Written by George Tanner on May 5, 2014.
The warm rays of the rising sun hit the jungle landscapes of Thailand, where five girls between the ages of seven and 15 sit on the beach.
They followed the 300-yard semi-dirt trail from their home in Pattaya to watch the golden sphere peek into view.
It is Easter Sunday on the mainland of Thailand.
About 8,000 miles away, the stage at River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara is alive and beating. Music ranging from classical to rock to pop resonates from the speakers.
A captivating spoken word is delivered.
Two dance groups express themselves via graceful choreography and stomping to the fast paced tempo of “Jai Ho."
This is no ordinary talent show. This benefit show is raising money for the girls enjoying the sunrise on the beach in Pattaya.
The five girls on the beach all have something in common — they have been sex trafficked and they are not alone...
Jenifer Kraus, a resident of Thailand, said “In Pattaya alone I think (on) any given night, they say there (are) about 20,000 girls for sale.”
Denny Pham, a senior creative arts major, illustrated the impact of sex trafficking in his spoken word performance by reciting “27 million/ That’s how many women and children are living lives they shouldn’t be living in/ That’s more slaves worldwide than when Abe Lincoln was still alive/ 144,000 is how many are added daily.”
Many parents are unaware that their daughters are being trafficked for sex.
“Sometimes they think they are sending their child to sell flowers on the street and then that child ends up being trafficked,” said Jenifer Kraus, founder of a rescue home.
When the parents intentionally sell their children on the streets, they do not necessarily feel any regret.
>Kraus said that Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand and that Buddhists believe in reincarnation.
The belief of reincarnation implies that whatever happens to you in your current life is a response to your past life.
Kraus said that parents sometimes believe their child’s past life is to blame for sex-trafficking.
Jeremy and Jenifer Kraus spent three months in Thailand in 2009 and discovered how much of a need there was for a home dedicated to sex- trafficking victims. Three years later the Kraus’ moved to Thailand and started the Thrive Rescue Home. Their mission is to "rescue, restore and release hope back into the hearts of the girls that we rescue.”
Jeremy Kraus said their goal is to get the girls they rescue to become leaders in their community and give back as much as possible.
The majority of the girls that come to the Thrive Rescue Home are brought there by police officers, child protection officers, social workers, City Hall, investigators or investigative organizations.
The Kraus’ have housed as many as 11 children in the rescue home. The ages have ranged from six to 18.
“One of the things that we take pride in is we treat all of our girls like they are ours,” Jeremy Kraus said.
He said this involves enrolling the girls at a private Thai school so they can obtain a better education.
“They are all getting good grades too,” Jeremy Krause said.
As you enter the Thrive Rescue Home you see different textures and colors designating various areas of the home.
There is a play therapy area and lounge areas. A tent is placed under the stairs for a small safe place for any of the girls to go to if they feel a need to retreat.
On the first floor the two boys, exceptions to the accepting girls only rule, occupy a room. The girls share a master bedroom on the second floor with white bunk beds and matching pink and white comforters.
Disney princess stickers cover the walls. A door separates the two floors and visitors are not allowed to go upstairs.
This allows the girls to remove themselves from the guests presence if they so desire.
Pastor Quoc Nguyen, an employee at River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara, and his wife began financially supporting the Thrive Rescue Home two years before the Kraus’ even moved to Thailand. Nguyen and Jeremy Kraus met at a leadership conference and clicked.
“It felt like we had the same DNA, the same vision and the same passion for ministry,” Nguyen said.
Through the River of Life Church, Nguyen has continued to help fund the Thrive Rescue Home. Two benefit shows titled Christmas in Thailand and Easter in Thailand has been held at the church.
This year's Easter in Thailand event raised over $6,000, which Jeremy and Jenifer Kraus say will go to building a community center.
The community center will be used to teach English classes, give out food, create a safe place for children to play, provide Internet services and more.
“We just planned on using the talents that we had. Whether it be singing, dancing, (or) rapping…to raise money,” Nguyen said.
Along with some parishioners, Nguyen has spent a week at the Thrive Rescue Home on a mission trip.
“When we were there, we spent time in the home and saw how the girls were so free and happy,” said Jessica Liao, a River of Life parishioner and San Jose State alumna. “You could never imagine what they've been through in the past.”
Kevin Chieng, a parishioner and a junior kinesiology major, taught the kids how to dance to Gangnam Style. After demonstrating the dance move Chieng turned around to see all of the children joyously mimicking him.
"It was joy that you really can’t replicate and you really can’t fake,” Chieng said.
Nguyen said that Jeremy and Jenifer Kraus, “have created heaven on Earth.”
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate the Thrive Rescue Home’s success is through simple acts of love.
Jeremy Kraus recalled a memory when he was given a Father’s Day card from an eight-year-old girl at Thrive Rescue Home that read, “Thank you Pa Jeremy for rescuing me and giving me a safe place to live and I love my school.”
Just those little things make it worth it,” Jeremy Kraus said.