“An Ounce of Prevention…”

“An Ounce of Prevention…”

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.

MS school for the blind

Kristin Moreau, MS, CCC-SLP

DEPDC/GMS International Volunteer/Coordinator


A Farewell to New Friends

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.

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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.                   


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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 depdc.gms@gmail.com with any inquiries.

Helping Hands from Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic

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.

welcome nap.jpg

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.

NAP YEP sitting group

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 depdc.gms@gmail.com with any inquiries.

Half Day School Field Trip

End of the 2017-2018 School Year Field Trip

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).

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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


DEPDC/GMS’s Annual Summer Camp 2018

DEPDC/GMS’s Annual Summer Camp 2018

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.

Students arrive to school with bags in hand for their yearly camping trip.

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.

camp 2018 ed day 1

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.

camp 2018 ed day 5camp 2018 ed day 2

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.


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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.

Teacher Hom and a HDS alumni lead a dance to a song practiced the night before
Students from the green group prepare to present their skit at the camp bonfire

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.


A SYSTERM student learns how to safely turn off a gas tank

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.

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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

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.

A recnt photo from this week’s yearly camping trip at the DEPDC/GMS Half Day School campus.

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.

Students arrive to school with bags in hand for their yearly camping trip.

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.

Half Day School and SYSTERM students getting ready for a bamboo race on DEPDC/GMS’s annual Sports Day

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.

Sports Day

Sports Day

This Monday, February 5th, DEPDC/GMS held its annual Sports Day Celebration, marking its 12th year. This is a day when all the students take a break from their studies to compete in a variety of exciting contests with their fellow classmates.

Half Day School and SYSTERM Students Line Up for a Bamboo Team Race

DEPDC/GMS’s Half Day School is divided into four grade levels, class A, B, C, and D, based on several factors, including their Thai language ability, age, and educational level. Half Day School students range in age from 4 to about 15 years old. For Sports Day, the school is evenly split into 3 teams, Blue, Red, and White, with a mix of each grade level. The students then play several rounds of each game, rounds for girls and boys of each age group to represent their team color in each competition.

This year was special as the Half Day School’s Sports Day included 54 additional students whom are attending the Shan Youth Safety Training to End Risk Migration (SYSTERM) at the DEPDC/GMS Coordination Centre. Please, find more information about SYSTERM at the end of this blog. SYSTERM students jumped right into these games with equal enthusiasm despite their ages ranging from 15 to 26 years old.

SYSTERM Students Preparing for a Multi-Leg Racing Event


Sports Day allowed a time for HDS students and SYSTERM students to become acquainted with each other in fun, mini-team building exercises. This year, we were lucky enough to have beautiful, warm weather for the entire day of festivities!

To name just a few, games included tug-a-war, racing with water balloons, a bamboo log run, a piggy back race, and a blind-folded face painting contest. To complete the day, an award ceremony was held for the top competitors in each event.

One of the class favorites to watch was the superman race. Students pulled up underpants and raced with a blanket across their shoulders to their teammates on the opposite side of a field. Can you think of a better way to relax and laugh around new faces than pretending to be superman as you race across a field in underpants?

HDS Student Races in Underwear in the Superman Race
HDS Students Receive Awards on Sports Day

Want to see more photos of Sport’s Day? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

What is SYSTERM? SYSTERM is an innovative, intensive leadership and safety training program for at-risk, stateless youth from the Thai-Myanmar border, most notably Shan State. Visit our GlobalGiving page to read the project outline and see how you can support DEPDC/GMS’s efforts to prevent human-trafficking before children and women fall victim to this 150-billion dollar industry. SYSTERM group B is planned to arrive in just three short months; however, financial support is needed to make this possible. Please, help spread the word!

Looking for a volunteer or internship placement? DEPDC/GMS is currently looking for volunteers and interns to assist with the training and management of the Half Day School, Community Learning Center, and SYSTERM projects. The first step in applying is completing an International Volunteer Application, which can be found on our website under the “volunteer” section. Once completed, please send an updated CV/resume, passport scan/photo, and the International Volunteer Application to our International Department (depdc.gms@gmail.com).

