Boom Mosby, Founder of The Hug Project, Thailand | 2018 Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards Nominee

Why is it so important for you to help child victims of human trafficking in Thailand?

I feel my childhood history inspired me to help other children and women from being sexually abused and sex trafficked. There are not a lot of women who are on the frontline doing the part of investigation work. There needs to be more women to be involved to work with victims alongside of the law enforcement and policemen.

What happened in your life that instilled this desire to help kids?

I opened the first child advocacy center in Southeast Asia in March 2015. It was inspired because of my story of when I took the victims to the police station and felt that I couldn't help my client very well. So when Vital Voices took me to Dallas Children Advocacy Center, I just loved seeing a place where victims were treated really well and with respect. And I saw the police actually working hand in hand with NGO's and working alongside and supporting victims. I want that system in my country. So when I went back to Thailand, I talked to my police friend who was crazy enough to get the students together. So we opened the advocacy center in Thailand, and now two more child advocacy centers in Pattaya and also in Phuket. This year we'll hope to open two more.

You opened the first child advocacy center in Southeast Asia. Tell me about that journey and how that happened.

copyright Vital Voices

copyright Vital Voices

I opened the first child advocacy center in Southeast Asia in March 2015. It was inspired because of my story of when I took the victims to the police station and felt that I couldn't help my client very well. So when Vital Voices took me to Dallas Children Advocacy Center, I just loved seeing a place where victims were treated really well and with respect. And I saw the police actually working hand in hand with NGO's and working alongside and supporting victims. I want that system in my country. So when I went back to Thailand, I talked to my police friend who was crazy enough to get the students together. So we opened the advocacy center in Thailand, and now two more child advocacy centers in Pattaya and also in Phuket. This year we'll hope to open two more.

What is the HUG Project? Explained to me what it's doing for child victims and what it's doing to transform the way victims are treated.

The HUG Project focuses on prevention, prosecution, protection, and rehabilitation. In prevention we actually educate children and people that are working with children to understand child sex trafficking, and we try to protect child sexual abuse victims. In terms of prosecution, we work alongside law and enforcement, train law enforcement, develop a protocol for law enforcement together with them and bring in a really comprehensive documents and victim's testimonies to make sure that 100 percent of our cases will win in court and victims will not be traumatized through our justice system. And we are there to represent them and for rehabilitation because in Thailand they have very limited counselors and psychologists to understand victims of sex trafficking and child sexual abuse. Often victims have to go to a government hospital, which people may look at them as a psychopath or having mental issues. So basically at our advocacy center, we have free services where they can have access to our counselors, that are free that come to the house which is private and don't make them feel that they are any different.

This transformation is amazing because the police have always been there and suddenly you come along and now the police are advocating with you. They're helping you. They're showing empathy alongside you, which didn't happen before. How did you make that happen?

So being a change agent means either I can get angry with the system, or I can turn anger into power. And I look for law enforcement champions in Thailand and work with them. Many trainings were designed to provide more knowledge, but I think we want to shift that from the mind to the heart of the law enforcement. We want attitude change, because in Thailand what I've learned is, even if we have a strict law or really good law, if the people who practice the law do not have the right attitude and the compassion towards victims, then victims won't get treated well and there's no harmony between the law and people's belief. And that's when victims don't get protected.

We're talking about the victims. But what about the perpetrators? How do we stop that from happening? What is in the psychology behind why people do what they do? And what causes the human trafficking in the first place?

Many of our traffickers are from different areas. Many are tourists, many are former victims. Many of the boys that I have worked with in the past didn’t get help and didn’t heal and that is how they learn to traffic other boys or foreigners who come into town. It is so sad. I never get angry with them because they didn’t get the right help. And that is why we want to improve the system. Traffickers can be monks or people from various careers. For us, in Thailand, without victims there is no case, so we need victim testimonies. For us to prosecute well, we need to work closely with victims and technology to help advance the investigation to target more offenders. 

Can you tell us the story of one of your cases?

I have to say, my first case... I will call her Jane. She was trafficked when she was 12 years old. She grew up with a single dad and it was hard. People think of sex trafficking victims are nice, sweet, and naive. But actually not, like Jane, would yell at me on the phone or close the door at me or scream. She got help but she relapsed and she would go back to her trafficker, many times, and even new traffickers. So my team is trained on the stages of change. We do not impose change, but we will motivate the change.

 So she grew from not going to school, and shifted to going to school. She says she only wanted to finish middle school. She got over 3.0 GPA and her dad came to her graduation and then she turned around and said, I'm capable. I want to go to high school. Can you help me with the scholarship? So our team helped her connect with the Freedom Story, which is my best friend's organization and they provided her with a scholarship and she's about to graduate high school. And now she actually helps me with a lot of investigation and she also advises me on how to ask some questions and run some cases and she also helped me with prevention programs by speaking to the youth and becoming a young leader in our program.

At the Vital Voices awards, you said everyone in the world has something to overcome. You can be an agent of change. Anything is possible.

With the award I just received regarding human rights, I know that I was also a name, a tip report hero and many people look at me and as a hero. But a hero is not always the one who is super powerful. I actually have to overcome the brokenness of my experience. And I know many victims to have to overcome that. But we can be an agent of change. We need to break the culture of silence. We need to speak up and we need to fight for each other and that will help us become a true hero and it will help us create more heroes in the world.


Ms. Media