Friends of Thai Daughters provides education, safe shelter and emotional support to girls at risk of being trafficked in Northern Thailand.
Our program is intensive, comprehensive and produces amazing outcomes.
We are frequently asked, “how do you find your Daughters?” This is actually an incredibly important question. After more than a decade visiting remote hill tribe villages in the Golden Triangle, FTD is known as a highly respected program for at-risk girls to pursue their education and achieve their dreams. We focus on girls who are most vulnerable to being targeted by traffickers, exploited by relatives, or forced into child marriage.
Many of our Daughters are orphaned or have been abandoned by parents unable to care for them. As Thailand lacks birthright citizenship, several of our Daughters are stateless, rendering them unable to work legally, move freely beyond police checkpoints or have access to government provided healthcare.
Our General Manager Mee is a Graduate Daughter and has kindly agreed to share her story.
I was born in a very poor Akha village, located high in the mountains along the Burmese-Thai border. My parents were farmers, with no formal education and unable to speak, read, or write Thai. My mother gave birth to five children. My father became addicted to methamphetamines and heroin, and soon my mother became addicted to opium. When I was 9 years old, my father died of an overdose and my mother was arrested for drug possession. Suddenly, I was responsible for taking care of my younger siblings.
I was constantly hungry, tired and worried. I thought only about getting enough food for my little brother and sisters and keeping us safe.
Read Mee's Story
When my mother returned from jail, she agreed to let me go down off the mountain to stay at a children’s foundation where I could attend school. I was much older than the students in my class because I had missed so many years of school but I loved to learn and was keen to get an education so I could get a good job and support my mother and siblings.
After finishing Grade 9, I was told that there wasn’t enough money for me to go to high school. I was very disappointed because I knew that without a high school degree, my job options were pretty much limited to working as a day laborer, a sex worker, or a drug dealer.
That’s when Friends of Thai Daughters changed my life. FTD supported me through high school AND university, providing love, support and everything I needed to succeed.
Thanks to my education, I started working in real estate and used my earnings to buy a pineapple farm to employ my mother, brother, and other villagers. I was so proud to be able to help my family and neighbors have jobs. It was so important to me to help other girls like me that I asked FTD if I could lead the next generation of FTD. I became a social worker and now nine years later, we have two Sunflower Houses with a third under construction, supporting 50 girls become their best selves: strong, kind, caring and independent.
I’m now happily married and have three sons. My husband and I take care of our Thai Daughters who see us as their “Mom and Dad role models”. Since I come from the same background as many of our girls, they now know that they too can follow in my footsteps — get a good education, help their families and villages, and pursue their dreams.
We don’t “find” girls
Our goal is not to fill our homes but to meet the needs and have a transformational impact in the lives of the most vulnerable. Girls typically enter our program through referrals from local officials or other NGO’s.
For girls to enter our program, they must demonstrate significant need and vulnerability. Our assessments are made by a qualified local social worker and our program manager who have a deep understanding of the local culture and the situations and challenges that it presents.
Evaluation Criteria for Entering Our Program
While traveling through Northern Thailand in 2002, Jane McBride and Patricia Zinkowski discovered fifteen girls living in an abandoned school in the village of Doi Luang. The girls had little adult supervision and were trying to survive as best they could in an area known for human trafficking agents. The situation was extremely worrying.
Jane and Patty provided financial assistance and made a promise to the girls of Doi Luang that they would not forget them. They later returned to Thailand with a camera and made a documentary about the girls’ stories and life in their villages. Each girl had a tragic story to tell. Many were AIDS orphans or had parents in prison. Most lacked ID cards, leaving them “stateless” and highly vulnerable to traffickers. Something had to be done to protect them before it was too late.
The solution was to provide them with safe shelter, education and support. Friends and family pitched in until Friends of Thai Daughters was incorporated as a non-profit in 2005. Since this time, FTD has helped protect and educate dozens of girls and young women through our family-scale program. In 2015, we purchased our first Sunflower House in Chiang Rai. In 2016, we expanded to city of Chiang Khong, located on the Laos border. In 2019, we purchased land to build the Sunflower Farm, in 2022, we moved into the Sunflower Organic Farm, Thailand’s largest adobe and bamboo structure surrounded by organic gardens, ponds and orchards. Over 125 girls, young women, and their families have benefitted from the FTD program.
