Trick-or-Treat for a Good Cause!

© Fred Goldstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Fred Goldstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Today, October 31st, marks the day of a much-loved holiday and cultural tradition in the United States: Halloween. Many people around the world are familiar with this holiday. They know that little children dress up in costumes and go door-to-door asking their neighbors for candy with the familiar shout, “Trick-or-treat!” (It’s almost always a “treat”.)

What international observers may be unaware of is United Nation’s Children’s Fund Halloween-themed program “Trick-or-Treat for Unicef”. While children go and pursue bagfuls of candy, some children also bring around a little cardboard box that sports the Unicef name. The purpose of this little box is to collect money, pocket change, for destitute children living in developing and underdeveloped countries. This unique tactic lets children play a huge role in raising money for those in needs and learn the benefits of philanthropy. The children get to know how great it feels to give back!

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Once the night is over, all of the candy is traded amongst siblings and friends and the money is put aside to be mailed to Unicef’s US Fund. Once received, 91¢ for every $1 USD raised is sent to impoverished children all over the world. The children who collected the money receive a certificate of participation from Unicef for their efforts.

According to the Unicef website, $170 million USD has been raised by children trick-or-treating for Unicef since the inception of the program in 1950!

For more information on how you can donate and/or learn more about Trick-or-Treat Unicef, follow the link below. You can also learn about other Unicef projects:

http://www.unicefusa.org/mission/usa/trick-or-treat

Have a very happy Halloween!

Life Skills and the Outdoors!

Once a year, our Half Day School Program organizes a camp for its primary level students, so they can develop life skills in various areas.  This year’s camp took place from the 30th of September until the 3rd of October at the Mae Chan Watershed Conservation and Management Center, about 50 kilometers from the Half Day School site.

These four days were filled with a wide variety of activities, ranging from workshops about violence in the family interactive games, to a nature trek with the rangers from the center.  The first day that students and teachers arrived at the campsite, they visited hot springs located close to the center.  For the second day, the Thai and International staff of the DEPDC / GMS organized games for the children, so they could practice their skills in different areas like teamwork, dexterity, coordination, and endurance.

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Students eagerly listen to park rangers and await the trek

The staff of the Mae Chan Watershed Conservation and Management Center organized the third day’s activities, and they gave lectures about natural disasters, their causes, and countermeasures that can be taken to reduce their effects. During the afternoon, the rangers organized a trek through the forest around the center.  They named the flora and fauna of the mountain forests of Northern Thailand to the students.  After this trek, the students had the opportunity to plant their own trees in a reforestation area close to the center.

The fourth day was filled with some final lectures about shaping one’s life in a beneficial way and the return trip to Mae Sai.  After these four days full of learning and other activities, the students arrived back at our school site in the early afternoon, tired but happy.

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Preparation of saplings to plant in a reforestation area

 


 

Child Safe Tourism – What We Can Do

With more than 20 million tourists visiting Thailand annually, tourism is a significant part of the country’s economy – about 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Within the tourism sector, a notorious and unabashedly open aspect is the sex tourism industry.  Sex tourism can take the form of international or Thai travel company arrangements just for this purpose, while short-term tourists and speciously intended long-stayers come to Thailand and seek out women, men, and children on their own.  The former method is common enough; the latter much more so, and far too easy.  

We as a global community are responsible for creating safe havens for children against the threats that sex tourism creates.  Many of us want to act in ways that keep the children of local communities safe.  However, there are unsavory activities and situations for which, when we lack awareness or do not know how to intervene, the potential result is further harm done.

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When children lack daily protection and structure, they are especially vulnerable to local and tourist threats alike.


How Tourism Can Harm Children and What We Can Do

Child safety considerations are not only relevant to tourism in Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia.  According to a 2008 report (Combating Child Sex Tourism) published by ECPATEnd Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes – all regions of the world are involved in the sexual exploitation of children.  ECPAT makes a plain and direct exhortation:

When you see child sex tourism, report it.  Unless everyone takes an active stance against child sex tourism, children will continue to be victims of sexual exploitation by tourists.  (p. 36)

To be a responsible and child-friendly traveler, the Child Safe Tourism website guides us to act in ways that positively impact children’s lives:

