Our Founder’s Story
A thousand baht, a gold necklace and a motorbike. That was the price that was being negotiated on a humid morning in Chiang Mai, between an older European man and a Burmese migrant mother. The price in question, was the cost of the woman’s daughter.
Trafficking happens in many ways in all parts of the world, and devastatingly, the story of a mother attempting to sell her own daughter out of survival is not a new one. The only difference in this case was that Alexa and Hannah happened to be there, and happened to be in Thailand for just this reason. 6 months prior they had had parted ways with a Nepali anti-human trafficking NGO and decided to start their own initiative. They booked a 3-week trip to Thailand and Cambodia- classified by the 2010 TIP Report as two of the worst countries in the world for trafficking- to do research, and see if their idea was even plausible. It was during the last week of their trip, early one morning, that their translators alerted them to an unusual translation request- a man asking them to translate his purchase of a woman’s daughter.
They immediately knew they had to do everything in their power to stop this sale from happening. And after a long discussion aided by translators, the mother agreed not to go through with it. But there was no real triumph here, the girl would remain just as vulnerable the next day as she had been that morning- much more than a conversation had to be done for this girl’s life to be in her own hands. So Alexa and Hannah decided to reach out to all of the anti-trafficking organizations they had just spent weeks meeting with- surely someone could take her into safe custody. But it was then that they realized the scope of the real problem— no one would take her.
Either she didn’t qualify for their program because she hadn’t already been trafficked, or she didn’t qualify because her parents were illegal migrants. The girl and her mother were of the Shan ethnic minority group from Myanmar, and were in Thailand seeking work and safety from civil war. But without proper immigration paperwork, Burmese refugees like them who flee conflict and genocide in Myanmar are simply classified as illegal aliens. Therefore for an NGO to take her in, it would jeopardize their foundation’s legal status.
Dismayed and angered at the injustice of the situation, it was in that moment they realized what they had to do: find a way to work with the most vulnerablized population - ethnic minority girls from Myanmar and rural Thailand- and help give them opportunities that would prevent them from ever being in this situation in the first place. And thus, the idea for Daughters Rising was born.
Meet Our Team
Golo Wararom graduated from Mae Jo University with a degree in agriculture and from our hospitality training program at the Chai Lai Orchid. Supported by our scholarship initiative, she became a trained trekking guide, which she used as a platform to share Karen indigenous wisdom about the jungle. Her dream is to be a voice for Karen People on an international level and advocate for indigenous people's land rights. She mentors the women in the Daughters Rising program, provides translation in English, Karen and Thai languages, and spearheads our RISE empowerment / RISE Youth workshops.
Owner, Chai Lai Sisters
After finishing our hospitality training program at the Chai Lai Orchid, Nukul used our interest-free loan program to open her own company. She created Chai Lai Sisters, Thailand's first Karen women-owned trekking company. Now she helps train the girls at Chai Lai to be trekking guides and manage their own homestays.
Co-Founder + Volunteer Executive Director
Alexandra Bay was working as photographer in NYC when she met a girl being trafficked in Chiang Mai. She dropped everything to move to rural Thailand and create a safe house and job training center. Her passion for humanitarian work has propelled her on adventure throughout the world for the past decade working with nonprofits from Germany to Nepal. She spearheads Daughters Rising initiatives, develops RISE Workshops and runs our training and educational programs at the Chai Lai Orchid.
Co-Founder + Volunteer Associate Director
Johannah Herr is an artist and designer, holding a BFA from Parsons and and MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. She is based in Brooklyn, where she and Alexa met and bonded over their shared passion for women's empowerment projects many years ago. They started Daughters Rising after the experience of witnessing a girl being trafficked in Chiang Mai. Hannah helps with overall program management, graphic design, fundraising, and spearheaded the RISE shop in which she designs and develops products with indigenous craftswomen for sale online and in our Chai Lai Orchid shop. When she is not in the jungle she is a professional artist having exhibited her work in New York, London, Seattle, Mexico City, Tel Aviv, Berlin and Ulaanbaatar and currently is Adjunct Faculty at Parsons and New York University.
Gaynor spent the last decade of her career working in the fields of Speech & Drama and Communication in Singapore and India - as an educator, performer, trainer and writer. She is now a freelance writer living on a permaculture farm in Mae Wang. A dedicated yogini, she is passionate about nature, the power of words to move and persuade, and the fundamental importance of spreading loving kindness. She helps coordinate all on and off-site volunteers.
Nuraan Felix is a trauma-focused psychotherapist and the founder of Somatic Therapy Co. She has extensive experience working with early childhood trauma, sexual abuse, addiction and complex PTSD. Nuraan has been based in Asia for several years working at various treatment centers, as well as facilitating mental health empowerment workshops for Daughter’s Rising trainees.
Volunteer and Advocate
Luna Ausin Gonzalez is a photographer, yoga instructor and passionate advocate for indigenous women’s empowerment. When in Thailand she runs RISE yoga and photography workshops as well as supports our Karen Mythology Storybook project. She is currently spearheading her own fundraising initiative- Kali Ma- which uses yoga to empower ethnic minority women through employment and gives proceeds to benefit our scholarship program for ethnic minority girls.
Volunteer and Advocate
Monique Lindner is a former Semi-Pro ballerina and scuba instructor, pineapple enthusiast and efficiency expert. Her consulting business, Pineapples, Pirouettes & The PowerWoman helps high-achieving business leaders maximize their productivity, profits and personal fulfillment. Her passion for human rights- particularly those of refugees and ethnic minorities- propelled her to join our team as a technical consultant, fundraiser and advocate.