Thamee lived with her mother inside Myanmar. She never knew her father. Her mother wanted to work in the city, so she sold Thamee for $74 at the age of 9 to be a servant for a Burmese couple in their home.
One day when Thamee was buying food to cook for the couple in the market, she ran into her aunt. Her aunt knew that Thamee was no longer living with her mother, but she didn’t know where she was. Thamee told the aunt she’d been sold and, without giving details, said she wanted to go with her aunt. The aunt agreed, but when she told the couple, they said she had to buy Thamee back because they had been providing free room and board. The aunt agreed and paid $31 to buy Thamee back. The girl moved in with her aunt and her grandmother.
First, they found out that Thamee had contracted TB, so they got her on medicine. Then the grandmother discovered that the girl was suffering sever symptoms -- she couldn’t walk properly, she was bleeding and was unable to control her bodily functions. They decided to take Thamee to the clinic. The medical evaluation showed severe damage to her entire genital area.
It wasn’t until much later that Thamee was able to open up about all that had happened to her. The husband had raped her repeatedly. The wife knew about it, so she was always cruel and distant to Thamee emotionally and physically. The doctors said Thamee would need surgery, but she couldn’t do that until her TB treatment was over. This was too much for the aunt and grandmother. They were unwilling to manage her care, so Thamee came into our emergency care.
Ku Ku cared for Thamee with so much sensitivity, dignity and compassion. As a 10 year old, Thamee had to wear diapers, but our staff was discreet so she wouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Ku Ku helped her manage her personal hygiene and anything else she needed.
Our shelter staff created a treatment plan to help her educational development. Due to her trauma, she suffers from some delays. We played memory development games and activities, and Ku Ku provided constant care and love. Within three months, Thamee was able to manage her behavior, stop wearing diapers, and improved in learning abilities. When she completed her TB treatment, we sent her to the clinic for check up, and to prepare for her operation. However, the doctors discovered that her injuries were completely healed and she no longer needed an operation. We knew the Lord was healing her emotionally and now physically as well through the one-on-one consistent love and care from our team.
During this time, we had arranged regular family visits with her aunt and her grandmother so they’d stay connected, but soon they disappeared. We talked to everyone to try and trace them, but it was clear they did not want to be involved anymore. We tried to trace other relatives for months, but no one surfaced, so Thamee stayed in our care while we made long term plans for her.
During our summer children’s camp, Thamee learned about what child abuse is, protective measures, attachment, forgiveness and about Jesus. As she understood more about how her own experiences had impacted her, she was finally able to process all that she had been through with our counselors. Thamee also began to understand Jesus in such a sweet way as He removed the layers of pain she was trapped in. She transformed from a broken little girl, buried in shame into a confident young lady whose smile fills a room.
We knew that keeping Thamee in group care would not give her the support she needed later in life so we began planning family-based care for her. After one of our informational sessions at the local church about our Family-Based Alternative Care program, a lady named Lu May began praying about whether it was God’s will for her to take in a child. She had already taken in another little girl who’d been abandoned and she quickly became passionate about becoming an advocate, as God confirmed it so clearly for her. Lu May talked to our team, and went through our training program to provide family-based care and was fully screened and assessed. We set up many visits between Thamee and her family for bonding to begin and kept Thamee involved in the whole process. When both Thamee and Lu May’s family were ready, we arranged the placement.
Thamee is now thriving in her new family, she has a new little sister and a brother as well and they are all in school. She is also in our teen artisan program learning life-skills and creating jewelry at Sojourn Studio.
For this story, we’ve given this little girl a different name. We chose Thamee because in Burmese, it means “daughter”. This little girl is just like our own daughters. She is not a commodity to be bought, used and sold. Finally she’s experiencing what being a daughter is supposed to feel like.