On Friday November 1, one of Childhood’s partner organisations in Thailand is finally opening a shop in Bangkok. Peuan Peuan (Good friends) focuses on protecting and reintegrating children and youth on the streets of Bangkok. Childhood has for the last four years supported their outreach work in squatter areas, street outreach, a multilingual hotline and work in the government shelters where arrested street children are placed.
The children Peuan Peuan meet come from different countries, have different backgrounds and meet different obstacles in leaving the high risk environment on the streets of Bangkok. An experience most share, however, is the breakdown of the household. Peuan Peuan’s ambition is to reintegrate children when possible and is therefore also working to strengthen families by helping them boost incomes.
Since 2009, Peuan Peuan has offered caretakers a concrete opportunity to earn an income by producing design products that are sold in shops, restaurants and hotels. To further increase sales a plan to open a shop similar to those in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap has been in the pipeline for a few years. Opening a shop in Bangkok has proved challenging, however, not least due to the high rents but also due to the size of Bangkok with tourists scattered over town. It is therefore very promising that the Friends ‘n’ Stuff shop is now finally ready to open in the Sukhumvit area of downtown Bangkok. The same building also contains offices and a training centre where targeted family members will be given initial training in the production process. Following this, participants will produce a certain number of products per week thus receiving an income.
Make sure to visit the shop on your next visit in Bangkok. The address is: 3/8 Soi Sukhumvit 49, Sukhumvit Rd (BTS Thong Lo).
The training center above the shop
The shop was not quite ready during Childhood’s visit in September
In 2012, Childhood decided to partner with the organisation ‘Rak Dek’ in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province. The majority of the population in this area belongs to one of the many ethnic minorities and many children lack birth registration and citizenship which makes it difficult for them to claim their entitled rights which, in turn, increases the risk for abuse and exploitation. Entering the work force at an early age is common for many of these children which also makes normal school attendance difficult.
With the project “community based collaboration on early childhood care and development”, Rak Dek primarily wanted to improve the quality of life for children 0-4 years old. In the long term, the ambition is to assist and cooperate with the involved communities to create improved systems and ways of taking care of young children. After the first year and a half of implementation, results include recruitment and training of 42 parental volunteers (local persons trained in pre- and post natal care, nutrition, available hospital services and other topics). The volunteers function as peer supporters in their villages and can provide support to pregnant women and households with small children. Two new day care facilities were established in very remote villages. The day care centers are now attended by 32 children on a regular basis. The local authorities have agreed to take over responsibility from the end of this year.
When I visited the project area in February I was struck by how far Thailand has developed when compared to neighboring countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam. Another reflection was the time it takes for general economic growth to reach communities living far away from cities and tourism hotspots. Although the standard of living in Thailand has increased tremendously over the last 20 years, there are still a number of groups living very tough lives on the outskirts of the Thai society. Particularly vulnerable groups include ethnic minorities along Thailand’s northern border and migrants. Rak Dek’s method is to work closely with the local authorities and already from the beginning start discussing when responsibility for a daycare facility or social support should be handed over. Since results are encouraging from the first project period, Childhood will continue supporting Rak Dek’s important work for another year starting now in July.
New day care center in Pai district
I am visiting a project situated a four-hour drive from the provincial town of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The area is known as the Golden Triangle and the major sources of income in the region are drug trade and trafficking. We drive along the winding, vertiginous mountain roads to the border area of Burma. Here, Childhood supports a small but very committed organization. The organization works near the huge orange plantation where illegal migrants work. The place seems quite inaccessible and it is hard to understand how the children who live there get to school or to the hospital. Actually, they rarely do. The children rarely speak Thai and they are afraid of being deported if they get in contact with authorities.
Children and their parents waiting for a puppet theater to start in the village
This is my first visit to Thailand and I cannot help but marvel at both the project and the organization. The projects we support actually reach out to the poorest and most vulnerable children in the most inaccessible areas. I marvel at the fact that a small organization as APCYF (Association for Protection of Children Youth and Families) works so professionally and with such a well-thought-out strategy to allow the plantation workers and the children themselves define what is important to them and how to find strategies to improve their lives in a way that lasts longer than the time Childhood is supporting the project.