  • “Do not engage in any sexual activity with any person under the age of 18 years”.  This is harmful and illegal, and many countries impose sanctions against their own citizens who commit sex acts with minors while abroad.  Do not hesitate to report any sexual activity involving minors to the local authorities or to the authorities of the perpetrator’s country of origin.
  • “Find alternatives to giving money to children who beg or sell things on the street”.  Donating money directly to trustworthy organizations that work with vulnerable children ensures that your gesture of kindness is utilized properly.
  • “Choose hotels, tour companies, and businesses that implement child protection standards.”  Responsible tourists can influence the tourism industry by demanding to patronize child-safe businesses.
  • “Do your research before visiting or volunteering to help vulnerable children abroad.”  Some practices of short-term volunteerism, though well-intentioned, can be harmful to children.  Our organization DEPDC / GMS, for example, requires a minimum 6-month commitment period for its International Volunteers, and follows strict rules to protect its children.  We are currently developing a Child Protection Policy with our partner Kindernothilfe.  The policy articulates procedures and codes of conduct for staff, volunteers, and visitors who come in contact with or have information about our children.
  • “Ask permission before taking photos and avoid giving gifts directly to children or taking them anywhere alone.”   Children who become used to interaction with strangers, especially without permission from their parents or caretakers, are potentially vulnerable to exploitation.
  • “Spread the word about child-safe tourism,” about the work of DEPDC / GMS, and about the responsibility of each and every adult.
  • “If you see or suspect child abuse while traveling, report it immediately.”   For Thailand, the telephone options are:

    DEPDC / GMS  Child Help Line:  +66 (0) 53-642-599   (Thailand / northern region)

    FOCUS – Stop Human Trafficking Hotline:  +66 (0) 87-174-5797   (Thailand / national)

    Thailand Government Hotline:  1300   (in Thailand)

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Children should grow up without harm and dream of a safe future.

Sources:

http://www.ecpat.net/sites/default/files/cst_faq_eng.pdf

http://childsafetourism.org/actions/

http://www.childsafetourism.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/The-Child-Safe-Traveller-Report.pdf

 


 

Meet an International Volunteer: Channing!

The International Department would like to introduce Channing. She joined our organization this past August. Channing is currently a candidate to earn her bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and International Affairs at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. She is taking the year off to explore Southeast Asia.  Channing has previous experience in teaching English as a second language and working with non-profit organizations, and she is excited to see what new skill sets she can gain while volunteering at the DEPDC/GMS.  During her first month in Mae Sai, Channing has worked on starting new projects, finding potential donors, and has managed the social media accounts.  She has also begun teaching at the Half Day School and evening Community Learning Center classes.  She is eager to see how she can further help the DEPDC/GMS grow, and how the DEPDC/GMS can help her grow.

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“My school has an amazing program that allows each of its students to further their professional ambitions during their five years of study. The DEPDC/GMS is my third and final placement, and thus far it seems to be the most exciting yet. I feel like I’m being trusted with real responsibility and not just gofer work. This placement is also the first one I have participated in that directly relates to my post-graduate ambitions, and it’s in Thailand!

From the beginning, I have been overwhelmed and humbled by everyone’s passion towards helping to end modern-day slavery and human trafficking. It’s awe-inspiring to see such dedication and hard work go toward such a worthy cause. It’s amazing to see such diversity in Thailand, including many of the students who come from different ethnic backgrounds.

So far I have had a lot of fun getting to know my new coworkers, village, and Mae Sai in general. Everyone has been very welcoming and very helpful. I am enthused to work alongside my coworkers to help the DEPDC/GMS’ objectives and ambitions be successfully fulfilled in the coming months!”

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If you would like to find out more about volunteering with the Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (DEPDC / GMS), please see the information within the main VOLUNTEER tab and on the drop-down Opportunity tabs.


Meet an International Volunteer: Jörn!

The International Department would like to introduce Jörn, who joined the department in August.  Jörn received a Magister Artium (Master’s Degree) in ‘Languages and Cultures of mainland Southeast Asia: Thai studies program’ from Hamburg University in Germany.  He wrote his thesis on the subject of “Minority politics in Thailand and Laos: A comparative study on the example of the ‘Hill tribes’”.  He has working experience in Thailand from Chiang Mai University and Friedrich-Ebert-Stifung in Bangkok.  Since Jörn arrived, he has mainly been working on translations, blog writing, report writing, teaching English to the staff and Thai to the volunteers.

