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.
by Phatthamon Jantalae, ChildFund Asia
Rapid economic development in Thailand over the last few decades has lifted millions out of poverty and raised general living standards. Yet fast-paced change and globalization are not without their problems. Social and economic inequalities have widened.
In May, Thailand made international news when anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Bangkok and paralyzed the city center for days. Although the causes of these events were wide ranging, one dimension is the disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots.”
Behind the booming malls, hotels and restaurants lies another Bangkok, one of deprivation, exclusion and vulnerability.
ChildFund International works with its long-term partner CCF Foundation in Thailand to help impoverished children and families living in Bangkok’s inner city. “People think that children in Bangkok don’t need help because the capital city is so much better off than other parts of the country. This is false,” says Maliwan, president of the Parent Board of the Bangkok Community Project. “Children in Bangkok experience different problems than children living in rural areas,” she says. “They have different needs.” Drug use, teenage pregnancy, lack of education and abysmal living conditions create huge problems for these children.
“Many families migrate from northern rural areas to the capital city in search of a better life and end up living in squalor,” says Maliwan. “They live in overcrowded slums, built between a polluted canal and a busy expressway.”
In this century, deprivation no longer can be thought of strictly in terms of lack of material goods. Long gone are the days when access to a telephone was an appropriate indicator of prosperity. In fact, the vast majority of disadvantaged children and youth in Bangkok use mobile phones and access social media websites.
Instead, deprivation refers to lack of opportunities to reach one’s full potential. In Bangkok, many children still face a worrying lack of opportunity. Maliwan explains: “Parents don’t have much education and don’t send their children to school. Many boys and girls use yaa baa (pills containing a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine). Like their parents, they face the prospect of low-skill work and poor wages. Children live in an environment that is not supportive of intellectual, emotional and social development.”
ChildFund’s Bangkok Community Project assists about 450 children and promotes community independence by helping families assess existing problems and develop solutions. Programs focus on nutrition, health and education as well as building capacity and sustainability in the community.
Children, like Riew, age 9, now have access to a quality education. Her sponsorship through CCF Foundation has provided school materials, partial tuition fees and transport to school. She also is able to attend English tutorial classes.
“Helping a needy child is also helping that child’s family, community and country,” notes Maliwan.
It’s the first step toward self-sufficiency and better opportunities for a healthy and productive life.
By Bill Cavender
Assistant Director, Interactive Communications
While in Thailand for a workshop at our regional office in Bangkok, I visited several program areas run by our ChildFund Alliance partner, CCF Foundation in Thailand.
ChildFund Alliance is a group of 12 global, developmental child-sponsorship organizations that implement lasting and meaningful changes in the lives of impoverished children and families worldwide. ChildFund Alliance assures the highest standards in program work, governance, fundraising and financial management.
Accompanying me on the visit were Thawee Suphophark from CCF Foundation in Thailand and Tutiya Buabuttra from our Asia regional office. We travelled to Sa Kaeo Province, located in the east of Thailand along the border with Cambodia. This area is known for some spectacular scenery and natural beauty (plus the annual Cantaloupe Day held every April!). Yet, it is also a region that suffers from high unemployment and poverty rates.
The visit was a great opportunity to see firsthand how collaboration allows Alliance members to share methods, expertise and fundraising resources to benefit more children around the world.
My visit happened to coincide with a major national holiday in Thailand, the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. Children around the country were performing in her honor, and I watched a traditional dance performance at one of the schools. The preservation of traditional arts, dance and handicrafts is an important part of the education in these schools.
Also of note is the patronage of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the second daughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Her support for CCF Foundation in Thailand is certainly part of a special relationship. The Princess is an accomplished musician. She also is often referred to as the “Princess of Information Technology,” due to her strong interest and efforts to apply science and technology to enhance the development of the country.
During my tour of the facilities, I found engaged teachers and students, refurbished classrooms with new supplies and safe, comfortable surroundings. The laughs and smiles of the children combined with their focus and attention to learning made a positive impression.
Continuing to build this relationship with Thailand through the ChildFund Alliance will ensure more programs to help children grow and thrive.
For more information on Thailand, click here.
More on Thailand
Population: 65 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 686,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Thailand’s southern peninsula, between the Andaman Sea and the South China Sea, offers safari expeditions on foot, by elephant and in canoes.
Next in our “31 in 31” series: A field report from Guatemala