Girl escapes poverty, is now a THEP sponsor herself ...
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Every time she wanted to give up on her education, Kanokwan reminded herself of her father. His life’s mission was to provide a better life for his children, and he knew the only way to do this was by sending them to school. Unlike many Thai hill tribe families who depend on their children to help them in the fields, Kanokwan’s father refused help from his children. He didn’t want them to end up like him - working long hours in the rice fields everyday, making barely enough money to provide for his family.
Kanokwan’s thoughts of giving up were not motivated by laziness or boredom. In fact, she excelled in school, and was earning high enough marks to be admitted into university. But she worried constantly about her family. Her mum had been sick for the past eighteen years, leaving her dad as the sole provider to take care of her and send all his four children to school. She also had no idea where she was going to get the money for a bachelor’s degree. Even if she were awarded a government loan, it would only cover her basic fees and would have to be repaid later. She desperately wanted to make her father proud, but all she could do was pray for a miracle.
And then one came along. A willing sponsor, an expat family living in Bangkok, heard of the Thailand Hilltribe Education Projects (THEP) organisation at a fund-raising event. Impressed that THEP has been helping students like Kanokwan for 25 years, their support enabled her to continue her studies. With great determination and hard work, Kanokwan completed her bachelor’s degree in English.
Kanokwan is now working as a fully qualified teacher at a governmental school in Mae Hong Son Province. Appreciating the vital role THEP played in her success, Kanokwan herself now supports a student with an educational scholarship through the organisation.
Unfortunately, not all hill tribe children in Mae Hong Son Province have an inspirational story like Kanokwan’s. If they don’t have the funds to continue their education, boys are condemned to a life of labour. The prospect for hill tribe girls is especially frightening, as their main alternative is marriage at the age of 15.
Please consider sponsoring a student through THEP. Although not obligatory, it is possible to meet your student and see directly what a difference your sponsorship makes. Many sponsors and their families have found THEP site visits to be one of their most fulfilling memories of their time in Thailand.
Boy gains hope, skills
and a future ...
Standing in the mountain fields in the early morning with his father, Charnchai wondered how the chemicals he was spraying on the cabbages would affect his health. Although he knew the spraying was necessary to protect the plants from pesticides, he was worried about the long term effects, as the chemicals were already causing irritation to his eyes and his breathing. He longed for a better life in which he could provide for his family without putting his health at risk, but like so many hill tribe children in Thailand, he did not know if there was a way out.
His inability to visualise a better future was saddening to Charnchai, as he had worked so hard to make it through his senior year of high school and was yearning to continue his studies at university. Selling cabbages was his parents’ only source of income, and they were making just enough to scrape by, so covering the costs of university tuition and living expenses was completely impossible for his family.
However, with the help of THEP, Charnchai was able to realise his dreams. The organisation matched him with a sponsor, an expat living in Bangkok, who generously provided him with an educational scholarship for his university studies. This was enough to make all the difference.
With his wearisome days in the field spraying cabbages behind him, Charnchai now works as a cab driver and is eagerly awaiting the results of his teacher’s exams!
No more nights in a chicken coop ...
As the heavy morning mist lifts from the emerald green valleys of the Mae Hong Son province, small school children start to rise, knowing it is time to complete their morning chores. Thirty young boys emerge from a former chicken coop constructed of rough plank floors, partial bamboo, and a flimsy tin roof, while thirty eight young girls dutifully fold their sleeping mats against the wall inside a kindergarten classroom.
Sweeping the floors, tending to the vegetable garden, and making their own breakfast are just a few of the chores they need to complete before the school day begins. While their list of chores never seems to end, as the children also do all of their own cooking, washing, cleaning, and even hair cutting, they complete them all with a cheerful disposition, knowing that they are very lucky to be where they are.
Upon completing their chores, the children then wait patiently, hoping their teachers will show up for today’s lessons. It’s Friday, and often times this means some of the less dedicated teachers desert their classes for a long weekend.
To these children, cramped living conditions, a long list of chores and unreliable teachers are a small price to pay for the opportunity at an education. The 68 children who board at this school are mostly ethnic Karens, and for many, the education they receive here may be the only opportunity they will ever have to learn in a structured school setting.
While they often get homesick for their families, commuting to school is not an option. Transportation costs around 50 to 60 baht per day, and on a good day families only make about 120 baht. The remote locations of these hill tribes and their poor road infrastructures also make it nearly impossible to build a school within their local community, and often qualified teachers are unwilling to travel such great distances for work. Therefore, attending school away from home in a larger village is the only option for these children.
Unfortunately boarding facilities (where any exist) are often substandard, dirty and insecure. 25 years ago, the THEP founders began to raise donations for new and improved dormitories: bunk beds and good mattresses to replace thin mats on dirty floors; fans and mosquito nets to aid a good night’s sleep in the tropical conditions and modernised washing and cooking facilities to improve health and hygiene. Funds for this particular project were raised by a charitable organisation and work was carried out with the help of some local skilled plumbers and welders (often relatives of the children). It is typical for the whole community to come together to construct and furnish accommodation facilities that are basic yet comfortable.
Now able to get a good night's sleep, the children work diligently to learn reading, writing, and basic maths. Unlike many children around the world who work hard to compete for prestigious scholarships, the hill tribe children of Mae Hong Son province are working hard to compete for a chance at better life for their families. Without formal education, they have no chance of freeing their families from the cycles of poverty they have endured for generations.
The enthusiasm children show for education and the willingness parents display to support them is the reason why THEP is so keen to build and improve more such dormitories in these mountain schools. However, these dormitories are much more than just adequate living facilities. To the children of Mae Hong Son province, they are a sign of hope.
THEP is constantly in need of mattresses, bunk beds, lockers, mosquito nets and other furnishings for the dormitories. Any donation, however modest, is appreciated. We are also in need of substantial sponsorship to fund dormitory construction projects. Please would you consider how you or your organisation can help?