We visit a preschool in a village in Mae Ai district, northern Thailand. The villagers belong to the minority group Lahu. A minority of which several are without citizenship, even though they were born in Thailand. They speak a language that is not in writing. They have no or little knowledge of human rights and no real access to medical care. This is a preschool Rights Now supports – to provide access to education and thus a chance for children of Lahu to create their lives and assert their rights as Thai citizens.
A day at the preschool
We arrive at the end of the day. Children stand in line to get a fruit before they go home. After closing, kids are running around and playing. In and out of bambu huts that are built on stilts with a rickety ladder up to the entrance and with an open hearth cooking place. They run up and down the hills, and their skin becomes reddish from the lightly iron colored sand. Pigs, chickens and dogs walk freely around the village. It is visible poverty by many standards.
In the preschool 39 children aged three to nine years have access to a safe and creative environment where they can practice Thai and numbers. Their parents will be able to work in the fields without having to worry about their kids. Walls in the school are filled with drawings and various creations made by the children. It is a room full of knowledge, creativity and joy. In addition to math and writing exercises, children are served one nutritious meal a day. The children get along with their teachers and learn about hygiene, washing clothes, and knowledge of nutrition. Together, they have planted a vegetable garden to enhance school lunches. If the harvest is good, the children take the vegetables home.
Dreaming of development
The teacher says that she dreams about evolving the school even more, to use new teaching methods and provide the children with more opportunities. For them to take advantage of their dreams and develop their talents. She tries to work with educators at other schools. The village also has a “non-formal school” whose teachers do not always have the chance to come to the village because of other engagements. That is a non formal school; No guarantee that a teacher is present. That is how it works when you do not know your rights when you are not a formal citizen, when you partially live outside the formal society and lack knowledge in the formal and written language. When the teacher from the non formal school is not able to come to the village – the preschool teacher even teaches the schoolchildren. She sees needs and takes advantage of every opportunity.
Language, health and confidence – how children grow
After the preschool opened, the children have not only gained an entrance into the Thai language, several children have better health status and self-confidence. Parents have greater opportunities to take the jobs offered to support the family. The preschool has made a clear difference to the whole village, where 78 families live. All of the children can not participate, some need to follow their parents into the fields. Teachers and teacher assistants try to have a dialogue with the parents about the importance of children being in preschool and school.
During the conversation with the teacher and teaching assistant a man steps into the school building. He walks around the room, trying to listen in on our conversation. After a while the teacher explains that he is the “head of village”. He has heard that someone from the Rights Now Foundation is in the village. And, he would like to thank Rights Now of behalf of the entire village. The preschool means so much. Even small means changes the lives of children, parents and families. Provided a greater chance of a life beyond the village, if you will, a life with a greater chance of being free of diseases and to have enough to eat. A chance for more opportunities for people of Lahu.
As told by Karolin Kral, Boardmember of the Rights Now Foundation, visiting the preschool in northern Thailand.
Project: The Ad.dar Center in Istanbul, Turkey.
Reported: October 10th 2015–January 24th 2016.
Therapeutic Workshops for Syrian and Palestinian children, organized, facilitated, and overseen by the Ad.dar staff. Weekly workshops held at the Ad.dar Center in Istanbul.
The number of children grew every week and the need is so great that we added additional classes during the weekdays for young teenage girls (ages 10- 14 years). The families have expressed their gratitude many times for the workshops- many of the new children are not in school and cannot attend for varying reasons. The time at Ad.dar is a great help to the parents and the children. In early November some of the young teenage girls came to us and asked if we could give them additional classes during the week – they are not in school and they have a great desire to learn. We immediately began classes for them on Mondays and Fridays- Arabic, Turkish, English, Music and Art/Photography/Storytelling.
On average we spent 12-15 hours a week with the children in workshops and on excursions. In addition to this workshop (on Saturdays and Sundays) we held 3 hours of tutoring the children on Sundays and 4 hours of classes twice a week for the young teenage girls. The extra excursions included; a trip to the Istanbul Aquarium, a day of bowling and out for lunch, an Art workshop at The Salt Gallery designed for kids and held by Syrian and Turkish artists, a ferry ride and picnic on the Asian side, a trip to a forest with a picnic and a trip to Istanbul Modern Museum. Between 25-30 children ages 5-12 participated in all of the weekend activities. Relationships with new families were established and existing relations with parents developed, strengthening Ad.dar Center’s accountability and stimulating interest in our other outreach programs.
The funds received from Rights Now enabled our center to effectively carry out the goals of our proposed workshop. With the generous funds received for this workshop we feel that we have greatly improved our workshop in general. Ad.dar staff is better equipped and trained, our center has more tools to help with teaching, and the number of children that attend has increased. We have felt comfortable responding to the needs of the young teenage girls to add classes and to be able to provide a warm, open space and to offer hot and nutritious meals.
Ad.dar Center would like to thank the Rights Now Foundation for the opportunity to accomplish the workshop.
Watch a video from one of the workshops by Ad.dar: