The COVID pandemic has made it even more of a challenge to do outreach to areas, like migrant communities, that are already difficult to reach. However, our team has taken on the challenge and found creative ways to still spread knowledge and awareness to marginalized people.
Because of COVID, many things have been prohibited: large gatherings, the travel of migrants, and outsiders accessing migrant camps. These restrictions mean we can’t do the outreach sessions or workshops as we normally would. We’ve had to get creative!
How We’ve Adapted Our Outreach
Here are some of the ways we’ve found to still be able to disseminate information to people, including 11 migrant communities.
We selected some essential topics on labor rights and social welfare and created videos to share with the migrant communities.
Training Volunteers Within The Migrant Community
Since we weren’t allowed to access migrant camps ourselves, we recruited several volunteers from within the communities and trained them on how to conduct these awareness-raising sessions. To ensure the quality of the training, we did pre- and post-questionnaires that allowed us to assess the gains in knowledge due to the sessions. If participants had any questions, the volunteers would record those questions and send them to us for an answer or explanation. If the migrant workers needed additional help regarding legal consulting, we would also work with the volunteers to help them with these services. We’ve reached 290 migrant workers with this kind of training.
We also set up a webpage in the (migrants’ native) Burmese language to promote human rights, anti-trafficking issues, and other topics which relate to their community in Chiang Rai. This webpage is on the Facebook platform where the migrant workers are able to follow and easily receive any information we would like to send to them. More than 3,000 members come to follow our topics which we have posted every week, especially about labor rights for migrants and about issues related to COVID-19. The migrant workers in Chiang Rai also use this platform as the center to contact each other, asking questions about their rights, and sharing about our services and our network.
To ensure we remain up-to-date with the best available knowledge, we participate in governmental and non-governmental networks. This supports our volunteers to promote the human rights and anti-human trafficking movement and help their community members to receive deserved benefits from the services of the local government department. Our network has a wealth of expertise about working with migrants, stateless people, in the field of child protection, and other related anti-trafficking issues. We also were invited to share our model of working with the migrant workers through the pandemic crisis. We developed an Anti-Human-Trafficking curriculum that our staff has been trained to use, to advocate for the people who are at risk of trafficking. Thanks to this expertise, we were able to assist with 59 cases, affecting 185 people.
We also maintain good relationships with the migrants’ employers and thus are able to donate to support workers’ daily needs. For example, one employer decided to lay off six migrant workers without paying them their wages. The migrant workers asked the volunteer for help in negotiating with the employer. However, the volunteer was not confident to discuss with the employer, so he called our staff for help. We all went to meet with the employer and negotiate with him until he agreed to pay wages for all workers. This was a big step in building trust among the migrant workers and helping raise everyone’s confidence.
We hope to expand these outreach efforts with continued training of migrant volunteers as well as youth leaders who share with their friends at school and on social media. It’s a great way to scale our reach, and we look forward to a new generation being able to help us to sustain and expand anti-trafficking work. By mobilizing the next generation’s capacity as leaders, prevention work becomes more sustainable in the long run.