International Student Volunteers at Mae Sai!

We have been very busy for the past few weeks so thankfully we have had a few groups of International Student Volunteers, or ISV here to help us. For the past two weeks, we have had our fourth group of ISV working with us here in Mae Sai but sadly we say goodbye to them today before they go off on their exciting adventure tour, and we look forward to the arrival of our next group, next month.

The kids say goodbye to ISV

The kids say goodbye to ISV

Since mid-May, we have had groups of ISV, who come in groups of about 15, mainly from Canada and America, and have stayed with us for two weeks at a time, working on building a wall, helping with cooking for the students, making crafts with, and teaching English to our students. While they are here, these volunteers contribute to the much needed maintenance and up keep of DEPDC, as well as providing help and support for the teachers, with the children. Having these volunteers is great for the staff of DEPDC, as it gives us extra staffing, and therefore a greater ability to provide the children with what they need, and give the children, the opportunity for different experiences and creative outlets.

Creative english classes with ISV!

Creative english classes with ISV!

During their time here, some of the groups like to make some traditional ‘American food’ for the kids, our second group found out that one of the iconic staples in an American child’s lunch box ‘PB&J sandwiches’, weren’t quite such a hit with our Thai kids, and the next group found out that their cheesy favorite ‘mac and cheese’, that even the fussiest of children in the States seem to enjoy, doesn’t go down quite so well over here. Our children were quite comical in their efforts to hide their dislike! Watching their reactions was incredibly amusing, and everybody appeared to enjoy the popcorn! This weeks ‘hash browns’ and ‘french toast’ was quite successful and went down a treat with most of the kids!

Student attempting to hide their dislike of the ISV's 'mac & cheese'!

Student attempting to hide their dislike of the ISV’s ‘mac & cheese’!

Harry Feldman, from Georgia Tech in America, has spent the past two weeks with us, very enthusiastically teaching and playing with the kids who have very clearly loved having him here!

‘I had so much fun at DEPDC. We played games with the kids, cooked Thai food, and helped finish a wall around the school. The best part was definitely teaching and playing with the kids.  It was very rewarding seeing them progress through the numbers. They started with 1,2, and 3, but by the end of the day we had them counting to 10. Seeing their faces light up with joy while playing with us was amazing! I will always remember my experiences at DEPDC!’

Harry playing footballs with some of our HDS pro-footballers

Harry playing footballs with some of our HDS pro-footballers

A rice field for education and food supply!

This year DEPDC decided to become more self-sustaining in food supply for our Half Day School’s (HDS) lunch program by extending DEPDC’s agricultural site with rice fields! The fields cover about 1¼ Rai (1Rai≙1600m²) and we hope that we can harvest at least 750kg of rice by Mid October!

Preparing the field for sowing.

Preparing the field for sowing.

The first step in order to prepare the rice field was done by a local framer that DEPDC hired. He used his tractor and equipment to break up the field that was an unused patch of land. To do this as well as form the mound encircling the fields took nearly one day and would not have been possible without the help of the tractor.

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After the fields were shaped, the wait for the rainy season began. As the first rain was severely delayed this year, DEPDC started to pump water from a nearby stream into the fields. The flooding of the fields took a long time and could only be finished after the rainy season finally started.

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When the fields were sufficiently flooded, they were ploughed and a small part of one field was made level to serve as a sowing area. The first rice plants sprouted after a few days, and after only one week, the whole field is now covered with bright green, young rice plants. These rice plants will continue to grow in the small separate field for another three weeks and then be replanted to the bigger main fields in order to gain a bigger crop.

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Growing our own rice will not only help to supply DEPDC’s lunch program with rice according to organic farming standards, but also gives the children at HDS a chance to gain firsthand experience in rice farming and agricultural systems.

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Wai Khru Ceremony at DEPDC’s Half Day School

On 11th of June, DEPDC’s Half Day School (HDS) celebrated this years Wai Khru Ceremony. This ceremony gives the students the opportunity to show gratitude to their teachers and to apologize for misbehavior.

Offering of flowers, candles, and joss sticks to HDS's teachers.

Offering of flowers, candles, and joss sticks to HDS’s teachers.

The Wai Khru Ceremony is normally held on a Thursday, shortly after the beginning of a new school year and is meant to establish a formal relationship between students and teachers. Today’s ceremony originates from old Indian and animistic traditions and has chiliads old history.

The modern form of the Wai Khru Ceremony was first introduces at Triam Udom Suksa School (Bangkok) in 1941 and since than has spread all over Thailand. Today the ceremony is held at nearly all schools in the country once a year.

