Suwanee's Story, 2012

The New Life Center Foundation's vision is a world without exploitation. Through promoting education and vocational training, ethnic minority women are equipped with the skills they need to create new lives for themselves and their families. This is Suwanee's story, written in her own words... 

"My name is Suwanee. I was 26 years old when I entered the New Life Center Foundation's ("NLCF") vocational training program. I am an ethnic Lisu, born in a rural area in the Phrao region of Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have an older brother and sister, and a younger brother and sister; there are 5 of us altogether. Unfortunately, drugs were a theme in my family. My older brother was put in jail for life because he sold drugs. My younger sister acted as a drug mule for our brother-in-law; she got caught, and was also put in jail. My parents died when I was about 18 – my father in some type of drug fight and my mother from general sickness.

I completed the 6th grade in my village school, and then worked as a farmer. I got married when I was 18 to a Hmong man from a neighboring village. We were so happy when our son was born! But I wasn't happy for very long, because when our son was about one year old, my husband also died as the result of a gunshot wound from a drug fight.

My older sister is the "minor wife" of a Thai man who owns a karaoke bar and massage parlor. My older sister encouraged me, after my husband died, to go to work in this place. At this time, I was supporting my son and also my youngest brother on my own. They needed food and shelter, and I felt that I had no other options. So I did it. It was the first time I had ever lived and worked in the city. I had to perform every type of massage, every type of prostitution in this place. My brother-in-law ended up transferring me to Bangkok, and I continued to do this work for 5 - 6 years. After doing this, there's just too much pain that builds up in your heart. I knew I was going in circles, and the pain was just too great to stay in it.

I traveled back to Chiang Mai for a visit, and happened to meet a friend who was a graduate of this NLCF program. She had a good job in an upscale beauty salon. My friend told me about this training opportunity, and gave me the contact information for the NLCF. I called the manager and discussed details with her. I wanted to enter the program, but I was still too afraid about what would happen to my son and youngest brother (my son was 6 and my brother was 8 at this time). Who would care for them while I studied?

The NLCF case manager helped me understand my choices, and we looked at some hostels that might be able to care for my son and brother. We found a good, safe place to care for the boys, and I was able to start my vocational training. I studied beauty salon, hair cutting and styling at a good school, and was able to go to work immediately after I graduated. I worked hard and saved money which I used to support myself and my relatives. I also wanted to save money in order to open my own beauty salon!

In 2011 my dream came true. I was able to open my own beauty salon in an area right behind Chiang Mai University. It's a tiny little shop, but I earn enough money to pay my bills and support myself, my son and youngest brother. Previously, if anyone asked me what I did for a living, I would never want to answer. I did not know what to say, and felt very embarrassed. But now? My vocation gives me confidence, and I am proud of my accomplishments... I want to thank the New Life Center Foundation who gave me this choice and truly gave me the chance to have a new life!"


New Life Center Foundation
P.O. Box 29 Chiang Mai 50000 Thailand
E-mail : Tel: (+66) 53 351 312 Fax : (+66) 53 380 871