The New Term at HDS Started!

On 9th of May the new term at DEPDC’s Half Day School started. For the 2016/2017 school year more than 40 students registered at our school and will receive free education here. Staff and volunteers at DEPDC are happy to see all the known faces back and to get to know our new students. We are looking forward for the new school year and hope that our students will be as successful as during the last year.

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The 2015/2016 school year ended successfully for our Half Day School. 12 students graduated with a 6th grade primary education certificate and either had the chance to learn on at public schools or at least to go on with their education for a 9th grade secondary education degree at the local Non-formal Education Department.

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As the oldest generation of students leaves after graduation every year, new students enroll to HDS as well. It’s a pleasure to see the excitement in their little faces when they come to school for the first time. For most of them it’s the first time ever that they’ve gone to school, but a few of them have been to other schools before. Especially the children of recent immigrants from Myanmar’s Shan State often had a chance to visit a school in Myanmar before and arrive at HDS with some degree of basic education. Their school career is often different from the children without any previous education, as their main focus is normally to learn speaking, reading, and writing Thai. Once they manage these task they often make quick progress and are able to perform their primary education examination earlier than to schedule.

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All staff and volunteers at DEPDC are looking forward for the new school year and the whole team hopes that our students will be as successful as before.

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We would like to thank everybody, past, present, and future donors for their support of our mission in fighting human-trafficking through education. Without your sponsorship DEPDC’s work wouldn’t be possible. In case you would like to donate to our Half Day School please visit our project page at GlobalGiving.

Meet an International Volunteer: Nicolas

The International Department would like to introduce Nicolas, a student of International Development at University College Cork in Ireland. Despite studying in Cork, Nicolas was born and raised in Dublin. He has also travelled to a wide variety of places and has spent much of his previous summer holidays at volunteer camps, both in Ireland and abroad. Through this, Nicolas has gained experience working with groups such as refugees, minorities and people with disabilities. He intends to spend five months working at DEPDC’s Swimming Home shelter and is looking forward to the return of the students and the varying tasks which that will bring.

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“Hello! My name is Nicolas, a third year (going on fourth year) student of International Development and Food Policy. When I finish this course, I intend to further my studies, focusing on the areas of international law, human rights and/or anthropology in the hopes of working in a job which deals with one, or all of these topics. Currently, I am on my third year work placement. DEPDC seemed like the best possible choice for this as the organisation works to protect vulnerable children and adults from human trafficking and forced labour through education and vocational training. Many of these people come from Thailand’s Hill tribes, so the five months which I am spending in the Mae Chan Swimming Home shelter will prove both beneficial and informative.”

“Seeing as the majority of children have yet to return, and will likely do so in the early days of next month, most of our current duties involve fundraising. As part of this, our first official job involved the design and manufacturing of posters and flyers for English lessons, which we remain ready to give. At present, we are in charge of updating and maintaining the shelter’s social media presence. This includes, managing the shelter’s Facebook account and writing blogs regarding day to day life at the shelter. We have also taken to our own social media profiles to promote and fund raise for DEPDC.”

CRPC a year on – what has changed

The Mekong Child Rights Protection Centre Chiang Khong (M-CRP) was founded by DEPDC/GMS in 2006. It’s mission is to prevent trafficking through education and provision of a safe environment.  During the restructuring process initiated in 2013, M-CRP became independent as Child Rights Protection Centre Chiang Khong (CRPC) in July, 2015. This is an update on CRPC’s work one year after it’s independence by CRPC’s international volunteer Maia Mounsher. DEPDC wishes CRPC all the best for it’s future development. 

In the year since CRPC started becoming an independent organization, a lot has changed. From seven residents last year, we have increased to twelve daughters who came to live at the shelter just five days ago. Four of our daughters from last year will stay on here at the shelter, while the others have gone on to continue their studies in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. One of our daughters will be entering University this year.

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CRPC has continued to provide safe shelter, life skills education, and lots of fun activities for the most at-risk youth in Chiang Khong. As well as a shelter for girls, CRPC has also been sponsoring the education of several boys and girls who live in the community, and providing basic necessities such as food, clothing, and medication to poor families in the region.

The movement against human trafficking and for human rights is still strong in Chiang Khong, and with the introduction of a special economic zone on the horizon, it is more important than ever. CRPC has been working on several projects and campaigns to fight for the rights of children and women. We also collaborate with our partners Center for Girls and Kiang Rim Khong to provide educational workshops on sexual health and HIV prevention.

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Our newest residents have been here less than a week but are already starting to feel at home. We are planning lots of exciting and educational activities that will allow the daughters to explore the world and learn valuable life skills.