HDS also celebrates this ceremony once a year. The actual ceremony is held during the morning and in the afternoon HDS’s students sing on stage and perform short plays that they write themselves. The main difference between the way HDS performs the ceremony and the mainstream way is that, unlike from other schools all students will have a chance to pay homage and respect to the teachers and not only some representatives. That also gives every student a chance to apologize to their teachers for misbehavior.

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The ceremony starts by paying respect to Buddha by lighting candles and joss sticks. The students then sing the song Phra Khun Ti Sam (The Third Caregiver). After the song is finished, one of the teachers gives a short speech giving advice and blessing to the students. After that the ceremony itself begins and all students in small groups will come to the teachers and present flowers, candles, and joss sticks. After this, the students receive the teachers blessings and the ceremony is over.

After a lunch break HDS’s students present short self written plays and singing during the afternoon.

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Field trip to the ‘Chiang Rai Hilltribes Development and Welfare Centre’ and the ‘Naam Kham Valley Development Foundation’

Between 15th of May and 13th of June, DEPDC, in cooperation with Alliance Anti-Trafic (ATT) have organized a workshop called ‘Training Program for Social Workers for at-risk Women and Children from The Shan State’.

Director Teerawat Pitakpraisri of 'Naam Kham Valley Development Foundation' giving us a tour around the foundation's model farm.

Director Teerawat Pitakpraisri of ‘Naam Kham Valley Development Foundation’ giving us a tour around the foundation’s model farm.

This workshop has 11 participants coming from The Shan State in Myanmar. All of them belong to the Myanmarese ethnic minority of Shan (also known as Tai Yai). This ethnic group represents the majority in The Shan State, but still struggles with poverty, discrimination, statelessness, and irregular flare up of fighting after decades of civil war. ATT and DEPDC have organized this workshop to provide the necessary skills to young local leaders from various backgrounds to help and protect their local communities.

On 4th of June, the whole group went on a field trip to the ‘Chiang Rai Hilltribes Development and Welfare Centre’ where they got an introduction into the cultural anthropology of the Thai-Myanmarese border areas. They learned about the different ethnic groups and their different ways of making a living.

The typical black pigs bred by Akha.

The typical black pigs bred by Akha.

In the afternoon, the workshop spent a visit to the ‘Naam Kham Valley Development Foundation’ in Baan Saen Suk. This foundation focuses on community development of Baan Saen Suk and the other Akha communities of the area. One of the main fields of their work is agricultural education, to teach the beneficiaries how to maximize the output in a sustainable way, limiting artificial manure and pesticides. The most important areas are pig and fish breeding and the production of corn and vegetables.

Floating fish tanks in a small lake at the model farm.

Floating fish tanks in a small lake at the model farm.

DEPDC would like to thank both organizations for their kind invitations and for their interesting presentations. DEPDC’s staff and the participants of the workshop had the possibility to learn a lot about the organizations work and the region.

International Missing Children’s Day – 25th May 2015

The forget-me-not flower has become the symbol for International Missing Children’s day

The forget-me-not flower has become the symbol for International Missing Children’s day

Today, May 25th marks International Missing Children’s day.

May 25th has marked Missing Children’s Day in the US since 1983, when President Ronald Reagan established the day following the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York City in 1979. In 2002, it became a day of commemoration worldwide. Fittingly, the forget-me-not flower has become the symbol for International Missing Children’s day, as a reminder of the approximately 8 million children who go missing every single year.

A huge problem in Thailand that hinders the safe return of missing children is lack of reporting. The low numbers of children officially reported to be missing, does not truly reflect the numbers of children who go missing every year, this allows abductors and child traffickers to go under the radar for long enough that they get away with the abduction, greatly reducing the likelihood of children returning home safely. An average of approximately 2 children are reported missing in Thailand every day, and between 300 and 500 every year and unfortunately only approximately 80% of these children who have been reported missing, are found and safely returned home.

Here at DEPDC we do everything in our power to ensure the safety and welfare of our children.

Update from our Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home

On Monday, 11th of May, DEPDC’s three current volunteers at Mae Sai went on a trip to visit DEPDC’s Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home (MRICRH) in Mae Chan. This site consists of two different safe shelters in the vicinity of Mae Chan, the Swimming Home and Ban Klang Na Shelter. The Swimming Home is DEPDC’s shelter for younger children who are at very-high-risk, and Ban Klang Na Shelter serves as a safe place to live for rescued victims of human trafficking and exploitation while their reintegration and in some cases repatriation is organized.