What began as a grass roots initiative to help a group of girls in need has turned out to be the most rewarding work we could have ever imagined. We started with a simple and clear vision to invest in each of our Daughters, to amplify her voice, improve her ability to succeed, give her the education and support she needs to escape exploitation and to be able to help her family and community. For more than 15 years, our Daughters have demonstrated grit, determination and gratitude. Our success is reflected by our graduate Daughters who are now running the program.
– Patty Zinkowski & Jane McBride
Meet Our Staff
Pitchaya 'Mee' Aryi
Mee was one of the first FTD program graduates. Mee graduated from Chiang Mai University and manages the operations of the Sunflower Campus. She recruits new Daughters and supervises a large family of girls. Mee is a superb ambassador for FTD and exemplifies our values of compassion and care.
Phuangthong 'Too' Takan
Director, Chiang Khong Sunflower House
Born in Chiang Khong, Too Takan has worked in Child Safety, Human Trafficking Prevention and NGO management for over 20 years. She is the founder and director of the Child Rights Protection Center (CRPC). The management and project work of CRPC is informed by her knowledge and experience of living and working in the region.
Winai 'Diaow' Saharuangkit
Diaow takes care of our Sunflower House properties, oversees construction and repairs, transports the Daughters to school and activities and coaches our FTD soccer team. Diaow has a green thumb and is learning about permaculture practices. As the father of two daughters and a son, he greatly admires the FTD program and what it offers children with few options.
Rainbow House Supervisor/Property Manager
Lan started his career as a Police Officer before resigning to start his own bakery business. Passionate about preventing human trafficking, Lan has worked with several organizations to help victims find safe haven and receive support. At FTD, he supervises the maintenance and operation of the Rainbow House, and is property manager of our Sunflower House. A talented artist, woodworker and musician, he loves to play guitar and sing with the girls. Lan has two children and is married to FTD’s Director Too Takan.
Junjira "Jun" Kirisaenphum
Director, Daughter Leadership Team
Jun joined the FTD family when she was in 9th Grade and is now a senior at Rajabhat University, majoring in International English. A natural born leader, Jun enjoys organizing activities and workshops on a variety of subjects from organic gardening to gender equality. She has traveled to the US several times and spoken at the United Nations on the rights of girls and women. Jun exemplifies the qualities of a youth leader and is a role model for all of our Daughters.
Phitcha "Pink" Ayi
Assistant Housemother/Pickleball Coach
Pink is a member of the Akha hill tribe and the younger sister of General Manager Mee. She grew up in children’s foundations so has a keen understanding of how to care for our Daughters. Pink started playing pickleball in 2021 and has become an accomplished player. She competed in the 2021 Asia Pickleball Tournament and loves teaching the girls how to play.
Assistant Housemother, Sunflower Organic Farm
Muay was born in Chiang Rai and graduated from Phayao University where she majored in Agriculture and Natural Resources. She joined the FTD Family as Assistant Housemother in May, 2022. Muay enjoys taking care of the girls, helping them with homework, giving advice, preparing meals and ensuring that each Daughter’s needs are being met. She also enjoys watching Korean TV shows and gardening. “I love being with the girls and acting as a role model for them.”
Board of Directors
Marc is currently the Chair of the Board of Lydall Corporation (NYSE:LDL), a leading global manufacturer of specialty engineered products for thermal, acoustical insulation applications. Marc was the President and CEO of Gerber Scientific, Inc. Marc also serves as Treasurer for the not-for-profit Board of the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Maine. “Friends of Thai Daughters is making a profound impact and changing lives. It’s a privilege to work with such a dedicated group of people.”
Barry spent his professional career in finance and real estate after graduating from Northeastern University with a BA and MBA, Finance. He divides his time between Palm Beach, FL and Ogunquit, ME where serves on the board of Saint Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church. Barry is a long time supporter of FTD and an active fundraiser. “I am so impressed by the Thai Daughters’ desire to improve themselves and help others.”
Jane F. McBride
Jane is FTD’s Co-Founder. She spends several months a year in Thailand, visiting with our Daughters and traveling to hill tribe villages to meet with families and children at risk. A lifelong entrepreneur, Jane was CEO of a global aviation and luxury travel company. “The resilience and optimism of our Daughters is a constant source of inspiration to me.”
Patti was the owner and operator of three BNI franchises in the greater Boston area with 2,700 members. She is a speaker, motivator and inspirational leader working with professional teams to help advance them to the next level. Her specialties are team building and motivational speaking. Patti is a staunch champion of girls and young women and loves FTD’s mission of empowerment.
