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Tamar Center: Turning pain into purpose in Pattaya's sex industry

Tamar Center's mission of hope in a city full of red-light districts

Tom King Tom King
4 min

Tamar Center's mission of hope

Life in northeast Thailand can be extremely difficult. The soil is very poor, making farming really tough. Most people don't finish high school, and for those that do, finding work is hard as there's little industry in the area. With very few options left to them, many young women find themselves under pressure from family to earn money by moving to a city like Pattaya to work in the sex industry.

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Often these women don't know what they’re going into. Many will have been promised work in a ‘restaurant’ only to arrive in Pattaya to find that they're actually working in a bar, which, in reality, is a brothel. Pressure from family back home is now doubled down by the bar owner, and many of these women find themselves trapped in a life they never imagined.

As you walk around Pattaya the sheer number of bars, go-go clubs and massage parlours can feel overwhelming. It's estimated that up to 30,000 women are working in prostitution in the city, but in reality that's probably a conservative guess. Up to a million sex tourists flock to Pattaya each year at the cost of these women's dignity and sense of self-worth; and that's where Tamar Center steps in.

Tamar Center: Shining light into darkness 

Tamar Center was established in 1999 to offer hope, healing and a new life to the women working in the bars of Pattaya. Twice a week our outreach team visit the bars in the city, building relationships with the women and helping them. We invite women to our daily English class as a way to get to know them outside of the bar environment. Often this process can be slow. Because of their experiences the women are usually suspicious of anyone offering to help them.

Offering help and hope

For the women that do choose to leave the bars, Tamar Center offers a therapeutic and holistic environment for their recovery. We offer several vocational pathways all aimed at helping the women to find alternative means of providing for their families once they leave us. They can train in hairdressing, hospitality, sewing, baking or as a barista in our coffee shop. 


Alongside this vocational training Tamar Center offers a comprehensive counselling programme. Many of the women will have experienced various traumas during their time working in the bars, and for many of them this will not have been their first experience of abuse.

Sarah’s story: Guilt, grief and glory 

Sarah joined Tamar Center five years ago. Her husband had become extremely violent towards her during her pregnancy, and after living with his alcoholism and abuse for many years she decided to leave. Sarah ended up working in a bar in Pattaya, selling her body each night to make money to send home to her daughter, who was being looked after by her in-laws. 

After a while Sarah became the manager of the bar, negotiating the release fees of the women with customers. One of the women working in Sarah's bar often came to English classes at Tamar Center but, tragically, one night this woman was killed by a customer whom Sarah had agreed could take her back to his hotel. 

Sarah was overcome with grief and guilt and in an act of desperation tried to take her own life. Yet in the depth of her despair, somewhere in the back of her mind Sarah remembered that she had a Tamar Center business card. She decided to phone our emergency helpline and we were able to get her the medical attention she needed. The following day she moved into our accommodation and started her new life.

Sarah's recovery was not quick or easy. It's taken a lot of time and a lot of love to help her process the trauma she experienced working in the bar and the guilt that she felt as a result of that terrible night. Yet in the midst of this awful situation, God has shown his grace and kindness and goodness to Sarah. It's been wonderful to see him transform her life and to see her begin to enjoy a relationship with Jesus. Sarah is now a passionate evangelist telling anyone and everyone she meets about Jesus’ love for them, a love that she first experienced when she heard the gospel in Tamar Center.

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God’s transformative love 

You see, providing vocational training is brilliant, and offering trauma counselling is essential. But the only thing that is able to truly transform the lives of the thousands of women working in Pattaya is the love of God, and at Tamar Center it is God’s love, forgiveness, acceptance and grace that we strive to introduce these women to.



You can help the Tamar Center continue to transform more women's lives by supporting them with a Giving Account from Stewardship.



Read more stories of how the Tamar Center is impacting lives in offering hope, healing, and a new life to the bar girls in Pattaya, Thailand  


Please pray for God's provision for Tamar to continue responding to Jesus Christ’s call to love and serve those in the red light districts of Pattaya.


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Written by

Tom King

Tom and his wife Nerys work at Tamar Center in Pattaya, Thailand. Tamar Center offers hope, healing and a new life to women leaving sex work by providing a holistic, supportive and nurturing environment for recovery. This is provided through counselling, housing, vocational training and spiritual input. Nerys works as a trauma counsellor with the Tamar women whilst Tom teaches theology to Tamar Center's team of trainee Pastors. They have one son - Efan.