Ever since its conception back in 1989, DEPDC/GMS has grown from strength to strength, expanding its outreach from a small town called Mae Sai in Northern Thailand, to all 6 countries of the GMS (Greater Mekong Sub-region). DEPDC/GMS has directly assisted over 6,000 children with hundreds of volunteers and staff assisting over the last 21 years. Although, in the first few years, it all began with a handful of volunteers working alongside DEPDC/GMS’ founder, Ajarn Sompop Jantraka. One of these volunteers was a young woman called Ms. Somporn Khempetch (Khun Noom).*
Khun Noom was raised by a family of farmers in Uttaradit Province of northern Thailand. From the age of six, Khun Noom would work on her family’s farm on weekends and school holidays, helping to grow many crops, including rice, water melons, peanuts, and chillies as well as a large fruit garden. When she wasn’t working on the farm, Khun Noom was studying hard and successfully graduated from primary, middle and high school before attending the Chiang Rai Teacher College, where she studied community development.
In 1989, Khun Noom attended a college lecture facilitated by Ajarn Sompop Jantraka, who was talking to students about his newly formed NGO (Non-governmental Organisation), then called DEP (Daughters Education Programme), the first project of DEPDC/GMS. At that time, Khun Noom was shocked to learn the extent of the issue of human trafficking, initially not believing it was possible. With this in mind, she decided she would apply as a volunteer with the DEP project together with her close friend as soon as she graduated from the Chiang Rai Teacher College.
In the mean time, Khun Noom actively worked in the community with her classmates, facilitating activities and games with children in local NGO’s. Khun Noom says, “Those experiences were key to preparing me to dedicate my time to be a volunteer for the DEP project.”
Khun Noom graduated from the Chiang Rai Teacher College, and in 1994, she successfully passed the volunteer examination for the DEP project and joined DEPDC/GMS as a full-time volunteer. She quickly learnt about the problem of human trafficking and soon became the coordinator responsible for the children living in DEPDC/GMS’ Chiang Khong centre. Between then and 1999, Khun Noom managed the administration for DEPDC/GMS, coordinated the street children rescue project and follow-up, and was responsible for the life skills and development training for the children living at the shelters.
Between 1999 and 2009, Khun Noom was the head coordinator of the Child Protection Rights Centre in Chiang Rai as well as being a key member of DEPDC/GMS’ management team. Khun Noom’s coordination, with the assistance of her staff, has enabled hundreds of children to be offered new opportunities in life, reducing and eliminating the risk of them being trafficked.
In 2010, Khun Noom became the director of the MYUTC (Mekong Youth Union Training Centre) which offers training, consultancy and support to the youth leaders and staff working on a grassroots level in all 6 countries of the GMS, each replicating the success of DEPDC/GMS, preventing children from being trafficked and exploited.
Get to know other staff and volunteers at DEPDC/GMS in our series ‘Staff Profiles‘!
*According to Thai etiquette, women and men are addressed using the title ‘Khun’ and adding their first name or nickname. Somporn Khempetch’s nickname is ‘Noom’, hence she is addressed as ‘Khun Noom’. ‘Ajarn’ is a title used for teachers or professors or for otherwise esteemed persons, and so Khun Sompop is also addressed as ‘Ajarn Sompop’.