A few years after graduating from college, Rachel Goble made a
radical decision. Rather than continue toward a career in marketing
and business, she decided to return to the world of her youth:
serving the poor. She felt drawn to working for social justice,
which had been at the cornerstone of her upbringing.
Today, as the president of The SOLD Project, a nonprofit
foundation that helps young girls in Thailand escape sex
trafficking, Ms. Goble is passionate about her career, she says. In
fact, she's certain that The SOLD Project will be part of her life
Now approaching the five-year mark, The SOLD Project powered in
large part by Goble's relentless drive and determination has
transformed the lives of dozens of young girls (and boys) in
northern Thailand's most poverty-stricken region.
To date, The SOLD Project has provided scholarships for 120 young
students so they can stay in school and thereby exponentially better
their chances of escaping the harmful effects of a life of
With almost no other options for earning a living in rural
mountain villages, Thai girls often yield to the promises of "older"
women, usually about 21 years old, prostitutes who make money to
support their drug addictions by recruiting children into
These women tell of jobs and money that await the children in the
city. A gift as cheap as a cellphone suggests riches and an easy
life to these youngsters. Without an education, young girls fall for
these false promises, only to wind up in a life on the streets.
The SOLD Project team believes deeply that education is the key
to breaking this cycle. That explains why The SOLD Project focuses
Goble has discovered that raising money to start programs or
offer opportunities to children before they have succumbed to the
lure of prostitution has proved difficult.
But facing daunting challenges comes naturally to Goble. She grew
up in northern California, where she felt at home with people from a
wide variety of backgrounds.
Her parents, who are committed to working for social justice,
brought her from a young age along with them to work for nonprofit
groups her dad founded in impoverished places such as Belize. This
work instilled in Goble a deep desire to serve the poor, she says.
She also has always loved working with children and wanted to
advocate for children's rights.
"My childhood was so blessed," she says. "I had no real
struggles, but I saw others in the world struggling." She wanted to
Goble knew she had a calling to work with young people, but she
also wanted to develop her talents in the visual arts. Building on
her degree in business with an emphasis in art, she became a
professional photographer. Still, she knew that if she wanted to
pursue advocacy for children and social justice, she would have to
return to school for more education.
Friends suggested attending a seminary, and though she was
personally committed to a spiritual life, at first she resisted.
Eventually, she found the perfect fit Fuller Theological Seminary
in Pasadena, Calif., which had just started a program in cross-
cultural studies. Goble had the opportunity to more or less design a
program that would give her the freedom to develop her own
Her graduate course work at Fuller sparked an investigation into
children at risk, which led Goble to visit India and South Africa to
research her capstone project. There, she says, she "listened and
learned" about sex trafficking. She found that the funneling of
young girls and boys into the sex industry wasn't only about
coercion. Much broader forces, such as extreme poverty, underlie the
decisions and mistakes young people make.
The real key to stopping the supply of naive children into sex
trafficking, she realized, lay in prevention. However, she
discovered that most aid groups focus on helping only after a life
in prostitution has begun. …