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Meet an International Volunteer: Kamile

The International Department would like to introduce Kamile. Kamile is a 3rd year International Development and Food Policy student from University College Cork in Ireland. As part of her degree, she will be spending the next few months at the Swimming home in Mae Chan. In Ireland, she enjoyed volunteer work such as teaching non- Irish nationals English and helping school students with their homework.  Since arriving at the site, Kamile has been researching potential funders, updating MRICRH social media accounts and reading up on DEPDC’s work.

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“I have been interested in human rights for as long as I can remember. I have always been concerned about what is fair and what is not. However, this interest significantly heightened when, at the age of 13, I moved from the small Eastern European country of Lithuania, where I was born and raised, to Ireland. I consider Ireland my home now, but it was not always that way. The first couple of years I struggled communicating while in school in most situations that required me to communicate in English. Even though I was surrounded by the language and studied it myself everyday, it was a very gradual process and so many times I felt helpless, like I had no voice and my opinion did not matter. The truth is, my opinion did matter, I just could not physically express it. It got me to realise that I was lucky, all that was holding me back was a language, which I was improving everyday in. It got me thinking about the people whose basic rights are not being upheld, they must feel helpless also, and oftentimes they cannot do anything about it. Their voice does not matter to those taking advantage of them and not respecting human rights.”

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“When it came to choosing my college degree after finishing school, there was no doubt in my mind I wanted to do something that will enable me to help others and that is why I chose to study International Development. The degree allows those studying it to spend 5 months working in an NGO and since the very start, I knew that DEPDC is where I wanted to be.”

“I am not even halfway through my time here but I have already learnt so much about the organisation, the country, and its culture. Being here is a life changing experience that has allowed me to break free from my usual stressful and busy daily routine, thus enabling me to re-evaluate my priorities.”

“I am looking forward to getting to know the children that live in the Swimming Home during the school year once they are back from the summer holidays shortly!”

Human Trafficking Doesn’t Discriminate

Certain events over the last couple of weeks have sparked many in house conversations regarding the youth that we serve at DEPDC/GMS. More specifically, the boys that we serve and why it was important that our services were extended to include all genders. Although in its inception 26 years ago Daughters Education Programme (DEP) brought in all girls, the subsequent years have seen a rise in the number of boys that go through our programs. As awareness and recognition of the vulnerability of boys increased and resources became available, the evolution of including boys in DEPDC’s mission was implemented as a strategy to more effectively combat human trafficking and exploitative labor.

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Often when people think of human trafficking they envision women and young girls. Although women and girls do comprise the majority of persons trafficked we can not lose sight of all that are affected as when we do we cast a dark shadow of hopelessness over the thousands of others that remain victims and vulnerable to the tragedy of exploitative labor and trafficking. According to the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes’s report, men and boys account for an estimated 24% of persons trafficked and this includes sex trafficking and exploitative labor.

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After 27 years of experience in the field of human trafficking our founder, Sompop Jantraka, also feels that while the risk of girls and women fallen victim to trafficking is statistically higher than boys and men, boys and men often face higher risks in other areas that contribute to the decline of personal, familial, and societal health. Through his observations he feels that boys are more at risk for developing drug and alcohol problems as well as being lured into gangs and street violence. DEPDC can not claim this as factual evidence rather as observations of over 27 years of front line experience in investigating and preventing human trafficking. Furthermore, Khun Sompop emphasizes that the traditional stereotype of only a husband being strong and providing, while the wife stays at home and cares for the family is antiquated. However, this old mindset is still strong and must be adapted to fit modern day reality.

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Not only do our programs create more opportunities for these at-risk boys they also provide them the awareness to understand trafficking, dangerous influences, and their roles in society. The programs give them the tools to avoid falling prey to trafficking, as either a victim or perpetrator. Often young men (and women) are presented with employment opportunities that seem less harmful such as driving trafficked persons to and from destinations, advertising girls, or working at hotels that serve as compliant agents. Our program teaches them about equality, to respect, value, and honor women as well as to understand the intricacies of trafficking and the consequences of actions.

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At DEPDC we consider boys to be influential change agents in the prevention of trafficking as all members of the community and society are needed to shift the paradigm. Family structure and community are the backbone of real change for they shape the ways in which we see ourselves and how we relate to the world around us.

As we fight to empower our girls we must also fight to educate our boys and in so doing, we empower all.

The Report Is In: Update on Human Rights Issues in Thailand

The U.S Department of State recently released it’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015. As you all know human rights are at the core of DEPDC/GMS’s mission to prevent human trafficking through education and awareness raising. Although the report highlights certain areas of progress in the vast, ongoing issues of human rights in Thailand it also illustrates that many of the causal factors that lead to the high prevalence of human trafficking remain and there is much more work to be done.

