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Courtesy photo. Ginger Grissom, Abbi Crowder, Jeff Crowder

Abbi Crowder, a sophomore at Olivet Nazarene University, may tell you that the mission trip she took to Thailand this summer might have sparked a life mission.

“Going to Thailand was incredible,” she told the Chelsea Rotary Club.

“It was an absolutely life-changing experience.”

Seeing the difference that “regular, average people can make in the lives of the downtrodden” was really powerful, she told the club members.

“It convinced me that I need to be doing more to help the world, and now I am looking into going back to Thailand and working with one of these organizations after I graduate,” Crowder said.

Every year, Olivet, which is a Christian school about an hour from Chicago, offers students the opportunity to go on mission trips to different countries. Crowder joined a team that traveled to Thailand this summer.

She said the college students spent the first half of their time with the Christian Care Foundation for Children with Disabilities in Thailand (CCD), in Bangkok.

(For more information about the group, click here. )

“CCD works with the government and individual families to improve the lives of the disabled,” she said in her speech. “There are many government wards in Thailand, filled with disabled children, who have been abandoned by their families.”

She said that the CCD sends volunteers to the government wards to help care for these orphans, and she was one of them. In addition, two teams make house calls to families with disabled children.

“These groups include physical therapists and other volunteers, but the main goal is to offer moral support to the families,” she said.

Crowder spent about a week working with one of these teams.

“I will never forget my time in these houses, in part because of the extreme poverty,” she said, adding, “Many of the “houses” were really just one-room shacks with dirt for floors and no bathroom. I was also surprised by how much of a difference my own presence made.”

Crowder said she’d not worked with disabled people before and had never taken medical classes. “But as I discovered,” she said, “None of that mattered.”

The families and the kids just appreciated that I was there, and that I cared enough about them to visit them, Crowley said.

“Most of the children don’t attend school; there are no special programs for the disabled in Thailand,” she said, adding that “Society has largely abandoned them, and so the work that CCD does is so important because it shows these families and these kids that they haven’t been forgotten, and that someone really does care.”

The college sophomore played with the kids, helped to bathe them, and even assisted them in brushing their teeth.

“It was nothing special,” she said, “And yet, somehow, it seemed to brighten the day of the people living in those homes.”

For the second part of our trip, the group moved north to Chang Mai to work with an organization called Remember Nhu.

(For more information about this organization, click here.)

This group works to prevent kids from being sold into the sex trade, she said, adding that “Prostitution is a very large industry in Thailand.”

What she found truly eye-opening was that “families are the biggest push factor for prostitutes. In the US, we may think of prostitution as being a personal choice, but in Thailand the vast majority of the girls and boys are forced into it by their parents, who want or need the money.”

Prostitution is “technically illegal” in Thailand, and a billion-dollar industry, and so the government turns a blind eye to it, she told the Rotary members.

Remember Nhu works with individual villages to find children who are at high risk of being sold into the sex trade.

“The organization has a campus where the children live together and attend school without the fear of being sold,” she said.

She said the group also visited an organization that works to get young women out of prostitution.

“This group actually goes into the bars of the Red Light District and offers the girls there an opportunity to find other work to support themselves,” she said.

The process is very secretive, Crowder said, keeping confidential the group’s name because of the potential ramifications for the people who assist in its mission.

“As a girl who grew up in Chelsea, a small, safe town, and who now goes to a Christian school with a very sheltered environment, it was really exciting to witness such a covert group,” she said.


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