“The Community Learning Center (CLC) provides free language and literacy education to up to 100 community members in the Thai-Burma border region. Students include undocumented migrants, refugees, members of ethnic minority hill tribes, and Buddhist monks. Learning language and literacy gives these marginalized groups improved confidence, skill sets, and earning potential. It also increases their access to educational resources in the community outside of CLC. As a result, the program reduces their risk of being trafficked into exploitative labor situations. On a practical level, learning Thai provides critical improvements to learners’ daily lives and standard of living. It also empowers them to be active members of the community.”
Read the rest on our GlobalGiving profile! Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported and continues to support this project. Thanks for helping us provide the opportunity for education and literacy to those who need it most in the Mae Sai community.
“The Half Day School has just completed a very successful 2012-2013 school year. As of mid-March, the students are on holiday for rice planting season, and will return for the new school year in May. Thanks to your generous support, this school year the Half Day School provided vital education, vocational and life skills training, and material support to over 150 children from vulnerable communities in the Thai-Burma border region.
“I’d like to tell you about some recent developments at the Half Day School, including special activities, new programs and partnerships, and the work of international volunteers. I also want to update you on our ongoing activities in education, vocational training, and personal development training. This school year saw growth in a number of areas including the organic agriculture project, the Buddhist Project, and English teaching.”
Read the rest on our GlobalGiving profile! And thanks to everyone who has donated to this successful and much-needed project! We couldn’t do it without you!
In this edition of staff profiles, “Hannah vs. Hana,” we’d like to say a fond farewell to Hannah Smith, our international volunteer coordinator, who has been with DEPDC for the past year, and we’d like to introduce her replacement, Hana Livingston. (It is not a requirement that you have to be named Hannah/Hana to work as the volunteer coordinator at DEPDC!)
The international volunteer coordinator (IVC) is responsible for DEPDC’s International Department, which comprises all of our international volunteers. Based in the Mae Sai headquarters, the IVC wears many hats, including recruiting, training, and managing volunteers; overseeing the DEPDC blog and other English language social media and communications; writing grant reports; receiving visitors; and general administration.
Hannah S. graduated with a B.A. in Politics and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London in 2011. Originally from Thailand, Hannah came to DEPDC because of her strong interest in human trafficking.
Hannah says, “Working at DEPDC has been an amazing and unforgettable opportunity. I am so grateful to have been a part of an organization that does such great work. Everyone here is incredibly dedicated.”
Some of her best memories from DEPDC are interpreting for World’s Children’s Prize while they were profiling Khun Sompop and the children in our programs; working with everyone at DEPDC, especially the staff and volunteers, who are “simply great people;” and seeing Khun Sompop and DEPDC staff have a jam session with guitars, bongos, and Thai classical instruments!
Read more from Hannah’s staff interview at Go Overseas.
Hana L. is thrilled to be the newest IVC at DEPDC. She previously worked for an education-based NGO on the Thai-Burmese border in Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province. She has also worked with refugees, undocumented immigrants, and disadvantaged children in China and in her home country, the U.S.
Hana says she loves working at DEPDC so far and sometimes has to force herself to leave the office and go home at the end of the day! Some of her favorite parts of the job so far are getting to interact with people from all over the world who are passionate about ending human trafficking, giving people the opportunity to change their lives and the lives of others by becoming volunteers, being inspired daily by the hardworking and committed DEPDC staff and volunteers, and playing with the babies that hang out at the Mae Sai office!
Please join us in wishing Hannah Smith the best of luck in her next steps, and in welcoming Hana Livingston to DEPDC!
Learning About Love and Sex on Valentine’s Day: Daughters Discuss Safe Sex and Online Relationships in Chiang Khong
Through media and other powerful forces of globalization, the festivities of Valentine’s Day have spread all over the world. Millions of people of diverse origins, races, and religions celebrate love in the month of February. Lovers send each other heart-shaped cards and gifts to demonstrate their sentiments. From Bangkok to New York to Paris, shop windows are dressed in red and pink and filled with hearts, encouraging passerby to celebrate love.
Of course, the trend has also arrived in this small town in northern Thailand, and our girls are very much aware of it here in Chiang Khong. On the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, they talked about it continually, teasing each other about who would get more gifts. Some girls prepared their own gifts to give to their most beloved friends. On the day itself, everyone at the center – staff included — ended up covered in red heart-shaped stickers!
But at DEPDC Chiang Khong, we wanted to take advantage of Valentine’s Day to foster a deeper dialogue on issues of love and relationships. We organized two very interesting and much-needed workshops: Safe Sex and Safe Social Media.
The Safe Sex workshop was conducted by professionals from the local community. As our daughters reach puberty, the need for this type of training is evident. Some of them will soon turn eighteen and will leave the center, inevitably encountering the possibility of engaging in sexual relationships. But as sex remains a taboo subject among most hill tribe peoples and quality sex education is still rare in Thai schools, most young women and men approach sex for the first time uninformed or, worse, misinformed.
The Safe Sex workshop aimed to empower DEPDC daughters to:
- Be aware of the sexual nature of human beings with knowledge of their own female bodies and those of their male counterparts
- Protect themselves against physical and emotional threats related to sex, such as HIV/AIDS and unwanted sexual advances from others
In discussing such sensitive issues, the workshop used games and practical activities rather than lecturing on “do’s and don’ts.” The girls actively engaged in all the activities and even ventured questions!
