As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s an update on the situation for our students and staff. In the northern region of Thailand, the virus is spreading, including cases reported near our office and undocumented migrant workers returning from high risk countries. There is also a severe problem with the air quality and pollution. Chiang Rai is currently second worst in the country, and Chiangmai is first in the world in terms of health hazard, and we are seeing the impacts already on an individual level.
COVID-19 Impact on Students
Responding to these situations requires very difficult decisions. Our students are currently on spring break from school, so in normal times, more students would be with us for longer (all day every day vs mostly Saturdays). However, closing the after school program could mean students (even young ones) being left home alone.
There is the further challenge for stateless students who don’t have access to healthcare (for example, it is more expensive – they pay the same price as foreigners). It’s super critical that vulnerable populations like these are protected from the virus spreading as they really would have no where to turn to for medical help–a situation that is not only tragic for them but also amplifies the risk for others around them.
Given the many health concerns for everyone, we have suspended all activities for children in the office until the situation improves. All staff are advised to work from home, we’re moving communications to online and mobile phone for staff and students, and all outreach activities will be postponed unless urgent. To deal with the concern about children being left alone, staff are calling families to discuss the need for childcare. Thankfully many of the families are already making preparations to ensure at least someone will be home with the kids. Other measures to ensure child safety in a time when there is concern that, with more people home and online, online exploitation might rise are being discussed and are under review.
Meanwhile Thai authorities have implemented measures to deal with the coming crisis, including shutting borders and allowing only foreign travelers who can provide a health certificate and proof of insurance. They have also approved a large stimulus package to provide cash handouts to those who are affected by the crisis, including temporary workers, freelancers, and the self-employed. It is expected more relief will continue to come as the situation unfolds.
How you can help
A generous donor has pledged $10K in matching funds towards a COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund. This fund will provide the resources needed for food, internet packages and more during this time.
Your support in this time to our students, who were so vulnerable even before this crisis hit, is more critical than ever. If you can, please consider joining the team of donors responding to this situation and donate to our COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund.
Thank you for your generosity. Please stay healthy and safe.