By Jaime Thomas
Cassie Dodge recently went into one of Bangkok’s largest red light districts. She entered a bar full of prostitutes, and she bought one for the night.
She wasn’t looking for sex; rather, she and a group of other missionaries wanted to show the prostitute that there are alternatives.
The 23-year-old Granville graduate has spent the past three years working with Youth with a Mission, a nonprofit organization that does missionary work throughout the world. She’s done mission work in India, in the United States and most recently on two trips to Thailand: one for two months at the beginning of the year and another for two months this summer.
“My heart really broke for that nation, with all the prostitution and human trafficking,” she said.
Now, she’s home for a few months to rest and round up funds—her work is sponsored completely on donations—before heading back in January for a year in Thailand.
“These people need help, and I’m answering that. It’s my vocation, it’s my calling, it’s my heart; it’s what makes me come alive,” she said.
In Thailand, she has spent a lot of time working with women, young men and children who are involved in the sex industry. Some are students looking to make money to attend university, and others are kids whose parents sell them outright. None of them, however, truly want to be stuck in the unhealthy trade they’re in, Dodge said.
“It’s out of injustice that they choose to go into prostitution.”
Through her organization, which also works closely with children in the slums who are predestined to become prostitutes, she and other volunteers go into the red light districts at nighttime. The biggest of these has over 2,000 women and feminine “ladyboys” prostituted out each night.
“This is the only ministry that reaches them in all of Bangkok,” she said. “All of them have a number, and you can buy them for the night by calling their number. We sit with them, build a relationship. We take them out to dinner or bowling, and they like it because they can have fun for the night and they don’t have to have sex with us.”
The prostitutes only get two days off each month, and if they miss other days they have to pay. The $20 fee to buy them goes to their “bar mom,” and the only money they actually realize is from tips. Dodge said most of their patrons are American, and often Thai men aren’t even allowed into the bars.
In fact, many of the women who prostitute themselves are looking for something more.
“A lot of women are searching for love; they hope that through prostitution they’ll find a man who will marry them.
Once Dodge and her fellow missionaries befriend the prostitutes and encourage them to leave their line of work, they provide further support. They connect them with counseling, offer scholarships for those who want to go to school and set them up with another job, “so they can make money during the process of healing.”
Just before she headed back to the states, Dodge was able to see the fruits of her labor. One of the prostitutes who had become a close friend left the business and is now going to school.
“Going in there and seeing these lives transformed—it’s incredible,” she said.
She’s happy to talk at churches or other local organizations about her work and is gladly accepting donations. Those interested in helping her and her organization can send tax-deductible checks to 418 East Franklin St., Monroe, N.C., 28112.
To speak more with Dodge call 470-0358 or email [email protected]