Education is not a priority for many individuals and families living in the complex regions of the Golden Triangle and the Greater Mekong Subregion. Youth and beauty are seen as tools to be exploited for financial benefit nearly as equally as a person’s strength and ability to work long, arduous hours in field labour. However, education has consistently shown to be one of the most effective strategies in the battle to end human trafficking. Jones and colleagues (2007) report that “Economic development, with a special emphasis on women and girls, constitutes perhaps the best long-term approach to combating human trafficking”. Unfortunately, prevention programs like DEPDC/GMS’s Half Day School and SYSTERM (Shan Youth Safety Training to End Risk Migration) often struggle to secure financial support.
Many individual donors and foundations have discontinued backing prevention-based, education programs to shift their focus to victim care. Conversely, DEPDC/GMS operates on the concept that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Founder and Director of DEPDC/GMS, Sompop Jantraka, lives his life by the motto that “education is the key”. In her book, “In Our Backyard”, Nita Belles reports on a study conducted in the United States which found that there was a return of $34 for every dollar invested in early intervention programs for female youth. It is not a far stretch to believe that the results of this research could be reduplicated in nearly every country where human trafficking is prevalent today. Stopping the heinous crime of trafficking in persons should be our duty as fellow human beings. However, it is also in the best interest of each and every state and nation to invest in ending human trafficking for both financial and security related motives.
Take a moment to learn more about DEPDC/GMS’s prevention programs here, especially the Shan Youth Safety Training Program to End Risk Migration (SYSTERM), which is currently supporting 53 youth through an intensive leadership and safety training program in hopes of building the next generation of non-governmental organization and grassroot networks to prevent human trafficking and other forms of exploitation of migrants and ethnic minority groups from Shan State, Myanmar and across the Greater Mekong Subregion.
Yesterday, the Shan Youth Safety Training to End Risk Migration (SYSTERM) students went on a study tour to visit local organisations around Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, Thailand. They visited the Prince Chakrabandh Pensiri Center for Plant Development and Mae Sai’s School for the Blind.
The morning was spent visiting Chan Ka Pak, the Prince Chakrabandh Pensiri Center for Plant Development. The center’s objective is to develop plant varieties and high quality seeds that are resistant to diseases and pests.
In Thailand and Myanmar, the use of chemicals is becoming more and more common in the effort to increase crop size and prevent pests from destroying the fruits and vegetables. However, knowledge of the danger of these chemicals and the government’s attempts to regulate them is also increasing today. SYSTERM students were able to learn about this issue, walk through plant growing exhibitions, and watch a VDO presentation about the center’s history.
The afternoon was spent visiting Mae Sai’s School for the Blind (โรงเรียนการศึกษาคนตาบอด แม่สาย). SYSTERM students reported that their communities in Shan State lack any sort of education or skills training for those with disabilities and that they are most often kept at home, helpless and unable to make a life for themselves. Several students discussed their motivation to start their own non-profit center for the blind and people with other disabilities after being inspired by the many students and teachers of Mae Sai’s School for the Blind. Other students discussed the possibility of returning to the school to intern after completing three months of intensive training with DEPDC/GMS.
In the next month, SYSTERM students will be selecting one organisation, like the School for the Blind, where they would like to fulfil the internship component of SYSTERM. DEPDC/GMS is excited to offer placements to several youth trainees in both the International Department and teaching positions for the Patak Half Day School.
SYSTERM students, a group of 54 youth from Shan State, Myanmar, have now been training intensively at the DEPDC/GMS Coordination Centre in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai for 10 weeks. The students begin studying at 9am and continue until 5 or 6 in the afternoon, stopping only for a brief lunch break. Over half the students then return after eating dinner to study Thai speaking, reading, and writing skills from 7 to 9:30 at night.
It is inspiring to witness the concentrated work ethic and resilience of these young, passionate individuals. The have left their homes for an education focused on safe migration and human trafficking prevention in an effort to improve their lives and the lives of their community members. It is DEPDC/GMS’s hope that they will become the next generation of grassroot movement organizers in the fight against human trafficking and youth exploitation.
A (Temporary) Farewell to New Friends & Teachers from Ngee Ann Polytechnic
Students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Youth Expedition Project (YEP) returned to Singapore today after a two week stay at DEPDC/GMS’s Coordination Centre and Half Day School in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Last Photos and Goodbyes
Twenty-seven students and their three team leaders spent the last 14 days renovating the Patak Half Day School, teaching English in individualized groups, and leading team and character building exercises. These were tasks undoubtedly expected when they signed up to spend their Spring break volunteering abroad. They most likely did not expect to bond so quickly to other youths from Mae Sai, Thailand and Shan State, Myanmar. In the final hours of their journey, it was evident that meaningful relationships had been formed and a farewell would not be welcomed nor easy for YEP volunteers and the Half Day School and SYSTERM students. Many shared contact information, hugs, and tears as they said goodbye to their new friends early this morning.
