“I am excited for change for the families of students, and the community, which is our priority. For them to have sustainable income. For them to have the ability to live sustainably. It isn’t just a dream, but it’s a goal for these families to have sustainable lifestyles. If we can make that happen in reality, that is very exciting. We believe in the ability of these people, and in the ability for change.” – Krai
Krai joined our team in June as our new Sustainable Development Manager. He comes to us with a wide background, including working on issues of sustainable development in Isaan, Eastern Thailand, working with the University of Khon Khen, World Wildlife Fund, and in Northern Thailand with various organizations including PLAN International. We’re thrilled to share some of his views and dreams with you here.
His Vision for Sustainable Change
He says the key to his ability to work with villagers to adapt to organic and sustainable forms of farming comes through his own personal experience. “Asking everyone to change at once is impossible. You have to start with one person, then the others can see the change, they can see the impact of what you’re doing,” he explains. “To help villagers begin to change mindsets around the use of chemicals and organic farming is really hard. We had to talk to them about how their careers, their lives, could align with organic farming. Things like using pesticides they already had from raising pigs… At that time we couldn’t see the whole picture, but after 10 years [of farming organically] we can see it. I would talk to the villagers and think with them, ‘what about this’ and we would try it out together,” Krai says of his early years working in Isaan.
He is excited about joining The Freedom Story because of our focus on addressing the root cause of trafficking. He explains that, “in the past, everyone would just find jobs for kids. But we didn’t address the root cause of the problem–that the families don’t have enough income, and they don’t have enough work. People are always thinking about and talking about how to solve issues in the long-term. Sustainable economies, sustainable income, is important. Without that, going forward is very hard.”
On the Importance of Sustainability
Sustainability is important because “if you are just working for your day to day needs, you can’t see or plan out your future. You can’t see the way to move forward. If your goals are to have enough to eat and to live, when you have an unexpected expense or situation, it is very hard to solve that problem. If you are living and working for your day to day expenses, you can’t move forward because you don’t have goals. If we ask families, ‘In 10-20 years, what kind of life do you want?’ they might answer that they want to have no debt, or enough to support students to stay in school. The goal isn’t about money. It’s about them being able to take care of their families,” he says.
Starting small is important. “If you are employed here, you get 300 THB (10 USD) per day. 100 THB goes to food for your family, 100 for school costs for the kids, it isn’t enough to save money. But if we work with families to start growing some of their own food, for example, you can begin to eat that–not today–but in 3 months. You can begin to live sustainably, and you can have food for your family, and you can save that money you would have spent.”
Goals Going Forward: Helping People Plan
Krai sees that the local people often haven’t developed the necessary skills to effectively plan for their lives. This connects both with sustainable development and with risk to trafficking and exploitation. Starting to do that at 40 or 50 years old is hard, he says, but if we can build systems of goal setting, achieving goals and how to plan for the future, then they can begin to see change.
For example, Krai plans to begin by investing time in using space around the Pong Phrae Resource center to demonstrate small-scale sustainable farming techniques that can be used at home. “If we want others to change, we need to start as a model. People don’t have time, or they might not have much land of their own. They have a lot of knowledge, but we just have [to help them choose] things that will work, and that are appropriate to their situation.” Setting up a system and a schedule can help them organize their resources more effectively.
“We have to do it with them, not just train them–they won’t do it otherwise. We become friends with the families, and we find solutions together.”
Krai sees a clear link between sustainable development and prevention of child trafficking, especially in the lack of ability to make plans. For example, if a family is struggling financially, they’ll pressure their kids to help support the family, thus putting them at further risk. “If the families don’t have a life that is good enough, if they don’t have enough income, the kids will be at risk. The parents just think about today and tomorrow. They don’t think about the future–about how if they invest in their students now, to get a good education, everything will come back to them to benefit them in the future when the students have a better job. The lack of skills for planning, that really puts the kids at-risk,” he explains.
Krai is excited to begin to see change in the community. “If we can make this change, it will last for years and years. Not just for families we work with, but others in the villages, who can benefit from this too. This is what I am excited about,” he says smiling.
We are excited for Krai’s vision and his drive to invest in the families in our community to build them up.