Children’s Day Celebration at the Half Day School!

Children’s Day Celebration at the Half Day School!

The Patak Half Day School students were showered with love today! Tomorrow, January 13th, is Thailand’s National Children’s Day. DEPDC/GMS celebrated early in order to show how grateful we are for our students before the start of the weekend. For financial reasons, the school children are unable to partake in the joy of receiving a gift for other yearly holidays, such as birthdays, Christmas, and New Year’s. Therefore, DEPDC/GMS makes it our mission to make Children’s Day as special as it can be.


The Patak Half Day School was full of happy faces and laugher today. HDS students, their siblings, and several local community children joined together for a day of fun games and delicious treats.


Additionally, we were honoured to receive several SYSTERM participants, who will begin the Shan Youth Safety Training to End Risk Migration (SYSTERM) program next week here in Mae Sai at the DEPDC/GMS Headquarters. If you would like to learn more about this program, please visit our Global Giving project page.

The day’s activities included an egg and chopsticks race, balloon blowing competition, fishing for prizes, dispersal of classroom supplies, and a game of football/soccer. The final event was a gift exchange. All the children and DEPDC team members exchanged one unique present by drawing numbers at random. Some of the gifts included stuffed animals, warm blankets, and boxes of chocolate.


DEPDC/GMS would like to offer a special thanks to the local men and women who joined us for our Children’s Day Celebration and helped make it a brighter day for all the students. A representative of Mae Sai’s TESCO donated rice for the HDS children and SYSTERM participants and multiple food dishes were donated by individuals from the community. In addition to hot and healthy meals, cupcakes, crepes, and brownies were also donated on this joyous day. Moreover, the students were excited to have a new group of young men to play a game of football with them.




The Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong Subregion (DEPDC/GMS) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation based in Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand. This community-based organisation has a diverse 25-year history and currently works primarily to prevent and to protect children and youth from being trafficked into exploitative labour conditions.

The organization’s projects provide crucial preventative measures of education, vocational and life-skills training, protection and accommodation, family and community outreach services, and leadership development to at-risk children and youth in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Learn more about DEPDC/GMS and how you can get involved on our blog!



DEPDC/GMS: Growing a Healthy Future for Today’s Youth

DEPDC/GMS: Growing a Healthy Future for Today’s Youth

As some of you may know, DEPDC/GMS’s Patak Half Day School partakes in several projects year round to support the school’s lunch program by increasing it’s self-sustainability…and by making it more nutritious.

These projects include harvesting rice and growing a small organic vegetable, mushroom, and herb farm right on the school grounds. Growing rice and fresh vegetables does not only encourage the students to eat healthy foods, but it also teaches important agricultural techniques so that they may be able to grow their own food independently in adulthood.

Cabbage Growing in the Half Day School Garden


The rice harvest for 2017 was completed in mid-December. Though quite unusual for this cool season, it has been raining nearly every day the last several weeks. Thus, we are hopeful for a more prosperous rice harvest in the fall of 2018.

New vegetables were planted throughout the months of November and December, including organic cabbage, peppers, corn, taro, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs commonly used in Northern Thai cooking.

In addition to planting new vegetables, the HDS prepared its fungus farm! After the rice was dried and thrashed, the rice straw was used to create a small mushroom garden.

Rice Straw Mushroom Farm

How can you get involved?

Fundraising Events

If you are closely associated with a primary, middle, or high school, you, your students and/or your child can start a school fundraiser. For just 30 dollars (USD), you can help supply a nutritious mid-day meal for up to 60 at-risk children. Even small donations can help support the purchase of seeds, organic pesticide, and gardening utensils to increase the Patak Half Day School’s self-sustainability.


Do you have a green thumb? Come volunteer with DEPDC/GMS’s Half Day School and help us improve our humble garden. Find out more information about volunteering here!

Spread the Word

Spread the word about the Patak Half Day School and our mission here at DEPDC/GMS to your community by following, liking, or sharing us on your favorite social media platform!






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