Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Pattaya, Kerry and the Tamar Center

Pattaya - the Thai city of sin?
Today we caught up with our friend Kerry (who is one of our regular commentators on this blog). Kerry is on a 6 month sabbatical to Pattaya to work with the Tamar center. Before we talk about this project we need to explain a little bit more about Pattaya. Pattaya is a tourist developed town but the tone for this development was set by the near by  US navy base. Sailors on shore leave came to Pattaya to drink and sleep with girls. The whole tourist development is geared up around the commercial sex industry. The navy base is still here with regular influxes of sailors but Pattaya has grown to such a point that it doesn’t need sailors to find enough men looking for sex. Men come from England, America, Europe, Russia and increasingly Arab states primarily for sex.
Prostitutes waiting for business in a bar

In the lonely planet guide is starts it description of the city like this

 “Synonymous with prostitution, Pattaya is unapologetic about its bread-and-butter industry.” 

 The Tamar center reaches out to help the women and children who find themselves working in the tourist sex industry. The center runs a number of projects including doing outreach to the girls based in the bars and the girls working from the main beach front. A regular service they provide is free English language courses.

Kerry and Namwaan the team training leader

IT skills base

Coffee shop kitchen

The lovely coffee shop - VERY good pancakes!

They run training and employment to help the women earn money outside of prostitution. This work includes card making, hairdressing, bakery, restaurant skills, IT skills and life skills. The cards are fantastic and you can buy them online here. The coffee shop they run is excellent. I would recommend the cheesecake.

Amazing hand made cards for sale

The Card making hub

Some of the girls in the training 

Everything is centered on helping girls find dignity hope and a future.

The project runs a hair salon on a major bar street and many of the working girls come to get their hair styled. The salon provides a very gentle introduction to the team and is staffed by women who used to work as prostitutes but have gone through the training Tamer provides.
The hair salon in the outreach centre
Some of the outreach team
Dozens of bars line the streets with thousands of girls in the city ready to sell their body to foreigners

Kerry took us on a little tour of the town and we were both shocked with how blatant the prostitution was. Even though prostitution is illegal in Thailand there is no attempt to hide the work. It is everywhere in the city; from bars, clubs, massage parlors and girls on the street. It creates a very odd atmosphere and not a pleasant one. Whilst it has been nice to visit the local Starbucks, enjoy some home comforts (Kerry took us to a cafe for a British fry up!!!!) and it has been great to visit Kerry, we are glad that it is a short trip as we would not want to holiday here. 

Michelle and Kerry relaxing in the counselling room used to help girls start dealing with some of their issues.

We have only told you a tiny amount. The team is also involved in preventative work in the poorer villages that most of the girls come from.  The team also helps girls who want to return to their villages. Kerry and the team are doing an amazing job in this city and greater things are yet to come! 

Also in Pattaya we had the opportunity to go with Kerry and her very funny friend Gemma out of the city and on a boat trip to some local islands, we will get some pictures of that fun trip up later. We are now heading down to the south of Thailand to learn to dive and relax before heading home in a few weeks. We are going to Phuket via a flight to Kuala Lumpa. As we need to extend of Visa and it is easier to fly in and out of the country than to deal with the Visa authorities. 

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