“During my last two years at university, I focused mainly on the subject of minority politics in Thailand and Laos.  My field of research was the so-called ‘hill tribes’ of Northern Thailand and Laos. I focused on the fields of nationality, resettlement, education, and political participation.  During this research, the hardships these people face in everyday life became obvious and the lack of opportunity to improve themselves in the future was evident.”

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Jörn utilizes strong English and Thai language skills to support the organization.

“When I first read about the DEPDC/GMS and its work on the internet, it reminded me of many things I learned during my thesis and the lack of support for the disadvantaged minority groups.  So I decided to apply with DEPDC/GMS to become a volunteer at their Mae Sai project site.”

“I hope that being a volunteer at DEPDC/GMS will give me an even deeper understanding of the real daily problems that minorities in Thailand face every day, and that my experience in Thailand and the knowledge I gained during my studies will enable me to give valuable support to the work of DEPDC/GMS.”

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Jörn playing football with Half Day School students.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering with the Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (DEPDC / GMS), please see the information within the main VOLUNTEER tab and on the drop-down Opportunity tabs.


 

International Literacy Day

Since 1966, members of the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) have celebrated International Literacy Day on the 8th of September.  In Thailand, the 8th of September is referred to as Non-Formal Education Day. On this day, public and private agencies organize a variety of activities to promote the benefits of learning and to underline the importance of literacy and life-long learning.


According to the World Bank, Thailand is classified as an upper-middle-income country, which is defined as a country with a Gross National Income per capita between $4,125 and $12,746.  The country has achieved an overall adult literacy rate of 93.5% (2005 census) and a primary school net enrollment rate of 89.7%.  These are similar to the average rates for countries with a comparable economic status. However, literacy skills and educational opportunities are still not distributed equally in Thailand.

Ethnic minority groups in Thailand often struggle to receive adequate education and, particularly in combination with statelessness and severe poverty, these children typically lack opportunities to enter and/or to stay in school. Until the late 1950s, school education in Northern Thailand was offered only in the river basins. There were no schools available in the mountainous regions where most ethnic minority peoples inhabit. During that time, the Border Patrol Police opened the first schools, thereafter offering education for people living in remote areas.  In the beginning, these projects had to struggle with a great deal of problems – severe lack of qualified teachers, a lack of funding, and a curriculum only appropriate for Thai government schools, not for these non-formal schools that served minority children.

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Nearly all of our Half Day School students come from this region’s many ethnic minority populations

Throughout the late 1970s, the Hill Area Education Project (HAEP) organized the implementation of education and schooling to cover nearly all remote mountainous areas in northern Thailand.  This was with cooperation and aid of Thailand’s Department of Public Welfare and the Department of Non-Formal Education.  The Project offered at least 6 years of basic education for children and vocational training for adults. In 2000, this policy included 648 villages, where 1,236 teachers taught approximately 97,000 persons. The Project improved the education level of the ethnic minorities in northern Thailand and along the Myanmar border for the first time.  Watch a short video about one Hill Area Education Project school located in Mae Hong Son Province, along the Thai-Myanmar border.

Today, the education level of ethnic minorities in Thailand is, unfortunately, still far below the country’s average, and not all children are able to attend school, especially those without citizenship or the means to pay for school fees and supplies.  Thus, there is still much to be done, and the DEPDC / GMS is doing its part to make education available for these children in its Half Day School (HDS), Community Learning Center (CLC), Mekong Child Rights Protection (MCRP) Center, and Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home (MRICRH) projects.

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Half Day School students during a Science lesson with Teacher Alinda, a former DEPDC ‘Daughter’

This 2014-15 school year, the Half Day School (HDS) Program offers pre-school and primary level education to a total number of about 70 children from Pa Tak Village and surrounding villages in Mae Sai, and to children who cross the Thailand-Myanmar border every day to have a chance to receive free education.  Nearly all of these children are ethnic minorities and often suffer from statelessness, and are therefore at a severe sociopolitical disadvantage. In the morning, the children study academic subjects, which are as closely aligned to the official national curriculum as possible.  In the afternoon and on occasions during school breaks, Half Day School teachers provide students with vocational and life skills trainings.