But during this time, it is important to remember the last week of their journey and the many ways in which they taught and learned from the many youth attending DEPDC/GMS’s program.
Last Saturday, YEP and SYSTERM students visited the Hall of Opium Museum in the Golden Triangle National Park. Here they learned about the history of the Golden Triangle, the opium war, drug trafficking, the fight against opium and poppy growing, and the steps taken to improve the living conditions of the ethnic minority groups who lived in this world famous drug trafficking region. The students enjoyed the opportunity explore outside the DEPDC/GMS Centre and to learn alongside their peers.
On Monday, YEP students organized a community celebration to mark the end of their journey. The students were able to share their culture’s mutual love for the culinary and performance arts. SYSTERM, Half Day School, and YEP students performed traditional dances and sung songs which they felt represented their nation and/or state. Each group cooked a dessert and savory dish or two that allowed the students to taste something unique from their new friends’ world.
As always, thank you for your time reading our update! We are excited to see what the future holds with our new friends from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and invite you to join us as well in our mission to combat human trafficking along the Thai-Myanmar border in Northern Thailand.
Dear YEP Leaders and Students:
On behalf of the entire DEPDC/GMS team, SYSTERM and Half Day School students,thank you for the many hours of planning and hard work, but most importantly, thank you for your sincere generosity and willingness to open your minds and hearts to the youth at DEPDC/GMS.
We hope to see some familiar faces during NAP’s next Youth Expedition Project in September or on your own volunteer trips. Until we meet again, we wish you the best of luck on the road through your academic and life journey. Remember that you always have a home in Mae Sai, Thailand and in the hearts of those you touched during your 2018 Youth Expedition Project.
Support DEPDC/GMS’s mission to prevent human trafficking and other forms of exploitation of ethnic minority groups who live along the Thai-Myanmar border through online donations or volunteering. Donations can be given using PayPal, Global Giving, and other tax deductible methods. Email the International Department at firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries.
Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home: Update on DEPDC/GMS’s Safe Shelter
These last few months, the MRICRH, DEPDC/GMS’s Safe Shelter, has seen a fall in external financial support but doors and hearts remain open.
Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home (MRICRH) in Mae Chan, Chiang Rai Province remains operational and continues to provide a safe home for high-risk children and women in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) of Northern Thailand.
The safe shelter is currently providing a home to five persons, four children and one young woman.Three of the children continue to attend a nearby school and are provided tuition and academic support, lunch allowance, and safe transportation to and from school each day.
This week, the three school children will complete exams for the 2017-2018 school year. In Thailand, the “summer break” is traditionally during the months of March and April due to Songkran Festival in mid-April. This year it falls on April 13th through 15th. Songkran is celebrated as the official Thai New Year’s Festival. On this special day, the members of MRICRH will splash water on each other to represent a new beginning. Many others throughout Thailand will travel to their hometowns to meet their elders.
The children are excited that the winter chilly air has gone so they can comfortably swim in the nearby Swimming Home’s pool, where swimming is used to help rehabilitate the children who have experienced abuse. Several of the eldest students from DEPDC/GMS’s Half Day School came to visit the Safe Shelter to provide swimming lessons to the students. They also learned to stretch before swimming and other forms of exercise. They are now three of the strongest swimmers at their local school, where the children also have the opportunity to swim once per week.
Stretching before swim practice at the Swimming Home
Thank you for reading our update. I want to offer a special thank you to the past and future donors of MRICRH. Your donations have helped this shelter provide room and board, basic necessities, medical care, scholarships to attend local government schools, school supplies, transportation, and vocational training for at-risk, vulnerable children and women. Please continue to keep DEPDC/GMS and our various projects in mind during this new season.
I kindly ask that you continue your generous support or consider donating as able, as the shelter remains open and operates strictly through donation support which has been dwindling significantly the last 3 years.
Additionally, I welcome you to visit…and even consider volunteering if possible. I invite you to come and take a look at the impact of even small monthly donations of 10 to 20 dollars to DEPDC/GMS…and to enjoy the smiles that you have made possible!
On behalf of DEPDC/GMS founder, all the staff members and volunteers, and especially our children, I would like to wish you a very cheerful Songkran (Thai New Year)!
DEPDC/GMS is pleased to be hosting Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Youth Expedition Project (YEP) at the Coordination Centre and Half Day School in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, Thailand.
These bright and resourceful students have come all the way from Singapore to lend a helping hand and share their technical skills with the children and youth of DEPDC/GMS. In exchange, youth members of SYSTERM shared their own knowledge and experience to their new friends about the way of life for the people of Shan State, Myanmar.
The Half Day School students completed final exams last week for the 2017-2018 school year. However, the HDS students with some additional children from the community continue to come to school each day to join in character, skill, and team building exercises led by 27 skilled students and their 3 professors who are participating in the Youth Expedition Project (YEP), an international service-learning program from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
The Shan Youth Safety Training to End Risk Migration (SYSTERM) program is also partaking in these exercises as well as specific training catered to their specific field of interest. SYSTERM has four major groups: 1) Culinary Studies 2) IT and Media Production 3) Agriculture and 4) Fine Arts and Culture. Later this week, YEP members with specialties in media will train leaders of the IT and Media Production club how to design, create, and manage a personal website using a WIX platform.
This weekend, SYSTERM gave a presentation on Shan State. YEP students were able to learn about the Shan people and their many unique traditions. They also learned about the history of Shan State and the current challenges the Shan people are facing as they struggle to keep their livelihood and culture alive amidst armed conflict in Myanmar where many ethnic groups are oppressed and exploited.
Yesterday, YEP students organized a variety of skill and team building exercises which the HDS students, community children, and SYSTERM members completed in mixed groups. YEP, SYSTERM, and HDS students are gliding through the many present language and cultural barriers with ease and developing as many new friendships as they are skills.
Additionally, some of the Half Day School students with special needs are receiving one-on-one attention from YEP students studying for a diploma in Child Psychology & Early Education (CPEE) and Early Childhood Education(ECH).
Thank you for your time reading our update! We are excited to see what the future holds with DEPDC/GMS’s new friends from Ngee Ann Polytechnic! Additionally, I look forward to updating you on SYSTERM’s journey through their six months of intensive training to prevent human trafficking in the many years to come!
Support DEPDC/GMS’s mission to prevent human trafficking and other forms of exploitation of ethnic minority groups who live along the Thai-Myanmar border with online donations. Donations can be given using PayPal, Global Giving, and other tax deductible methods. Email the International Department at email@example.com with any inquiries.
Last Friday, the Patak Half Day School went on a field trip to the main city of Chiang Rai. The school bus carried all the Half Day School students and 6 teachers on a study tour to celebrate the closing of the 2017-2018 school year.
The first stop was visiting a wildlife menagerie. Here the students were able to sharpen up on their photography skills previously learned with the YALL Art Project in the summer of 2017.
The children were able to view up and close animals that they had never seen before. These included mongoose, Malaysian Sun Bear, Asiatic black bear, Gibbon monkeys, and a large variety of birds, including peacocks, toucans, and hawks.
The remainder of the day, the children were heard imitating the distinctive call of the Gibbon, the collective favorite animal seen on this park visit.
After the long bus ride into Chiang Rai and the walking tour of the menagerie, the children and teachers were ready to eat. A shaded area by a nearby stream was chosen to have lunch together.
The next stop was visiting a river near Khun Gan Waterfall (น้ำตกขุนกรณ์ จ.เชียงราย). Though many took the time to change into bathing suits or active clothing, some of the youngest students jumped in without waiting another moment to change. The water was cold but this did not stop them from swimming and climbing over the cool rocks for hours.
Swimming is one of the Half Day School students’ favorite activities which they rarely have the opportunity to enjoy. Every HDS student learns how to swim early on in their attendance to the DEPDC/GMS’s Half Day School. Swimming lesson are taught at the “Swimming Home” in Mae Chan District, a shelter for ethnic minority children and youth who are survivors of abuse and abandonment, known as the Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home (MRICRH).
It was easy to see that the students had had an exciting day from how quiet and still they were on the hour long bus ride home to Mae Sai.
This week will be very busy for DEPDC/GMS and its various programs. The Half Day School will complete final examinations throughout the week and SYSTERM students will prepare presentations for a group of 27 students who will be visiting from Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic for two weeks.
As always, we sincerely thank you for your support and your time to read our news blog! Look out for more updates and photos by following us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!