Marlene B. Seltzer
“Marlene is the retired CEO of Jobs for the Future, a nationally recognized $50 million non-profit organization helping low-income youth and their families gain economic mobility. Throughout her career, she has worked closely with the philanthropic, education, and business communities to build partnerships and pathways for young people to gain the education in our global economy. “As a long time supporter of FTD, it’s wonderful to witness the transformation of our Daughters.”
Aoy joined the FTD family when she was 18 years old. She graduated from Payap University with an English degree and is currently the Project Manager of the “Keeping Girls Safe” program run by an anti-trafficking and child rights organization. Aoy is an active member of the FTD Board of Directors and frequently visits the Sunflower Houses. She is married and has a delightful young daughter. “FTD changed my life and it’s an honor to be on the Board to help the next generation of Daughters achieve their dreams.”
Co-founder, CFO, Director
FTD’s Co-Founder, CFO and Director, Patty was co-founder of Flight Time Corporation, and President of Avicus Group Ltd. Former Chair of the Board of Trustees of Lasell College in Newton, MA, Overseer of Boston Ballet and Board Member of New England Women’s Business Owners as well as an avid equestrian, farmer and world traveler. “When we discovered some very sweet kids in desperate need, we decided to help on the spot.”
A frequent visitor to FTD’s Sunflower Houses, Joy has hosted several Thai Daughters at her home outside of London where they have studied English, explored British culture and met with donors and supporters. A native of Jamaica, Joy’s background as a teacher, magistrate and health service officer has contributed to her passion to fight inequality and champion the underdog.
Maia Barmish is a behavior and social change communication consultant based in Bangkok, Thailand. She works on issues ranging from gender-based violence to corporate social responsibility. An American expatriate, Maia helps organize events to expand FTD’s growing community of advocates and supporters in Thailand.
An Australian native, Peta is a communications strategist and writer specializing in sustainability. She’s also a passionate believer in the power of education. Her creativity and many years as a strategic planner for advertising giant Wunderman Thompson (formally J. Walter Thompson) help with FTD’s messaging and fundraising. Peta also runs CommonSphere, a cross-sector salon that connects great people doing amazing things for the common good.
Corrie is passionate about facilitating relationships between individuals committed to lifting the human experience. Connector, conduit and idea generator, Corrie is a mission-driven advisor with the ability to unlock potential for impact. Focused on collaborations and support of organizations that combat human trafficking/exploitation, support education, and economic empowerment of marginalized communities. She is excited to be able to be part of the FTD team and continue its success for many more years and Daughters to come.
Originally from Manila, Irma has been a resident of Bangkok for 20 years. She spent a significant portion of her childhood in the US, where she obtained a degree from UCLA. She is a jack of all trades, having worked in academia, retail, the travel industry and most recently as an entrepreneur. Irma is a mom to two great kids and is an advocate of healthy, happy and safe children. She is a supporter of FTD and enjoys being part of the team that can make significant change in the lives of the daughters.
A champion and advocate for many years, Kate has lent her creativity and generosity to FTD’s Sunflower Celebrations and opened her heart and home to FTD Daughters. Previously an educator and interior designer, Kate says, “I have raised money for various causes in my life but never one this personal and so humane. I am in awe that Patty and Jane saw this travesty and took action.
Arlene "Tuny" Page
Tuny has known FTD Co-Founders Jane and Patty for over 30 years and has been a supporter of FTD since its inception. She brings her leadership and fundraising skills to FTD having served on the Board of the US Equestrian Team Foundation and as Co-chair of the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center. Tuny’s Daughter Chariotte volunteered at the Chiang Rai Sunflower House Fall 2017.
Charlotte volunteered at FTD’s Sunflower House as a high school senior, spending two months teaching English, and being fully immersed in Thai culture. When she returned to the US, Charlotte became a passionate ambassador and fundraiser for her Thai “sisters”. Now an entrepreneur and co-founder of online clothing retailer Amour 781, Char continues to promote FTD’s mission and helps to educate her peers on human rights and anti-trafficking initiatives.
Duangporn "Bo" Songvisava
Chef Bo is a Michelin-starred chef and co-owner of Bangkok’s Bo.lan Restaurant, named one of the world’s best restaurants in 2019. Featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, Chef Bo is globally recognized as one of the world’s top chefs. An ardent supporter of FTD, Chef Bo and her husband Dylan Jones have conducted cooking demonstrations and workshops at our Sunflower House and provided hands-on training through internships at Bo.lan. She is a wonderful role model of entrepreneurial success and philanthropy.