Yo! RFT Raps

Week of July 19, 2006

Jul 19, 2006 at 4:00 am
Yo! RFT Raps A couple of years ago, 28-year-old Lisa Nesser divorced her husband, quit her job, sold her house and moved to Thailand to work with Burmese orphans.

A former art teacher at Adams Elementary School in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, Nesser had already spent time living in a South Indian refugee camp and working with the national Free Tibet organization. But those causes were a bit played out, she decided. (We're guessing because the Beastie Boys jumped on the bandwagon.)

Nesser read on the Internet about the plight of Burmese refugees who were run out of Burma (also known as Myanmar) but unaccepted in their adopted homeland of Thailand. Adult refugees, Nesser says, are mandated to live in decrepit refugee camps. Some live illegally outside the camps and often put their children to work hawking flowers to tourists or in the sex trade. Hoping to make a difference, she moved to Thailand permanently in May of 2004.

Nesser, who has shoulder-length jet-black hair and striking green eyes, spoke to Yo! recently, while in town to visit her parents and to raise money for the Thai Freedom House, a new facility she's opening.

Operating out of a rented home in the northern city of Chiang Mai, the Thai Freedom House will open in August and function as a school during the weekdays. Two dozen refugee children, ranging in ages from five to twelve, have already signed up. Nesser and a local instructor will teach them English, Thai and other subjects, using the Montessori method. On the weekends the house will function as a safe house for the kids and their parents. Nesser will live upstairs.

What does this have to do with rap? Nesser, a big hip-hop fan, needs money for the project, and DJ Trackstar has put together a mixtape to support it. Called simply The Thai Freedom House Project, it features local and national artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Ruckus Crew, Busta Rhymes and Ghostface Killah. (The benefit CD is also, in our humble opinion, one of Trackstar's best mixes.)

To obtain a copy for $5, e-mail Nesser at [email protected]. You can also make a straight-up donation to the school at www.myspace.com/thaifreedomhouse, but you won't get the CD that way.

In either case, it's small potatoes, considering that Nesser's doing all of the heavy lifting. She says that her work with the Freedom House is illegal, and that if caught, she faces expatriation. Not prison, fortunately: "I checked on that," she says with a laugh. Got a tip for "Yo! RFT Raps"? Send it to [email protected].