Sharon Moreau, BSN, RN, CPN, a nurse from Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas, USA, came to visit DEPDC/GMS for two weeks to assist with the Patak Half Day School and SYSTERM program. During her visit, she provided assistance teaching English classes, donated 300 kilograms of rice, and taught lifesaving skills to over 85 children and youth. DEPDC/GMS would like to offer a special thank you to Sharon for her kindness and inspirational words. The following is an article written by Sharon Moreau:
Arriving as a visitor to Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Center in the Greater Mekong Subregion (DEPDC/GMS), where they are conducting the six month long SYSTERM program (Shan Youth Safety Training to End Risk Migration), I quickly learned the importance of rice.
Rice is a vital sustenance for the students and is the most important component for every meal. I donated sixty bags, each weighing five kilograms, approximately eleven pounds, for a total of more than six hundred sixty one pounds of rice. Somporn Khempetch, the Director of Administration, was so happy as the students helped us unload the bags of rice which were transported by our friend Pi Wiwat, who is also a supporter of DEPDC/GMS’s Half Day School for migrant school children. Somporn stated she was very grateful because it would feed the entire SYSTERM group for twenty more days, three bags per day.
There are fifty-four youths from Shan State in Myanmar who have received special permission to travel to the DEPDC/GMS Coordination Center in Mae Sai, Thailand for an intensive leadership and life skills program developed by Sompop Jantraka, the Founder and Director of DEPDC/GMS. Here they are provided living quarters, all their meals, access to computers, cell phones, a music room, lectures and training by guest speakers from the community, and a safe environment to work in.
These youths are all at risk, many are undocumented and stateless. They have special identification cards which are not to be confused with a passport or birth certificate. These identification cards must be stamped every seven days at the Thai-Myanmar border and so weekly the group is transported to the border by DEPDC/GMS teachers.
At DEPDC/GMS, the students are being taught to trust in themselves, learn vocational skills to sustain them in life and be as independent as possible.
They (SYSTERM) will be the seeds for change in their country and renew hope in their families and communities. They are the living embodiment of Mahatma Gandhi’s inspirational words, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world!” – Sharon Moreau, BSN, RN, CPN
It was such a privilege to meet Sompop Jantraka and watch him reach out to the students with his fatherly mannerisms, and his kind and soft words to inspire them to new destinies. It was an incredible experience to witness the eagerness of these students to learn and absorb everything around them including languages, cultures, new ideas and life perspectives. Even as a registered nurse who is committed to lifetime learning, it was a humbling experience. I will never forget their faces, their smiles, their love of life and every day experiences.
I encourage everyone to participate in programs like DEPDC/GMS and SYSTERM and to donate in any way possible. Rice, money for fresh vegetables, funding for internet access, self care products, and education materials are so appreciated and so essential for the DEPDC/GMS to continue to fund and conduct the SYSTERM program, maintain the Patak Half Day School for children at risk from exploitation and trafficking, developmentally delayed, and stateless migrants, and for the shelter for abused women and children.”
Sharon Moreau, BSN, RN, CPN
Thank you Sharon and all those who have so generously supported DEPDC/GMS in one way or another in the last 28 years since Sompop Jantraka’s mission to protect children and women from human trafficking began to spread throughout the Greater Mekong Sub Region. Your donations bring these projects to life and provide new opportunities for at-risk youth to learn vital skills that affect change more than we can imagine. Supporting SYSTERM supports a global impact to end human trafficking. The ripple effects of your generosity give hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Give the Gift of Rice Today
DEPDC/GMS is currently looking for an individual or company to sponsor the Shan Youth Safety Training to End Risk Migration (SYSTERM) program with rice. Please email the DEPDC/GMS International Department (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information if you are interested in sponsoring SYSTERM’s first group of 54 students or helping to make the next group of 50 students possible.
$12 USD a day will pay for the supply of 15 kg of rice, the amount consumed by 54 students over the course of three meals.
$40 USD a day will supply all 54 students with 3 meals a day; this includes the cost of rice, fresh vegetables, spices and drinking water.
$84 USD covers the cost of rice (105 kg) for one week (7 days).
$672 USD will sponsor the first group of SYSTERM students with rice for the remainder of their 3-months of intensive training at the DEPDC/GMS Headquarters.
$2240 will sponsor the first group of SYSTERM students for another 56 days, the remainder of their 3-months of intensive training at the DEPDC/GMS Headquarters. This amount supports the full cost of providing 3 meals a day (i.e., cost of rice, fresh vegetables, spices and drinking water).
Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong Subregion (DEPDC/GMS) hosts an annual summer camp each year. This year, DEPDC/GMS hosted 54 students of SYSTERM and the three upper classes of the Patak Half Day School.
