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The Health Risks
April 2, 2020

In our most recent blog post, we talked about the more practical impact the threat of the Coronavirus will have on our students’ lives. In this post, we want to zoom in on the particular risks our students faces with regards to how susceptible they are to this disease, in ways that might differ from most of us.

All of us are vulnerable to the spread of the Coronavirus. BUT – while many of us who are “nonessential” workers have the option and ability to hunker down in our homes, with internet and food delivery available at our fingertips, our students and their families are facing situations that leave them more susceptible to risks of the virus’ spread. 

Here are some of the challenges in containing and preventing the virus’ spread:

More Crowded Living Situations = More Risks

For many families living in poverty, it can be nearly impossible to quarantine any individual member who might get sick. Many families share a bedroom together, and for larger families crammed together in one household, keeping a safe distance from a member who is sick can be impractical. So it can get really difficult to prevent the spread within the family, once it hits a member of the family–even more so if it proves true that the disease can spread before one even shows symptoms (which is still unclear and subject to debate).

And it’s not just families who are crowded together. A number of our students are living in a dormitory-style situation, which is also more crowded.

Intergenerational Spread

Many of our students live in an intergenerational household–that is, multiple generations living under one roof. Reports of the disastrous spread in China and Italy suggest the virus has spread so quickly there because of multiple generations living together, with younger family members carrying it back home. Because the disease is so much more dangerous for elders, this living situation can be deadly. For our students, where grandparents are living with grandchildren, oftentimes serving as surrogate parents to those who are orphaned or in families where parents have migrated to another city for work, the spread threatens to become even more deadly and more destabilizing. 

Undocumented Migrants

We want to be careful not to further stigmatize an already stigmatized population, but there are risks that people who, for legal reasons, are pushed into hiding, will face incentives to avoid testing if they get sick, and who cannot afford to get medical help if they need it. We can’t know for sure if this is happening, but it stands to reason that this fosters an environment where those who get sick but fear deportation, might try to hide their illness, meaning the virus can spread untracked and undetected. Especially with such a long lag time between the day of infection and when one starts to get sick, it can be nearly impossible to track the spread.


How We’re Responding

We are working on getting internet packages to any students who need them, so that they can stay connected to us and to their schools while still staying home. With the help of the internet, we’re able to share and disseminate infographics and videos about the virus and safe hygiene practices not only in Thai, but also in Burmese and ethnic minority languages. With thanks to the generosity of OOCA, we also provide students with access to specialists, such as psychologists, for counseling during this time. While we can’t change their living situation or legal situations, we can hopefully strengthen prevention efforts through information and awareness, and help protect our kids and their families through knowledge about social distancing, keeping hands clean, not touching faces, wearing masks, and emphasizing our collective responsibility to protect those most vulnerable.

We’ve also been working to help migrant workers who’ve lost their jobs or daily wages and who want to return home to their families. Our team worked together with other organizations and volunteers over the last weekend to help achieve special approval for these workers to cross the border and be quarantined for 14 days on the Myanmar side before heading back to their hometown.

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, sanitizers, 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.


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