Apr 24, 2017

Pete and Kim Erskine visit Thailand several times each year to search out fabulous new finds and stock up on our customers’ favorite fashion essentials. Over the years time spent with local makers and purveyors has become more like a visit with friends and family. On their most recent journey, Pete and Kim left the bustling markets and vibrant streetscapes of Bangkok and headed into the thickly forested hills and lush, temple-studded valleys that surround Chiang Mai, for a visit to friends living in the Sunflower Houses; a safe haven for Thai girls vulnerable to human trafficking.

The Sunflower Houses are a realization of a from-the-heart effort launched by two Mainers over ten years ago, Friends of Thai Daughters. When Jane McBride and Patricia Zinkowski discovered several young girls fending for themselves as a makeshift family in an abandoned shelter, they couldn’t just move on with their trip. The astonishing difficulties these girls faced and their pure determination to overcome them was inspiring.

Many girls like this in northern Thailand, those without documentation, families, or education, are left extremely vulnerable to human trafficking. Jane and Patricia knew they had to stay and help, and so Friends of Thai Daughters was born. Since then the organization has worked to provide a stable living environment, counseling and education, English language classes, mentoring, and more to the region’s at-risk girls. The results, as Pete and Kim can attest, are incredible.

“I met their Global Program Director, Julie Lamy, here in Maine,” Kim remembers. “She knew how often we travel to Thailand and she encouraged me to visit the Sunflower Houses. There aren’t words for the warmth we felt during our time with these girls. It’s so lovely, and it’s such a family, and it’s having an enormous impact.”

While most other programs in the area try to reach as many girls as possible and therefore can’t help any one girl for long, FTD decided to go a different route. They take on only as many girls as they can make a lifelong commitment to nurturing. “We help these girls the way you help your own children,” Julie explains. “You’re there for them their entire lives, and so are we. Most programs must cut off assistance by fifth grade, or ninth grade. But this is exactly when girls come of age and are most in danger of being trafficked. We provide support, encouragement and resources as they enter college, start their own families—and start their own businesses! And, in turn, our graduates help us mentor new girls entering the program.”

Kim joined the FTD Board and Mexicali Blues joined the fundraising effort. Mexicali Blues World of Goods program has helped fund the Sunflower Houses, and through our 1% effort, customer purchases continue to support the program. After their most recent, and particularly inspiring trip, the Erskines are committed to visiting as often as they can. “We want the girls to see that we truly care, and showing up and checking in frequently is how you do that. We are truly invested in their success.

“The coolest thing about working with Pete and Kim is how engaged they are. This isn’t about helping friends in Maine—they really care about Thailand,” Julie explains. They’ve made a long-term commitment to the country and they understand why we have to make a long-term commitment to these girls.”

“When you meet these girls and see the powerful changes this program makes in their lives, it changes everything,” Kim explains. “So we’re encouraging everyone we know to join us at the big, fun fundraiser Friends of Thai Daughters is throwing in Maine this August. There will be live music and dancing, great food and drink—and so many chances to help these girls transform their lives.”

Help Friends of Thai Daughters raise money for the Sunflower Houses at the Annual Sunflower Celebration. Join us the evening of August 4, 2017 in Damariscotta, Maine to support FTD (there is also an event in Wellesley, Mass in May). The August 4 event is gearing up and is not only going to raise money (thanks to you!) but also be ridiculously fun. The event includes a reverse raffle with a 1 in 300 chance of winning $3,000 + food, drink, music, a live auction + many fun surprises. Visit https://www.friendsofthaidaughters.org/ to learn more and to purchase tickets for the event!


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