The HDS children said goodbye to their parents and siblings on Monday, February 22nd. They arrived to school each carrying one bag containing only a few necessary items.
All students participating in camp were required to give their cellular phones to the Director of Education to be locked away for the duration of the three day, two night camp. Additionally, every student was encouraged to wake up each morning at 5:30AM to exercise for at least a half hour before cooking breakfast. Many chose running followed by kinesthetics as their choice of exercise.
The SYSTERM and HDS students were then divided into six groups of varying ages and gender. The students from the two programs were able to become friends and worked well together despite age, ethnicity, and language differences.
Each group was given enough rice, vegetables, and sauces to last for 4 dishes, 2 dinner meals and two breakfast meals. Lunch was provided each day with a traditional dessert in order to allow more time for education. The groups planned out what to cook each day with the items provided and alternated which members cooked and which members helped clean the camping space.
The first two days of camp, guest speakers came to teach the students about health, the human body and puberty, sex education, emotional wellness, and relationships.
On the second day of camp, the students created posters presenting one important concept they had learned during training on day one and two of camp. By looking at their posters below, you can see that the students obtained both very serious and practical life knowledge.
In the evening, the students divided up into their groups and produced a brief play to perform the following night at the camp bonfire. The night ended with the campers learning to sing new songs written in several different languages, including Thai, English, Tai Yai, and even one in Chinese.
The camp bonfire took place on the second night of camp. This was most of the students’ favorite part of camp as it involved singing, dancing, snacks, and watching their classmates perform silly skits.
Fire safety training was provided on the final day of camp. A handful of members from the Fire and Rescue Department of Wiangphangkam, Mae Sai came for the morning to provide hands-on demonstrations on how to put out fire in a safe and efficient manner.
The children learned about the different classes of fire (i.e., Classes A, B, C,D, and E) and learned how to extinguish fires involving solid materials, flammable liquids, gases, metals, and live electrical apparatus appropriately.
At the end of the third day of camp, the Half Day School children packed up their tents and loaded up on the school bus to return home. However, the SYSTERM students will continue their long stay away from their homes for the duration of the Shan Youth Safety Training to End Risk Migration.
Thank you to all those who support DEPDC/GMS in one way or another. Your kindness has helped the Half Day School and SYSTERM students enjoy another year of camp filled with fun learning experiences!
DEPDC/GMS Transportation Support for At-Risk Children and Youth:
A GlobalGiving Quarterly Report
The team at DEPDC/GMS’s Half Day School is happy to report that our bus and truck are both running smoothly thanks to donation support through GlobalGiving. Both vehicles continue to safely transport HDS students to and from school each day, thus providing access to free education to those without. This would not be possible without your generous support and donations.
The Patak Half Day School bus and blue pickup truck are crucial in providing local and cross-border transport for at-risk children throughout the school week. The children are not only from Patak village, where DEPDC/GMS’s Coordination Centre is located. The majority of students live miles from the school. Only a few are able to travel via bicycle and none by foot. Several students come via a shared family motorbike, but this is often unreliable and a much more dangerous form of transportation for primary school children. Thus, education for these students would not be possible without school transportation to and from DEPDC/GMS.
Taking a look around the DEPDC/GMS campus, it is clear to see that the students value the importance of their colorful bus and their school grounds. They are taught to take care of the bus, the truck, and the school campus as if it were their own home. Team work keeps the school’s property looking clean and the children proud of their Half Day School.
For this particular project, no news most often means good news. Three months ago, the truck had the official government safety inspection for the truck completed. Additionally, both vehicles received recent oil changes and have been cleaned on a monthly basis.
Starting in January, DEPDC/GMS began a new program called Shan Youth Safety Training to End Risk Migration (SYSTERM). This program seeks to provide intensive leadership, life skills, and safety training to 100 stateless, youth, at-risk of being trafficked into exploitive conditions, such as forced labor, the sex industry, and domestic servitude. The bus is being used to transport the students on weekends to local site seeing locations around Mae Sai. Additionally, the blue truck is crucial for transporting the first group of 54 students to the border every seven days to have their permission cards to stay in Thailand stamped by immigration.
Thank you again to all our current, future, and past donors, we are able to offer free and safe transportation to our Half Day School children and new students participating in SYSTERM. Please continue to support our cause through GlobalGiving donations.
You can find the GlobalGiving project report and donation options here.
All the staff members and children sincerely thank you for your time and for supporting our mission to provide free education to at-risk children and youth in the border town of Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, Thailand. DEPDC/GMS could not do this without the kindness of people like you.