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Local family works to end sex trafficking in Thailand

Posted at 9:45 PM, Sep 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 06:40:25-04

Ethan and Kimberly Wheeler are people of action. The couple volunteers with Destiny Rescue, an organization that helps children escape sex trafficking.

But the Wheelers are more than just your average volunteers; last year, they sold their belongings and moved their family to Chiang Rai,Thailand to facilitate the rescue and rehabilitation of exploited children.

"This wasn't something that we felt we could do just a little bit with; we felt like we needed to dive in," Kimberly says.

Ethan is part of a group that makes initial contact with children forced into sex work. His job is to identify these victims and help them escape their exploitation, often by going under cover in bars and brothels.

"As a father of daughters and our son… it breaks our hearts to know that that's happening,” Ethan says. “It breaks out hearts to know that there are kids over there that need dads and moms, and they're not protecting them; they're exploiting them."

Many times, the parents of children involved in sex work are getting money from those running the brothels.

"They're living in just incredible poverty, so they start doing this maybe so they can get needed medical expenses covered, but sometimes they tend to get used to that money coming in, then they encourage their child to stay working in the bars and brothels," Kimberly says.

Kimberly works with the children after they're removed from the abuse. The kids are provided with counseling and job training.

"They are just learning how to fit back into society again, starting small,” she says. “They're learning English, they're learning Bible; they're learning life skills. We also have a class,,, where we just teach them how to be kids again."

The Wheelers acknowledge sex trafficking is also a problem in the United States, but it's the magnitude of the issue in Asian countries that drew them overseas.

"These kids don't have parents to protect them, they don't have law enforcement that protects them, they don't have governments that protect them,” Ethan says. “So that's our responsibility, I think, we have as a nation that is very blessed is to go out and share some of what we have with these kids."

The family is from the Treasure Valley and stateside for just a few months. They’re home visiting family and speaking at local churches about their efforts in Thailand. They plan on returning to Thailand Sept. 16. 

If you’d like to learn more about Destiny Rescue visit https://www.destinyrescue.org/us/ .

For more on the Wheelers, or to donate to their family, visit http://wheelsoverasia.org/ .