I was given the assignment by the Down To Zero Alliance * to travel to two shelters in Thailand to meet and take the portraits of children who were or still are victims of sexual commercial abuse by Western and Asian foreigners. Because I was not allowed to photograph them in a recognizable way, I came up with the idea of bringing along coloured pencils and having them draw their own faces or - if they didn’t want to draw their face - draw the face of the person they would like to be. How do they see themselves?

I’m still impressed by the work that the local mentors are doing in these shelters. I learned just how much patience and effort is needed to win over the trust of the children, to not condemn them when they temporarily fall back into their old lives on the streets, and build up a long-term relationship to work together on their future.


* Down to Zero is an alliance of 5 Dutch organizations: Terre des Hommes, Plan Nederland, Defense for Children, Free a Girl and ICCO. It is sponsored by the ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands.