Author Archives: DEPDC/GMS

Giving Thanks

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Thursday the 27th of November marks an important holiday in many Americans’ calendar year: Thanksgiving. It is celebrated every fourth Thursday of November. Thanksgiving commemorates of a feast shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans hundreds of years ago, but it notably has a stronger and more personal importance to Americans. It is a day to be grateful for everything you have in life, really appreciate your blessings, and share love with your family.

Families celebrate Thanksgiving by watching American football together, eating a huge dinner (traditionally featuring stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and most famously, turkey), watching the Macy’s Day Parade, watching Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving, and carving out time in everyone’s busy schedule for quality time with friends and family. While there are many famous, general traditions behind Thanksgiving, families may have some special and unique traditions of their own. For instance, this blogger’s family replaces the stereotypical food served with a mass of shellfish (crab, shrimp, oysters, mussels, and lobster) to suit our own preferences.

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Although children have Thanksgiving day off of school, there is usually at least one day dedicated to creating some sort of Thanksgiving-themed craft(s) to instill the spirit of the holiday before the holiday begins. Keeping this in mind, and the ubiquitously noble themes of Thanksgiving (gratitude, appreciation, love, humility, etc.), HDS English teachers decided to teach the students about the cultural holiday. To do this, we had the students create their own hand turkeys. For those not familiar with this activity, it consists of tracing your hand on a piece of paper and then further decorating it to look like a turkey. On the turkeys, each student included a list of what they are most thankful for. Each turkey came out beautifully! It was an awesome and fun opportunity to get the students to reflect on what they have to be most thankful for!

Global Slavery Index 2014: 475,000 People in Modern Slavery in Thailand

 

Walk Free: The Writing on the Wall

Walk Free: The Writing on the Wall

On November 18th, the Walk Free Foundation published its annual report on modern slavery, the “Global Slavery Index 2014.” According to the report in 2014 an estimated number of 35.8 million people are enslaved around the world.

According to this report, Thailand ranks 44th on the index out of the 167 countries surveyed for having the highest prevalence of modern slavery. (Mauritania ranks 1st and Iceland ranking 167th.) As of 2014, about 0.709% of Thailand’s population, or a total number of 475,000 people, are victims of modern slavery.

The Walk Free Foundation found that migrant workers and domestic minorities are particularly at risk of becoming victims of modern slavery. The most common forms of modern day slavery are sex trafficking, forced begging, domestic work, fishing, manufacturing, and agricultural industries.

Global Rankings Index Graph

Global Rankings Index Graph

The Thai fishing industry is under special scrutiny after a survey given by the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that out of 600 fishers employed on Thai boats, 16.9% (about 101 people) identified themselves as being unable to leave their job because of threatened penalties. This qualifies them as victims of forced labor.

The domestic servitude sector is another field of special scrutiny, because there are reports of excessive working hours, lack of days off, confinement, and physical and sexual abuse. Women and girls are most likely to become victims of slavery in this sector.

The still-growing Thai tourism sector is a special threat to children who are at risk to become victims of different forms of slavery. They are the preferred pawns in exploitation related to tourism, because of tourists’ lack of awareness and easily given sympathy. Examples of such jobs are orphanage tourism, street begging, street vending, and giving guided tours and street performances in popular tourist destinations.

Two of the four recommendations of Walk Free Foundation to the Thai government are:

- Provide legal status for minority groups and stateless persons in Thailand

-Develop child education programs and health and protection systems (including appropriate services and treatment of migrant children workshops)

DEPDC’s main objective is to provide the aforementioned persons with a quality education and adequate support to deter these people from being lured into sex labor, exploitative working conditions, and other forms of modern slavery. At our Patek Half-Day School, children who are ineligible to study at a government school receive a basic education, and in our shelters in Mae Chan and Chiang Khong, children who are determined “high-risk” of being forced or seduced into human trafficking can find a safe place to stay and are also able to receive an education that reduces the risk of being exploited.

 

Sources:

http://d3mj66ag90b5fy.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Global_Slavery_Index_2014_final_lowres.pdf

25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child Celebration: A Child Friendly Society; Bangkok, Nov 17 – Nov 21, 2014

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Next week, five of our Patek Half Day School (HDS) students, accompanied by teachers, are invited to Bangkok by the Office of Promotion and Protection of Children, Youth, the Elderly and Vulnerable Groups (OPPCYEVG) under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to represent Northern Thailand at the celebrations of the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 

The OPPCYEVG has organized a five-day conference to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. During the first three days of the conference, the children (who are ambassadors to the different regions of Thailand) will work out a proposal for a Child Friendly Society in Thailand. On Nov 20th, the children will have the chance to present their ideas, personally, to the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-o-cha.

 

Our children from HDS are already very exited about this chance to see the giant city of Bangkok. Most of them have never been there before, because traveling in Thailand for stateless persons is a huge hassle. They need special permission from the local government in order to travel away from their hometown. If a stateless person in Thailand is caught without the proper documentation, they will have to pay a fine or face being imprisoned.

Loi Krathong

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Every year, on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, Thailand celebrates Loi Krathong. In Northern Thailand, where Mae Sai is located, Loi Krathong coincides with Yi Peng festival that is celebrated on the evening of the full moon of 2nd month in the traditional Lanna lunar calendar. Both festivals have the same origin in Vedism. These ancient rituals were adopted by Buddhism. They mark one of the most important holidays in Thailand today.

All over Thailand, people will build small floats (called Krathong) from a slice of a trunk of a banana tree, decorate it with elaborately folded banana leafs, flowers, candles, and joss sticks. In the evening, people will set these floats free on rivers, lakes, or ponds making wishes while doing so.

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In Northern Thailand people will additionally set sky lanterns, called Khom Loi, free. These little hot air balloons are made of thin paper and are inflated and carried by a small fire underneath.

The fire from the candles and from the sky lanterns is a symbol for the light of Buddha and the drifting away of the Krathong and the Khom Loi symbolizes letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements.

During the afternoon of Loi Krathong Day, the students of our Half Day School will build their own Krathongs which they will set free in the evening so their wishes will come true, and they will having good luck in the future.

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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.

2014 HDS Nature Camp_Preparing to Plant Trees

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.


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