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In the past, many of our posts have been written to portray the underlying causes of human trafficking. A couple of the issues we address quite frequently are the lack of citizenship and statelessness within many of the hill tribe members in Northern Thailand and the surrounding areas. Lack of citizenship and statelessness present an array of problems that perpetuate the cycle of poverty and under education in Thailand. This cycle of poverty and under education is deeply connected to the commodification of women and children and the reason DEPDC/GMS continues in the battle of prevention. In the 2015 report these specific issues were addressed and it is clear that these problems continue to exist and how they correlate to human trafficking and exploitative labor.

 

“Noncitizen members of hill tribes faced restrictions on their movement, could not own land, had difficulty accessing bank credit, and faced discrimination in employment. Although labor laws give them the right to equal treatments as employees, employers often violated those rights by paying them less than their citizen coworkers and less than minimum wage. The law also limited noncitizens in their choice of occupations. The law also bars them from government welfare services, such as universal health care.”

In a different section the report also states:

“Stateless persons had difficulty accessing credit and government services, such as health care. Although education was technically accessible for all undocumented and stateless children, it was usually of poor quality. School administrators placed the term “non-Thai citizen” on these individuals’ high school certificates, which severely limited their economic opportunities.”

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From this information it is then no surprise that the report also concluded that child prostitution remains a problem. More specifically, children from poor families, especially boys and girls coming from migrant populations and ethnic minorities, are more vulnerable to the persuasion tactics of human traffickers.

While this information is discouraging and saddening it strengthens our resolve at DEPDC to continue our work in education, community awareness, and empowerment for the population of at-risk youth that we serve. Our many programs and activities directly target these specific human rights violations by providing opportunities that would otherwise not exist for the majority of these children.

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From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for supporting us and our mission. The fight is far from over but we stand strong in knowing our international community stands with us. If you’ve ever considered getting involved and volunteering, please don’t hesitate to visit the volunteer information page on our blog and get in touch. Or if you can’t volunteer but feel like you’d like to make a contribution, please visit our GlobalGiving donations page here to pick which of our programs you’d like to contribute to. Thank you for reading and we wish you all the best.

To view the entire Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015 for Thailand please follow this link: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2015&dlid=252803#wrapper

Happy Songkran!

Being on of the hottest months of the year, April here in Thailand brings relief from the scorching heat for a few days. Mid-April is when the Songkran Festival is celebrated all across Thailand to mark the new year. “Songkran” literally means ‘to pass’ or ‘to move into’, perfect to sum up the changing and new time in the year.

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The most obvious and well-known celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water, becoming one large water flight where no one is left dry. Throughout the three day festival, water is splashed and thrown in all directions and on everyone to cleanse people of their bad luck and sins as well as bring good luck for the new year. The celebrations take place from rivers to canals, even in the streets where buckets, hoses, and water guns are everywhere!

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More traditionally, Songkran is a time to visit and pay respects to elders; family members, monks, friends and neighbors. It is also a time to worship and cleanse the Buddha images, visit temples and hope for good karma in the upcoming year. If you would like to learn a little more about Songkram, visit the Songkram webpage located here.

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This year, the festival started on Wednesday the 13th of April and will continue through to the 15th. In theory, the festival only lasts for three days, but festivities begin a few days before and continue for a few days after the official dates of Songkran.  All of the DEPDC/GMS family are enjoying the Thai New Year festivities. The staff and students are away with their families, friends and communities enjoying the holiday. We hope that you all have a great Songkran holiday and we wish you the best of luck for this year: Sawadee Pee Mai Muang 2016 – Happy New Year Thailand 2016!

A Look into the Swimming Home by our two new volunteers

Hello, we are students from Ireland. Currently we are on our university work placement with DEPDC. The next five months will be spent working at the organisation’s “Swimming Home” shelter in Mae Chan. This shelter provides accommodation to a number of at risk children, as well as swimming and English lessons. They also provide the necessities to attend the local school.

The centre also offers these swimming lesson to local children. Affordable English lessons, taught by volunteers are available to the public. We are currently working on flyers and posters to advertise the English courses and will start teaching in just over a week’s time.

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At present, it is the summer holidays, so most of our duties involve fundraising and preparing the public English lessons, however our responsibilities will alter once the children return in a few week’s time.

There are only two boys staying at the swimming home right now as unlike the other children who live in the centre during the school year, they have no family to take care of them during their holidays. We spent a few days playing with them and getting to know them better. Having done so, it is safe to say that they are kids just like any other and crave the same things – attention and affection.

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A few days ago, we visited the Ban Klang Na shelter, which provides women and families at risk accommodation and teaches them sustainable living by providing them with agricultural inputs such as land and seeds so they can grow crops. The living conditions there are very basic but they have everything they need; a safe place to live and food. It is located in quite an isolated area in order to protect the women, as many of them come from a human trafficking background.

Overall, the last week, even though quiet, was very helpful in helping us gain a better understanding of the human trafficking issues prevalent in the Northern part of the country, how it affects people and how DEPDC assists these individuals in accessing the tools for a better future.

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