For our second workshop, Khun Ness, an IT specialist from the local community, came to talk about safe use of social media. These days, relationships have evolved to a new level with the advances of communication technologies and rapidly increasing internet access in every corner of the globe. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms provide virtually limitless opportunities to learn and connect with others. However, we noticed that most of the girls were unaware of the risks associated with these sites. A popular saying states, “Facebook friends are not your real friends,” and this is the message we wanted to pass on to the girls: think about who can see your profile, who has access to your pictures, who you are talking to, and so on. The Safe Social Media workshop taught the girls how to use features of Facebook and other social media platforms while encouraging them to use these websites safely and wisely. Khun Ness helped the girls identify potential risks on the internet and taught them how to protect themselves against these threats, so that their experience surfing the net is both fun and safe!
Sports Day here at DEPDC Mae Sai this month was a big success. Students learned actively about teamwork, winning and losing gracefully, self-esteem, and the importance and fun of physical fitness. They also got to play in the sun all day!
The day began with a ceremony which included the raising of the Thai and royal flags and the recitation of Buddhist prayers. After that, the games got started in earnest. Students decked out in team colors cheered on their classmates as they ran, hopped, and occasionally ate their way across the finish line. Games included relay races, tire-rolling races, three-legged (and seven-legged!) races, and more. One hilarious game was a shower relay, where students had to dress in traditional Thai skirts and a shower cap and run with bathing supplies to a teammate, who would then repeat the process. Students also raced to see who could make the tastiest som tam (papaya salad)! Toward the end of the day, there were big football games for both the boys and the girls with students and teachers playing side by side.
Students prepared cheers ahead of time and shouted them all day to support their teammates. Prizes were awarded to students throughout the day, and each participant was recognized and cheered for his or her efforts. At the end of the day, we recognized our winning team, had closing ceremonies, and sent the kids off happy from their day’s exertions and fun.
DEPDC Chiang Khong and Mae Chan are recruiting!
We may accept short-term volunteers who can offer a specific skill set. We also have opportunities available at our headquarters in Mae Sai starting at the end of this year.
Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested.
This week we would like to introduce you to Patricia, our new international volunteer at DEPDC Chiang Khong. She is originally from Spain but has lived in England for many years. Pat graduated from East London University (UK) in 2011. She studied Third World Development and Psychosocial Studies because she wanted to “change the world.” Although this has proved much more difficult in practice than it ever seemed in theory, she is firmly convinced that a better world is possible.
After finishing her degree in England, Pat returned to Spain. During this time, she took courses in development, gender, NGO management, French, and Catalan, as well as volunteering for the Red Cross. Pat’s goal was to join a development organization abroad and gain practical experience in the field. She was delighted when DEPDC offered her the opportunity to come to Thailand and become part of the International Department as a long-term volunteer.
Pat first visited Thailand in 2008 for what was supposed to be just a holiday. However, her short trip became much more than that when she witnessed the enormous scale of the country’s sex industry. She became very interested in the issue of prostitution in Southeast Asia, particularly sex tourism, and it became the topic of her final thesis at university.
Pat is the only international volunteer based at DEPDC’s shelter for at-risk girls in Chiang Khong. One of her projects is running a daily English Language After School Club. The club provides the girls with an informal setting where they feel comfortable practicing their English skills, leaving their fears of foreign languages behind.
More recently, Pat has initiated a long-term project to teach the girls about environmental protection. It addresses issues such as waste management, the 3 “R” concept (reduce, reuse, recycle), consumerism, and sustainability. She also helps with English language correspondence, visitors, and the DEPDC newsletter and blog.
She plans to stay with us until the end of this year. She is currently studying Thai language, which she hopes will enable her to discuss a wider range of issues with the girls.
Pat is especially enjoying living at the centre with the girls and developing close relationships with them. You will often find Pat and the girls riding bicycles together across the paddy fields as the sun sets on the horizon. Surely the best moment of the day!
Hi everybody! We are pleased to introduce you this week to one of our current volunteers, Natalie from Texas in the United States. Natalie joined us back in October of 2012 at our Mae Sai site.
Before she came to Thailand, Natalie worked for many years as a teacher in the US. After graduating from university, she taught at a private school for gifted children in Austin, Texas. In her first year there, she assistant-taught in a primary classroom, specializing in early literacy skills. For the next two years Natalie worked as a lead teacher, instructing students ranging in age from five to thirteen in English, French, World Geography, and various seminar classes. She also performed many administrative duties at this school, researching time allocation of core subjects and writing the elementary school schedule, organizing all field trips for grades K – 12, and recruiting guest lecturers for elementary seminar courses.
Subsequently, Natalie has taught SAT Prep to high school students in Texas, worked as a buyer in an Austin clothing store, and volunteered with a local, socially-responsible clothing business called Open Arms, teaching many of their employees – all refugee women from countries around the world – EFL and literacy skills. Natalie has longed for years to come to northern Thailand and do volunteer work to combat the child sex trade. She is overjoyed to be working at DEPDC Mae Sai to educate at-risk youth, as she strongly believes that this is an effective tool in preventing child trafficking and empowering children.
At our Mae Sai site, Natalie teaches English to grades K.2 – G.4-6 at the Half Day School (HDS), teaches Staff English, and teaches adult community members English as a part of the Community Learning Center (CLC) program. Natalie also helps out with social media (she made the Children’s Day video!), writes for our newsletter, and does some report writing. During her last two months at DEPDC, Natalie is writing a teaching manual for all future international volunteers who will be teaching English who may not have had much previous experience or training in education.
Some of Natalie’s favorite experiences at DEPDC so far have been playing games in HDS classes and watching her students have fun learning English, riding her beloved motorbike around town, playing soccer with the HDS kids on Sports Day, and having a class discussion with her CLC students about what they want to do with their lives and hearing so many thoughtful responses about how her students want to help others and try to make the world a better place.