on home video.

“Students who had never traveled abroad went with us; people who hadn’t been outside of Memphis,” said PhD Counseling and Psychology Student Jessie Smith.

Smith and eight others from the U of M returned Saturday from the trip to Thailand. They spent 18 days there hoping to learn more about social justice, “Looking at issues of equality, look at resource distribution.”

Thailand is a country where the American dollar goes far, and drug and sex-trafficking are rampant.

“It’s very visible on many of the streets, as far as the prostitution,” said Smith. “And we also saw women beggars on the street with children and that is another form of sex-trafficking where they are forced to do that and bring the money back to the people who have bought them.”

The children who sang in a newly built school in the Royal Projects have hope for a better future.

“The royal family came in about five to ten years ago and took over the farms that were growing drugs and taught the village people how to farm, how to be business people.”

She says the government is teaching the tribe there how to create organic farms, grow coffee and sell crafts.

While Thailand is not Memphis, Jessie says we can still learn from the developing country.

“Many people think we have so many problems in Memphis, why are people going abroad and doing this? But we are really learning from them first-hand and bringing it back and applying it to our community.”

Smith says the students plant to share what they learned with the Memphis Refugee Empowerment Center.

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