I received a phone call at midnight.
“They are beating me! They are beating me!”
“Who is beating you?”
Kaleem screamed through his tears, “The owners, they are beating me!”
“Where are you?”
“Bangkok but I don’t know where. I just ran away. Teacher, come and get me, please! I want to go home! They beat me here”.
By this time I realized that on the other end of the phone was Kaleem, an 11-year-old street boy. Six weeks before, he memorized my phone number when we rescued his 8-year-old niece. They were child beggars who never had a chance to go to school but were forced to beg on the streets or dig in the trash for recyclables to sell. Kaleem called me every week begging me to take him, but since we didn’t have a boys’ facility yet, we had nowhere to bring him. After a month he stopped calling. Suspicious, I asked around about him and was told, “He was sold down to Bangkok.”
Kaleem and his eight-year-old brother were both sold for 1,500 baht each (roughly $50 USD). Out of their monthly earnings, their mother would receive another 1,500 baht. The boys were forced to sell 70 rings of flowers in the brothels and bars from 9pm until 3am every morning. These young boys, along with other trafficked children, had to go out barefoot and sell to drunk, lustful customers. If they didn’t meet their quota of flowers, they would be beaten severely. They were served one hand scoop of rice a day and were blindfolded coming and going at night so they didn’t know where they were and would be too afraid to run away.
We caught the next flight to Bangkok and through a series of miraculous events, rescued Kaleem, his brother Abdul, another boy, and a 10-year-old girl who was being prepped for the sex trade, through the initiation of child labor. These children are now safe and secure. Kaleem and Abdul are going through intense summer school and language training, as they are about to enter their first year of school. They are no longer child slaves but are now enjoying playing soccer, learning guitar and English, like normal children.
The children’s house before they were sold or rescued.
The family together on their first day of school.