A chance encounter at a local store brought us in touch with a former participant in the Daughters Education Programme (DEP). Daeng is a resident of Mae Sai and she joined DEP in the early 1990s, when she was 19 years old. Being the sixth of eight children in her family, she received no school education apart from a three-month stint at a Buddhist school.
Daeng attended DEP for six months during which she learnt sewing. Before and even during her stay at DEP, Daeng started her day at 5am doing piecemeal work, dividing up dried pork skin into small plastic bags for vendors to sell. She would earn 4 Baht for one hundred bags. After she left DEP, Daeng started to produce shirts. In this job, she received 40 Baht for every shirt she made; making two shirts a day earned her 80 Baht – a handsome wage considering the circumstances. After two years of sewing shirts, Daeng started selling Som Tum (Papaya Salad), supporting herself, her son and her family. She started each morning at 5am and finished her day around 6pm. Daeng is now married to Terry, an American from California. Together, they run their own business repairing air-conditioning and heating systems in the United States during the summer and winter months; the spring and fall they spent in Thailand.
As Daeng explained to me, the time at DEP strengthened her self-confidence, and like it says on their blog, Daeng and Terry like to help others and bring happiness to them. It was this spirit that made them support the building of a school in Myanmar (Burma) and help Baan Nana in Mae Sai, a project helping children from ethnic minorities. Daeng and Terry maintain a lively network of friends in Mae Sai, and as Terry told me, he sometimes worries about Daeng as she always likes to help others, even forgetting herself while helping them. Apart from the things she learnt at DEP, Daeng also gained something else from that time. Peg, who taught her sewing back then, remains one of Daeng’s best friends to this day.