by Cierra, DTS student
On our first day in Mai Sai, Thailand, three boys and a girl came up to me and my friends, hands out, eyes big, asking for money.
“Are you hungry?” Maya asked.
“Yes, yes!” one of the boys said.
“Come with us,” I said. “Bring your friends and we’ll buy you some food.”
With those magical words, the kids scrambled to find as many friends as they could who could climb the barbed wire fence to get to us.
Once they were all together, we walked to a little food shop and ordered. The kids sat down like a family–the older ones hollering at the younger ones to hurry up or to sit back down.
In their broken English, the kids shouted questions at us through mouthfuls of rice. “Do you have a family?” “What do your parents look like?” “How many brothers and sisters do you have?”
We learned about them, too. The kids we first met were 6, 8, 9, and 12. They lived and begged at a bridge nearby.
The woman serving us our food was so happy we brought the kids to her. “Bring them and some more kids tomorrow!” she said.
How could we say no? But even with my two friends, we knew we’d run out of spending money to feed these kids at the restaurant and I hoped to come up with some other options.
After everyone had their fill, we walked the kids home. It was hard knowing they weren’t going to a house with a roof over their heads, and my heart was already breaking for them. But they seemed happy, full of wide smiles and so glad to take their pictures with us.
Then a young man approached the oldest boy in our group, the twelve year old. He stroked his arm and down his back, saying something in his ear — so obvious in his intentions. The boy jumped away, shaking his head “no.”
In that moment, any happiness I had felt vanished completely. My heart split into millions of pieces. It’s one thing to hear about the plight of street kids, to watch documentaries and buy t-shirts that raise awareness. Seeing this in person–It’s almost impossible to explain what it’s like.
This is reality for these kids every day.