PATONG: A round-the-clock center run by international charity World Vision is now operating in Patong to help children escape the sex industry, homelessness and poverty. The one-story centre, built with 800,000 baht in donations, was officially opened yesterday on Haad Patong Rd, opposite the Club Andaman Beach Resort and behind the football field. It will be run by Patong Municipality. The World Vision Fund of Thailand, a charitable Christian development organization, was registered as an NGO in 1974 with the aim of improving the lives of needy people in difficult circumstances. Chusak Wuthiwaropas, Director of WVFT, said, “The present problems of homeless children, orphans, child abuse, drugs and child sex have increased every day, especially in Patong. “We try to cure these problems, but in the past the main obstacle was that we had to rent a house as a center and, with these kids coming in and out all the time, neighbors often didn’t like it. “I talked with Governor CEO [Pongpayome Vasaputi] and Patong Mayor [Surasak Maneesri] about the problem, so WVFT had support to open the center in Phuket,” he said. The center will be open 24 hours, with at least one member of staff on duty at all times. “We will not force children to come here, but they are welcome any time they want,” K. Chusak said. “Our strategy is to make them feel comfortable and to trust us first. Then the children tell us their problems. We also support their education and job training.” K. Chusak added that there were about 35 children in Patong already using the center, which first opened its doors, unofficially, a month ago. “We do not really know all the problems of each of them, though we believe that about half are involved in child sex,” he said. “However, it’s a good starting point that they know there are people ready to help them.” World Vision also operates a similar center in Bangkok.
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