Author Archives: DEPDC/GMS
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.
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.
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!
Mekong Child Rights Protection Center: Girls Shelter & Education Program
Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand
The Mekong Child Rights Protection Center (MCRP) Program was established by DEPDC / GMS in 2006 as a shelter home and education support program that aims to protect and prevent at-risk adolescent girls from being exploited and trafficked through a highly traversed border area in Northern Thailand. Currently, 15 girls receive shelter protection, government school education, vocational and life skills development training, nutritious homemade meals, and family outreach services.
Why is the MCRP Center located in Chiang Khong District?
Chiang Khong District is located along a Thai-Lao border crossing in the heart of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). This area of northern Thailand is highly traversed by human traffickers, both because of several border crossings with Myanmar and Laos, and because of the vulnerable populations of ethnic minority and stateless people who reside there. Multiple sociocultural, familial, and personal factors place children and youth at very high risk of labor exploitation, especially trafficking into the commercial sex industry.
How does the Program work?
This MCRP Center provides room and board, basic necessities and medical care, scholarships for local government school education, school supplies, transportation to and from school, and life skills and vocational training to its female residents through the 9th grade. The program also provides partial aid for local government school education and health care related costs and family-based support services to 20 non-resident girls and boys from the communities surrounding the Center site.
Each day these children are under the care of the Program is another day that they are safe, healthy, cared for, and able to live more hopeful lives. Upon completion of the Program, the girls will take with them critical vocational and life skills, formal school education, human rights awareness, leadership skills, and the belief that their lives are valuable. These children represent the opportunity to not only escape from risk and danger, but to reach their human potential.
Find out how to directly support the Mekong Child Rights Protection Center through its Global Giving donation page, and learn more from quarterly updates and see photos of activities here.
July 30th marked the first United Nations (UN) World Day against Trafficking in Persons. The day brought attention to the epidemic of human trafficking and modern slavery that is present in every country. Countries participate by being a point of origin, transit, and/or destination. Human trafficking is a profitable, estimated $150 billion per year industry according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO also estimates that up to 21 million people are victims of domestic and international trafficking.
Human trafficking can take the form of coercion or deception of people into exploitation within the industries of commercial sex and fishing, organ-selling, factory or farm work, domestic service, and construction. Commercial sex trafficking and domestic service are the two most common types of trafficking. Men, women, boys, and girls can all be victims of trafficking. Gathering accurate information about human trafficking is made difficult since it is largely an underground trade and a highly sophisticated one at that.
To combat this problem, the international community has invested more than $1.2 billion in aid. More than 400 organizations world-wide – including our non-governmental organization, DEPDC / GMS – have used the funds to help those at risk of or victimized by human trafficking and to bring awareness to the problem at hand. On July 30, 2010, the UN adopted the Global Plan of Action against Trafficking Persons. This is the first ever international document directed at bringing awareness and fighting human trafficking. The UN has decided to further bring awareness to human trafficking by starting the #igivehope campaign. You can follow this link to read more about how you can participate and help end modern day slavery: http://www.unodc.org/endht/
Keep tabs on our official blog here for further information and updates on what we at DEPDC / GMS are doing to prevent and protect children from trafficking in Northern Thailand. Find out more from our July 2014 Newsletter and contribute directly through volunteer service or a donation. We sincerely appreciate your kind interest and compassionate support.
At the Half Day School, we believe in the importance of a holistic education. It is especially important for our students to learn vocational skills, train in human rights, and develop community awareness alongside their academic subjects. One key factor of this is going out into the community to learn about its history and the issues that it faces. Recently, many our students participated in a trek to Wat Phra That Doi Tung where students spent the day learning about different communities as well as their own.
Wat Phra That Doi Tung is a wat (temple) that sits on top of Doi Tung, or Mount Tung, which is the tallest mountain in Chiang Rai Province. The temple sits at approximately 1,400 meters above sea level and the journey to the entrance is steep and rigorous. Wat Phra That Doi Tung was built in the 10th century and in the style of the Lanna kingdom with two golden stupas, one of which is said to contain the left collarbone of the Buddha. In combination with awe-inspiring architecture and stunning views of Thailand and Myanmar, this has made Wat Phra That Doi Tung a major draw for devout Buddhists and tourists alike.
The field trip began with an air of excitement as students piled into the school bus for what was certain to be an exciting change from the normal school day. Students laughed and chatted as the bus took sharp turns towards Doi Tung. There was a humming of anticipation throughout the short but winding bus ride to the point where everyone would begin the 2-kilometer trek.
After hopping off the bus, students and staff began the journey up the mountain road towards the temple. The misty weather was ideal for the trek as it kept everyone cool throughout the demanding hike. Students enjoyed the fresh air and the great exercise up the mountain! Once the students and teachers arrived to the temple, it was time for a lesson. Students broke off into groups based on grade and were assigned different types of communities to examine: family, their villages, Thailand, Asia, and the entire World Community. The focus of this project was the importance of human rights and environmental protection and how these themes are related to the health and well-being of all these communities.
Around noon, students were given a quick break from their studies to enjoy a delicious lunch with the special treat of rambutans, a red plum- sized fruit native to Southeast Asia. After lunch, all of the students played educational games together organized and led by Teacher Ming. The trip concluded with a lecture given by head teacher, Alinda Suya, and presentations of the students’ projects.
