Sompop Jantraka: Founder and Executive Director
Mr. Sompop Jantraka, commonly known as “Khun Sompop,” first came to Mae Sai in 1989 as a researcher studying the root cause of the Golden Triangle child sex industry. Upon arriving, he realized he could better work against trafficking through intervention and prevention and ended up saving 19 girls his first year in Northern Thailand. With their rescue, the Development and Education Programme (previously known as DEP) was born. 30 years later, Khun Sompop is still working to protect vulnerable women and children against the trafficking cycle, specifically through education prevention. The success of DEPDC/GMS has brought Khun Sompop wide fame, including two Nobel Peace Prize nominations and the Raoul Wallenberg Medal. However, Khun Sompop actively requests that such accolades not be promoted. He insists upon hard work and humility, and he credits much of his success to the example shown to him as a boy on the streets when a Peace Corp volunteer took him in for two years and taught him what it means to serve others selflessly and compassionately.
Somporn Khempetch: Administrative Director
Ms. Somporn Khempetch, “Pi Noom,” has been working for DEPDC ever since 1989 when she attended a college lecture facilitated by Khun Sompop to talk to students about his newly formed NGO, then known as DEP (Development and Education Programme). Pi Noom was shocked to learn the extent of human trafficking, not believing it was possible, and decided to apply as a volunteer once she graduated. In 1994, she successfully passed the volunteer examination for the DEP project and joined DEPDC/GMS as a full-time volunteer.
She began her work as the coordinator of the Chiang Khong safe shelter, moving on to coordinate the Child Rights Protection Center from 1999 to 2009, and then became the head of the MYUTC (Mekong Youth Union Training Center), 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. Now, she works as head of administration, managing all teams of operation within the DEPDC world.
You can often find Pi Noom running around with the children, playing with her dog Coco, or answering any and all questions of the international volunteers. If Khun Sompop is the soul of DEPDC, Pi Noom is the body, her gusto and motivation so inspirational that it landed her as BBC’s 100 Women of 2017.
Alinda Suya: Director of Half Day School and DEPDC Projects
Ms. Alinda Suya, “Pi Pal,” first met Khun Sompop in 1989 through a recommendation by her high school guidance counselor. Guiding her in vocational training when she was in 11th grade, Khun Sompop helped her find a job at a rice mill and, more importantly, educated her on the realities of trafficking in Thailand. This ultimately questioned and redefined what she thought was a normal reality for children. After graduating from the Rachaphat Institute with an Associate’s degree in Business and a Bachelor’s in Human Resources Management, Pi Pal returned to DEPDC to begin teaching and facilitating DEPDC programs.
Now, Pi Pal is the head director of the Half Day School and can be found teaching children a variety of subjects, from vocational skills like cooking to mathematics and history. Catch her driving the “blue bus” every afternoon to drop off kids or leading ceremony every morning.