Giving the gift of English in the heart of Patpong

After hustling, poking, and prodding at the organization known as Swing for about a month, I was finally given an answer…No. I had worked my way all the way up the organization’s social ladder, made countless emails, interviews, and mobile calls; yet finally I was turned away. The clients of Swing are ‘sex workers’ and their privacy was a major concern during this production.

Swing is a volunteer organization that provides daily activities, work groups, counselors, and free English lessons to prostitutes in the most notorious red light district in Thailand: Patpong.

Australian and American students volunteer one day out of their week to stand in front of a small class of male and transexual prostitutes in an attempt to give them a gift that will earn them a sense of dignity, pride, and hope.

Both sets of sex workers address themselves with the female greeting ‘ka’ which means they all consider themselves women, despite their appearance.

Patpong is a place my Dutch friends describe as “very aggressive.” With that being said, Patpong is the epicenter of sin in probably all of Southeast Asia.

Most of the prostitutes here are not from Thailand. The classes in Swing are made up of Burmese and Laos people.

I was lucky enough to become part of a couple of these classes and taught briefly to the students. Their ambition is endearing and one of the most rewarding feelings I have felt in my life. Despite their appearance and ambiguous nature I was able to see who these people truly are: human beings.

Their society has built a permanent glass ceiling over their head and it will certainly be a struggle to move anywhere in life, but despite that they enter class everyday with a smile, bottle of water, and fake Dior bags.

Happiness is something you cannot buy. Truly these were the richest prostitutes in Patpong.

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