Finally, after a long day of hiking, learning, and games, it was time for the students to head back down the mountain. The bus ride to the students’ homes was significantly quieter, as happy but exhausted students were ready to relax. The next day would continue with presentations of the students’ projects and more discussion of human rights and community empowerment.
Every year, at schools across Thailand, a Wai Khru ceremony is held for students to show respect and gratitude to their teachers. The Wai is a Thai greeting that consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion and Khru means teacher. According to this Theravada Buddhist tradition, students prepare flower arrangements as a symbol of gratitude toward their teachers for instructing them well in the past and to create good fortune for their future studies.
While the date of Wai Khru Day varies from school to school, the Wai Khru ceremony is typically held at the beginning of each academic year on a Thursday in June. Thursday is the chosen day for such a ceremony, since this day is considered auspicious for special events involving education. At our Half Day School in Mae Sai District, this year’s Wai Khru ceremony was held on Thursday, June 12th.
This year’s Wai Khru Day at the Half Day School was a joyous event. Wai Khru ceremony preparations began the day before, with students creating beautiful flower arrangements to present to their teachers. It is customary for students to present teachers with offerings of flowers, candles, and incense arranged on a phan (traditional Thai pedestalled trays). Students spent all day Wednesday practising the Wai Khru chant and crafting gorgeous arrangements into a variety of fun shapes including a turtle and a swan!
The day of the event began with the customary recitation of the Wai Khru chant, which expresses respect for and gratitude to the teachers, and asks for the teachers’ blessing of their studies, led by the school president. After the chant, representatives from each class presented teachers with the beautiful offerings that students had crafted the day before. Other students were then given the opportunity to offer small gifts of flowers and candles. After all the students had expressed their respect and gratitude to their teachers, the staff took time to recognize the hard work that the students put into their academic and vocational studies. Awards and Honours were given to students who have shown a strong work ethic and dedication to their studies.
The ceremony concluded with a speech given by Ms. Alinda Suya, Director of Projects, on the importance of respecting and honouring teachers. In her speech she advised students on the value of education and offered guidance. The festivities continued after the ceremony ended with a delicious and healthful lunch, followed by an afternoon filled with games!
The International Department would like to introduce Adrien, who joined us in the beginning of May. Adrien is a social worker from France, with degrees in Psychology and International Relations. He comes to us with extensive working experience dealing with substance abuse, migration, asylum and child protection issues. He is interested in learning more about the Greater Mekong Sub-region and the issue of trafficking in the region. In his short time here, Adrien has already begun working on fundraising, networking, and research. He also hopes to contribute to English teaching duties.
“When I was working with asylum seekers in Europe, I had a very simple vision of the reasons and ways that people were trafficked. My perspective was based on the typical European perspective on migration procedures and realities. The reality of trafficking in Thailand is quite different from this view. Many individuals from neighboring countries and from hill tribes are stateless. This can limit access to education and health care. These limitations apply to the vast majority of the children that are helped by DEPDC/GMS. I appreciate that the organization works with partners in the other countries in the Great Mekong Sub-region and considers human trafficking to be a global issue, not only a problem of Thai society.
“I loved my job in Europe, but I was drawn to the prospect of living and working in Asia. I chose to pursue living in Thailand because I saw a volunteer listing on reliefweb.org. I was intrigued by the mission and vision of DEPDC/GMS. I enjoy working here because it gives me the opportunity to work very autonomously, on the topics and skills that fit my interests. I also have discovered new models of working styles, from both my colleagues in the International Department as well as Thai staff members. I have enjoyed the differences from the European style of work.
“I enjoy living in Mae Sai, which is a town with a checkpoint at the Myanmar (Burma) border. As I am very interested in migration and border issues, I can learn a lot here in my everyday life, and be in a very multicultural environment. Although studying Thai language and learning about the culture and politics is challenging, I am really enjoying it.
“After being here for only a month, I am amazed by how much I have already learned. I believe that working at DEPDC/GMS will be a great professional, cultural, and personal experience that will impact my future.”
There were some delightful changes in the English classroom over the summer break at the Half Day School in Mae Sai. Eléa, an International Volunteer from France, took on a redesign of the English classroom wall as an extra project. 28 tins of paint, over 100 hours of work, 5 paintbrushes, a pair of headphones dropped in fresh paint, and 6 ruined t-shirts later… And the results are in!
With the help of Aaron and Matthew, two other International Volunteers at DEPDC/GMS in Mae Sai, Eléa sanded the wall and put on a few undercoats. But it wasn’t until the children went away for the summer break that she started painting, finally finishing the last details just in time for their return to school.
The wall integrates an interactive board that the students can use to build sentences with the help of Velcro bands. Banks of words are also included in the design to help students to remember important vocabulary and improve their comprehension of the English language.
Most of our Half Day School students come from difficult backgrounds. Their school environment is like a second home, so it is important that we provide an inviting and caring atmosphere in the classrooms where our children learn and grow. Eléa hopes that the new wall can contribute to this aim. She further comments:
“It is always good to expand our educational resources to provide our teachers with innovative tools and to help our students make progress. I am very happy with the result and I hope that everyone at the Half Day School has a productive and fun time with it!”