Risk into resilience: Two brothers’ story of statelessness
“WE’RE BOTH BRAVE ENOUGH TO DREAM.”
Surachat and Surachai are two brothers who are in a complicated situation: they are stateless and they are orphans. Their mother passed away two years after their father, and her death was a turning point where they realized they could no longer lead innocent and carefree lives. They talk about bearing a burden of guilt for not doing more to help their mother before she died, though they were still young when it happened. They had to take responsibility for themselves: cooking, cleaning, protecting themselves and finding financial support—especially after they discovered that their mother had not understood the importance of their identity documents and had thrown them away.
THE BASIC THINGS
Even a basic thing like transportation becomes a catch-22 where they cannot get a legal drivers’ license without proper identification, so when they ride their motorbike to school or work, they risk getting caught for driving illegally, which can mean fines and jail time they can’t afford. Yet they also can’t afford to live without a way to get around to school and work.
HE SAID HIS HERO IS ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Now they do everything they can to learn as much as they can by studying in the library, and they find whatever jobs available to support themselves by cleaning dishes and floors in the school cafeteria, delivering drinking water, or working in the fields. Surachai dreams of becoming a doctor, and coming back to his village to help the people there who are prone to illness. Surachat loves to study history and culture. People look down on them for being stateless, they suffer insults, legal discrimination, and lack of opportunity, but they don’t let this affect their view of themselves. As Surachat explains:
“Not having citizenship is like I am invisible. It tells me no one cares about me. Everywhere I go, people insult me and are mean. But in my opinion, I don’t think they are right. Even though we don’t have Thai citizenship or a Thai ID, we can still live happily with others. Everyone is born differently. Even though we were born without citizenship, we are also human beings. Being happy or not happy is not about having an ID or money. It’s about being satisfied with what we are or are not.”
“After school, we might not be able to go play soccer or video games like others do because if we do that our life will dwindle and have no future. But if we work hard today, no matter how hard it is, if we have good intentions and beliefs, if we do what we believe, then we can handle it and it will be something we can accept. I am not a person who gives up on my dreams. I have intentions. I don’t care if I have Thai citizenship or not. I believe that my dream will come true. I will try and reach my goal.”
“WATANASAREE GAVE US EVERYTHING.”
They express gratitude and their sense of feeling blessed to have Watanasaree [The Freedom Story] in their lives. The money for school and supplies, the counseling and mentoring services, and the other opportunities it provides for higher education has changed their prospects in immeasurable ways. They feared they would be homeless without The Freedom Story’s support, but at The Freedom Story, they feel safe. Surachai says, “I want to say thank you to Watanasaree for helping us to have hope again and keep fighting and go through our problems. Even though everyone starts in different places, we can choose our own direction.”