The Community Learning Center (CLC) Project targets youth and young adults throughout villages in Mae Sai District. Currently, the CLC Project offers ongoing Thai and English language literacy training to improve young people’s ability to compete in the labor market and even to enter higher education.  In addition to these regular courses, the Project sometimes holds special seminars and trainings in the following fields: Prevention of Human Trafficking and Child Labor, Drugs Prevention, Nationality and Immigration, Environmental Issues, HIV/AIDS Prevention, First Aid, Mental Health and Ideology, Thai and Hill Tribe Cultural Exchange, Traffic Rules and Regulations, Computer Training, Carpentry, Culinary Arts, Flower Arranging, Hygiene, Agriculture.

To learn more about and how to support these literacy development efforts, please visit our Community Learning Center project’s Global Giving donation page.


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Students enjoy playtime after morning classes and lunch

Equality is Our Goal

Gender equality is one of the core values that drives our organization’s mission to create opportunities for marginalized girls and women to obtain critical knowledge about their rights and viable academic and vocational skills.  With this goal always in mind, we would like to now reflect on the progress that our projects and beneficiaries have made, and to share a tribute to what has been achieved in the efforts toward gender equality in the United States.

The 26th of August marked Women’s Equality Day in the United States.  Near to this date, 96 years ago, the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution was ratified, giving women the fundamental right to vote, and thusly bestowing a great blow upon the idea of viewing women as property rather than as human beings.

19th Amendment to US Constitution document

American women gained the Right to Vote through the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920

The White House Blog acknowledged that: “In the 94 years since the 19th Amendment was certified, women have made strides in every facet of American life, and we have learned that our country succeeds when women succeed.”  The importance of passing down this wisdom to our sons and daughters is paramount if we want them to succeed in the future.  We have the responsibility to make our daughters the best leaders, healers, players, and contributing members to society to continue the goals we strive to accomplish in our own lifetime.

The Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (DEPDC / GMS), as a community-based NGO, works to prevent child trafficking and exploitation by providing at-risk children with protection, education, and life-skills training.  The DEPDC / GMS has spent the past 25 years striving to prevent abuse of human rights and exploitation through the lack of education, especially those of girls and women.

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At the head of class is Teacher Terng, one of many Half Day School teachers who are our former ‘Daughters’

We succeed when our daughters succeed.  Countless numbers of young women who have passed through our empowerment programs over the years were able to beat significant odds and become successful in their own right.  In a bighearted, “pay it forward” sense of action, many of these former ‘daughters’ have returned to the organization to work in a variety of capacities; as project leaders, as teachers and mentors of students at the Half Day School (HDS), as youth volunteers at our safe shelter sites, and as role models for the next generations of at-risk children. Some of these courageous women have even gone forward to establish their own anti-trafficking projects and programs in Thailand and throughout the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

So, we here at the DEPDC/GMS salute the United States and President Obama’s efforts to highlight women’s ongoing struggles.  We are proud to recall the numerous accomplishments of our own efforts to better the lives and future of women here in Thailand.  To help support our efforts, you can follow this link to learn more about our current projects and to contribute to their ongoing success.

Sources:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/08/26/celebrating-womens-equality-day-2014

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/25/presidential-proclamation-womens-equality-day-2014

Science Exhibitions & More!

Thailand celebrated its annual National Science Day on 18th August to commemorate the prediction and observation of a solar eclipse on 18th August 1868 by His Majesty King Mongkut (1804-1868).  This year’s National Science Day theme was:  ‘Inspire innovative ideas for life development through science and technology.’

Schools throughout Thailand celebrated this day with special activities for students that fell under this theme.  Our Half Day School was no exception!

Half Day School teachers organized special activities for the day.  In previous years, we celebrated by going on a field trip to Chiang Rai Rajabhat University or to Mae Fah Luang University in Chiang Rai Province.  This year, however, offered a special opportunity to our students throughout the week following National Science Day.

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Half Day School students learn about the scientific aspects of art.

A local secondary school, Mae Sai Prasitsart School, organized an academic competition on 21st and 22nd August.  Secondary students from all over Chiang Rai Province and adjacent provinces participated in the competition, which included subjects like health, chemistry, mathematics, nutrition, Thai language, and foreign languages.  About 40 of our HDS students from Grade 1 through 5 went to watch the event on the first day.  Our students also got to see some exhibitions that had been set up especially for the event!  After an interesting day full of information, our students ended it by spending some time exercising at a nearby fitness park before they returned to the Half Day School.

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Fun with the mechanical power of bike riding!

If you would like to find out more about how to support our Half Day School program’s activities, its Global Giving fundraising page offers background information on the Program and how donations can be used.  Many thanks for your keen interest and kind support! 

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