Last spring, we introduced you to a young student, Manee*, who, even at the tender age of 11, was already under a lot of pressure to support her family. Her parents worked hard, manual labor their entire lives, and, in their 50s, had begun to suffer from a variety of ailments. The biggest fear her mother had was that if they became too frail to work, there would be no one left to support them.
Here’s a quote from our original post:
“If she doesn’t take care of us when we’re old… I don’t know what to say. I have worked all my life and I have only $100 of savings.” Manee’s mother tearfully explains why her daughter must be able to support them as they get older.
Her mother had fled a husband with substance abuse problems, leaving behind ten other children in Burma to come to Thailand, literally carrying Manee, who was very sick at the time, on her back.
She found a new partner, but neither of them could read, write or do basic math. Unable to speak Thai, they were often ripped off at the local market when they bought or sold products, as others discriminated against them as ethnic minorities and took advantage of their illiteracy. Manee’s mother worried that if she remained unable to support her daughter’s education past 9th grade, Manee would face the same fate, or worse.
Other details about their lives contributed to our belief that Manee could be at risk of exploitation – for example, Manee was spending a lot of unsupervised time on Facebook with no guidance about safe behavior.
There was also the lack of a private bathroom in their home. With only a bamboo outhouse, with walls full of holes to peek through, Manee’s mother always had to stand guard.
As we shared last year, we were honored to be able to provide a scholarship for Manee to keep her in school and provide a path with more opportunities. Our staff mentors also worked with her to teach her about safe online behavior and warn her about the risks of abuse and exploitation online.
Here’s what’s happened for Manee and her family since then
Since we shared her story, we’ve worked with Manee and her family very closely. We’ve brought donated clothes to help ease financial burdens. We’ve supported Manee’s physical safety by building a bathroom connected directly to their house. Manee no longer needs to walk outside to use the shower or bathroom anymore, which will be a much safer situation for her as she grows into a teenager.
Manee comes every Saturday to our resource center and works directly with one of our staff to improve her reading and writing in Thai. She gets mentorship, educational support, and weekly encouragement weekly, as well as the opportunity to join in other activities that facilitate her development. We’re also helping Manee apply for better legal status so she has more security.
We see so much growth and change
In just about a year, there has already been so much change. Manee is more confident, outspoken, and connected to our staff. In the past, her career goal was to be a vendor at the market, which would be fine, except that we believed that was only because her awareness of possibilities was very limited.
Now, she says she wants to be a doctor. Whatever her career path ends up being, we hope that she sees a wide array of possibilities in front of her and that she feels empowered to choose what she truly wants.
In the past, her mother’s greatest concern was whether Manee could support them. With the belief that she and her partner had physically only one or two more years in which they were capable of working, without family support or citizenship to access government services, they would literally have no one to provide for them.
But after receiving the scholarship, Manee’s mother clearly feels more security – enough to say, “We want Manee to grow up to be whatever she wants to be.”
It’s hard to convey just what a huge shift that is – but, for children on the edge of survival, it can mean the difference between deciding to keep them safe and in school versus engaging in exploitative labor to ensure the family’s survival.
Because of the support of caring donors, it’s possible now to ensure that Manee finishes her schooling and, with stronger legal status, she’ll have more options to choose from in the future. Supporting her in Thai literacy will help reduce the likelihood that others will take advantage of her. And the emotional support she receives from staff mentors and peer friendships contributes to her quality of life, which we believe will increase her resilience, no matter what comes her way. We’re so grateful to our community of committed givers who help make this change possible.