by Dhina Mutiara on assignment from ChildFund Indonesia
Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. In the urban slums of Thailand, we meet an aspiring dancer.
“I want to be a dancer,” says Poon, a cheery and energetic 10-year-old Thai girl, responding to the question of what she wants to do when she grows up. “But, I miss my mother,” she adds wistfully.
For more than a year Poon’s grandmother, Kruewan, has been taking care of Poon and other family members. They live in a slum area located in central Bangkok, where ChildFund is working to improve conditions for children. It is a dense packed neighborhood with more than 400 families residing above a garbage dump.
Poon shares a single room with her grandmother, her little brother and sister, her father, grandfather, two aunts and three uncles. “When I dance,” says Poon, “I forget about everything.”
Poon’s mother was arrested a year ago for drug dealing. She is currently serving a five-year sentence, and Poon hasn’t seen her mother once in all that time. Her grandmother won’t allow her to visit. “I don’t want her copying what her mother did,” Kruewan says.
Slum areas in Thailand are plagued with problems. Drugs like methamphetamines are readily available. They are often an escape from the grinding poverty and unemployment that characterize these neighborhoods. As a result, there are a large number of children who are taken away from their parents because of this, including Poon.
The drug trafficking is one of the biggest social problems in Thailand. To combat the problem, the Thai government has sought to strengthen its cooperation and partnership with the international community, particularly with neighboring countries. Slum areas, like Poon’s community, are highly vulnerable to drug use and trafficking. In recent years, the Thai government has turned its attention to these communities, welcoming support from ChildFund and other organizations to improve educational and health services for children and families.
Despite her family’s challenging situation, Poon still has a big dream in her head. She is adamant about it, too. Asked to show some of her dance moves, Poon jumps up, runs to the television set at her friend’s house and turns up the volume. She and her 3-year-old brother, Pee Mai, then dance to the beat of the music on TV.
“That’s Poon. She will dance every time there is music coming on,” jokes her grandmother, flashing a toothy grin. Poon, who also loves sports and the Hula-Hoop, regularly entertains her family and friends. She dances in a weekly neighborhood get-together.
Poon’s family clearly recognizes how important education is for her. “I want her to have a better future,” Poon’s father Weerayuth, 26, remarks, fidgeting in his seat, bowing his head a little. He works as a freelance security guard on Bangkok’s outskirts. With an income of approximately $4 to $6 per day, it is challenging for him to cover all the needs of his three children. Poon’s grandmother sells flower garlands to help make ends meet, while her husband, Poon’s grandfather, is the one who takes Poon to and from her school each day, using his old motorcycle.
As she grows up, Poon must overcome many obstacles – poverty, peer pressure and the lure of drugs. “I will help to make sure that all of my grandchildren get a proper education,” says Kruewan. With support from her family and ChildFund, there is hope for Poon, “the little dancer,” to fulfill her dream.
Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Thailand.