Playing at MRICRH's agricultural site

Playing at MRICRH’s agricultural site

The Swimming Home at the moment accommodates 13 children, between 4 years and 12 years of age. Until 18th May these children have school holidays and DEPDC is very happy that about of them could spend some time with their parents or relatives over the holidays, as it was deemed safe enough. Only four were not so lucky and had to stay at the shelter for the school holidays. The volunteers from Mae Sai spent an afternoon with the kids and MRICRH’s staff playing and having a lot of fun.

As well as the services provided to the children staying at the shelter, the Swimming Home also provides non-residential services to three more children from the village around the shelter. These children live with their own families and will only receive the necessary support that enables them to attend school.

Cleaning the pool

Cleaning the pool

Ban Klang Na Shelter now accommodates only two young women after DEPDC finally managed to make a return back home possible from one young woman from Myanmar’s Shan State. The story of this woman is a good example for the ordeals victims of human trafficking face, even after they have been rescued.

The woman was brought to Thailand when she was 13 years old and was rescued two years later. From that day, it was another five years until she finally could return back to the Shan State. She stayed one year at a Thai government’s shelter before she had to leave the shelter and was taken in by DEPDC. She lived at the Swimming Home for two years and at the Ban Klang Na Shelter for another 2 two years until DEPDC could finally come to an agreement with the authorities at the Shan State and bring her back home. We are delighted to say that she could finally return and we wish her all the best for her future.

Afternoon workshop

Afternoon workshop

Meet an International Volunteer: James!

The International Department would like to introduce James. He joins us along with Caoimhe, in April from Cork, Ireland. Like Caoimhe, James is also here serving his university placement. They share the same course, International Development and Food Policy. Since his arrival, James has been involved in grant searching, report writing and will be teaching when the new term starts.

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With the University course that I had chosen, it has already opened my eyes to issues that surround us at all times however having arrived here I am glad to be given the opportunity to dig even deeper into the rights issues and violations. I grew up in Saudi Arabia, living there for the best part of 15 years, before moving to Ireland to finish off my schooling. Thanks to this, human rights have always surrounded me as it can be considered a major issue in Saudi Arabia. I had travelled to Thailand several times before with my family and to be able to come back leave a positive mark on the place I came to respect was an opportunity I wanted to grasp. It has been a great experience coming to learn what the northern side of Thailand is like.

Thus far I have had a great time, getting to know my co-workers and witnessing the hard work that goes into the everyday mission here in Mae Sai. The challenge of learning Thai and adapting to the everyday norms here has been thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to my time ahead here.

Meet an International Volunteer: Caoimhe!

The International Department would like to introduce Caoimhe, who joined the department in April. Caoimhe spent a year studying International Aid and Development at Ballsbridge College in Dublin, before moving to Cork, where she is currently a student of International Development and Food Policy, at University College Cork, in Ireland. She will be working with the international department at the center in Mae Sai for the next few months. Since arriving at DEPDC, Caoimhe has been working on researching potential funders and working on reports for donors as well as updating social media accounts. She looks forward to meeting the students when they are back at school in May, and is excited to see what she can do to further the work of DEPDC as well as what she can learn from working here.

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My university course gives the incredible opportunity to spend 5 months working with a non-profit organization in an area of interest to us, to put in practice the skills that we have been taught over the past three years, and encourages us to spend this time abroad in a part of the world that interests us.

Growing up with a mother who has a very strong sense of awareness of human rights issues and violations, human trafficking and modern day slavery is an issue that I have been aware of and has interested me for quite a long time. I decided that Thailand would be an interesting place for me to start because it was a part of the world where I had no experience and very little knowledge of, before coming across the work of DEPDC.

I have always enjoyed working with children, when I was in school I taught music to small groups of young children and always enjoyed it. When I read about the DEPDC, I really liked the mission and the approach that the organization takes, and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to learn more about Northern Thailand and surrounding areas and to learn more about the problems surrounding human trafficking and modern day slavery, while beginning working with an organization that has lots of experience in tackling such huge problems.

Since arriving, I have experienced only kindness from the incredibly welcoming and helpful staff here at the center in Mae Sai, and have seen how incredibly hardworking and dedicated, not only my new coworkers are, but everybody who I have encountered here since I arrived.

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I’m really enjoying learning more about the organization and the work that has been done and continues to be done as well as the culture of Northern Thailand, and I am looking forward to the students coming back to school, and spending time working with, and getting to know them.

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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