It was June, 2001. I was 16 years-old at the time and sitting in my Grade 10 Civics class, rolling my eyes, because we’d been assigned another project, when the weather was warming up and exams and summer break were just around the corner. Begrudgingly, I dragged myself to my local library, and started
leafing through a book. But I didn’t make it past the first few pages, when staring back at me where the words…
On a stage, lit by spotlights, were boys in a line, kids probably twelve to sixteen years old. They were
nothing but skimpy white thongs, a number pinned to each … A boy was ordered like a customer would order a drink, brought to the table by the manager to be checked out.
Sixteen, the same age as me, and even younger. My heart started to race.
I continued reading. The passage was describing the seedy red-light district of Patpong, Thailand which had earned itself the infamous distinction of a paedophile’s paradise and hotspot for the illicit buying and selling of sexual services of children. Many of the girls and boys, the pages explained, originated from the impoverished northeast, and were being sold to pimps by their families or lured under the false promises of work- their common fate to satisfy the sexual appetites of foreigners and locals, in the go-go bars, brothels, and massage parlour s that made up the lucrative child sex trade.
I thought about everything that I had, but has been forcibly taken from them—childhood, protection, education, a loving environment, and above all, freedom. I was overwhelmed with an incredible rage. How could anyone turn a blind eye? How could the world allow such an injustice to continue?
For days, my mind was on the other side of the world. I couldn’t concentrate in class and at night I suffered from insomnia, all-consumed with thoughts of these children and the dignity stolen from them. I couldn’t take it any longer. I wanted answers, and I wanted change for the children. I had reached my moment of
obligation- I could be a bystander or I could act. I chose the latter, never thinking that this chance encounter with a passage from a book would send me on a whirlwind, life-altering journey, with no chance
of ever looking back.