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When SOLD Founder Rachel Sparks heard about the issue of child prostitution, she knew she needed to do something. She had grown up around the film industry, so she gathered together a small film crew to expose the issue in Thailand by producing a short documentary. As Rachel and her team interviewed prostitute after prostitute, they heard a common origin story: poverty, a lack of education and a lack of options.
Tawee, a local Thai student the team had hired as a translator, told Rachel that these stories were common in the village he had grown up in. He knew these women—many still girls—and countless others like them. He invited Rachel and her team to come north to his village to see where these young girls were coming from. It was the village where Rachel met Cat, the subject of The SOLD Project documentary, and the lives of Tawee, Rachel, Cat and all of us changed forever.
Rachel met Cat, then 10 years old, living in poverty with her mother (a former prostitute) who worked tirelessly so she could afford to keep her daughter in school. Cat’s education was soon to become too expensive, and her mother’s health was failing; Cat would have to go to the city to work. It was an all-too-common story. When Rachel learned it was only about $1/day to keep Cat in school and out of the city, she offered to cover the costs.
When Rachel and her team returned to the U.S. and screened a rough cut of the documentary featuring Cat’s story, family and friends wanted to know if there were other children like Cat who needed help to stay in school. The SOLD Project was born and scholarship funds were established for other at-risk children in Cat’s village. Tawee moved back to his home village to help run the program. Soon, the scholarship program grew to fit other needs in the community and our holistic prevention program, The Freedom Project, began.
To prevent child exploitation and advance freedom through education