Youth Leaders in Action: Graduation Day at Rays of Youth Mae Sot
We are always happy to hear about the wonderful efforts of graduated DEPDC daughters, sons, and youth leaders to address human trafficking and other social issues in their communities. On Saturday, June 15, we got to see some of these efforts firsthand during a visit to Rays of Youth (ROY) in Mae Sot. A small group consisting of Khun Sompop, DEPDC staff and international volunteers made the eight-hour journey to Mae Sot, a small town on the western Thai-Burmese border, to attend the graduation ceremony for the ROY Peer Leadership Program.
ROY is a project that is close to our hearts as it was founded by and is run by past DEPDC daughters. The young women were graduates of the Mekong Youth Net youth leadership training program in 2008, which equipped young people with the knowledge and skills to start their own anti-trafficking grassroots projects, to educate future leaders, to help children from all backgrounds develop ethically, and to inform communities about children’s rights and critical social issues. Armed with this knowledge, the young women returned to Mae Sot and started ROY.
ROY is currently running a number of impressive and vital projects, including:
- Community Awareness Training to raise awareness of the situation on the Thai-Burma border and teach about local issues like child rights and child labor, health and personal hygiene, traffic rules and safe driving, human trafficking, drugs, and more.
- A Community Roadshow which teaches the public about local issues through drama and performances, as well as sharing different ethnic cultures through traditional songs and dances.
- Peer Leadership Program, training 20 migrant students to be youth leaders and role models. They learn skills in Thai, English, and computers and learn about problems in the border areas and how to combat them.
- Media and Radio Broadcasting, including the production of short films, documentaries, songs, music videos, posters, and a daily radio show, to educate migrant people about relevant issues. Tune in to their radio show every day from noon to 1pm at MAP Radio Mae Sot, 102.5 Mhz!
- Environmental Awareness campaigns and workshops encouraging people to compost their waste, teaching how to produce natural detergents, and teaching about environmental issues.
- Multicultural Music Project, allowing the youth to express themselves and connect with one another by learning musical instruments and singing.
ROY is a program under the umbrella of Help Without Frontiers, an organization that focuses on helping refugees and others in need in Thailand and Myanmar. Among other projects, Help Without Frontiers currently runs twelve Ray of Hope Schools around the Mae Sot region and in Burma.
The graduation ceremony on June 15 marked the first class to complete the ROY Peer Leadership Program, modeled after DEPDC’s Mekong Youth Net. It was an emotional event with many tears being shed as the young people recalled their growth and learning together over the last three years. Speeches were given by Mr. Mahn Shwe Hnin, head of the Burmese Migrant Teacher Association; Mrs. Siraporn Kaewsombat, head of Help Without Frontiers Thailand; and Mr. Benno Röggla, founder and president of Help Without Frontiers. There were videos, songs, dances, and presentations by the youth leaders on their own chosen topics. It was inspiring to see the confidence and passion with which the children spoke about their chosen issues – true leaders in the making. After Khun Sompop’s speech (or, as they call him at ROY, “Po Sompop” or “Father Sompop”), in which he encouraged the youth leaders to “Learn, Be, Do, and Serve,” the young people presented him with a gift and some bottles of their homemade natural detergents. At the end of the ceremony, there were many hugs, kisses, and tears, and it was clear to see the special bonds that had been formed between the youth leaders, teachers, and program leaders, just as they were formed with Khun Sompop and his youth leadership trainees in 2008.
Mae Sot, as a Thai-Burmese border town, experiences many of the same challenges that we do in Mae Sai, Chiang Khong, and Mae Chan. Unfortunately, children and youth often bear the brunt of problems that arise from ethnic and social conflict, poverty and lack of economic opportunities, political instability, statelessness, and corruption that are endemic in the border regions. ROY aims to spread understanding and tackle these complex problems.
Read a previous post written by the ROY team leaders on the DEPDC blog here.
Or read ROY’s own blog post about the youth graduation ceremony on their blog.
Thank you to the Rays of Youth team for inviting us, and we look forward to hearing more from the ROY youth leaders in the future!
“Today a child, tomorrow a leader. If this is true, then I think I’ll see you tomorrow!”