Thailand is starting to open up more to tourism and larger, in-person events as the COVID situation begins to improve. While there is still concern about community spread and some care must be taken, the government has been able to relax border regulations and ease restrictions on public activities, thus allowing us to resume many of our in-person activities. Here’s a look at what we’re up to now and updates on what we have planned for the coming months!
The biggest news for us was that we were able to hold a Parents’ Meeting in person for the first time since COVID started. It drew a lot of participation from both old and new students and their parents. Everybody was so glad and relieved to be back together, happy to be with us and our team. Our staff were able to meet with them to explain our programs, answer their questions, provide updates to keep them informed and hold awareness-raising activities about human trafficking. Having that face-to-face connection was such a boon to relationship-building and being able to tap into issues concerning the families. Right now, many are worried about the economy—inflation is worsening, costs of living are rising, and it’s becoming difficult to earn money. The Parents’ Meeting was a key opportunity to remind them we’re in their corner and will be there to help them through the situation as it continues. It marks a great start to many more in-person activities we have planned!
Here are updates on what else is happening:
- We’re reaching out to more remote communities, including more students from stateless communities, with the help of two vehicles we’ve acquired to make this possible.
- We’re continuing the project to register more stateless students in school. We’ve provided support in registering almost 1,000 students thus far.
- We’ll be doing more soft skills training sessions, such as leadership skills, working in teams, computer skills, and our youth leadership program.
- We’re planning more afterschool and weekend getaway camps for more intensive training and activities (similar to our family conflict resolution camp we’ve held in the past).
- We hope to expand our use of social media directed at migrant workers and other vulnerable communities, to facilitate more information sharing and broaden our reach.
- We’re tapping into partnerships with businesses that deliver fresh produce and groceries to homes on a weekly basis, and connecting families in our sustainable livelihoods programs with them, so that the families can scale up their business, grow in confidence, and build new markets to sell their vegetable and poultry products to, gaining the potential to earn even more income than they usually receive in daily wages.
- With the experience that we’ve gained from our work in Chiang Rai, and thanks to the communal trust we’ve been able to build in Nan since we opened operations there, we’re gaining the interest of government agencies in the area. We’re becoming the go-to organization for requests to do training on things like cyberbullying or cyber security for kids in school, etc.
- Besides the income generation projects we do with some of the families, we also purchase what they grow and use it to cook food for the students and guests. For example, during COVID, we purchased fresh produce from local families to support the community; and provided supplementary food to the students and families who got COVID and needed to be isolated. Activities like these have been key to trust-building.
Here’s Some of What We Expect To See
The job of prevention is, of course, not only responding to current challenges but also keeping an eye on upcoming difficulties, especially the foreseeable shifts in trafficking.
The latest trend is that we’re seeing a lot more Thais going abroad to Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar for work. The news regularly reports on stories of people being trafficked in this way. We are especially concerned about our older students working at casinos in Cambodia. Some of them have already seen job advertisements and become interested. We’re warning them about the risks and trying to help them understand all the potential aspects of the situation better. Some may still want to go, in which case, we will try to use our relationships with the provincial labor department to verify the records of the employers and aid in ensuring our students travel to work there legally. We anticipate seeing only more scenarios like this as borders open.
We’re also continuing our work with a coalition of NGOs on Child Safe and Friendly Tourism, furthering cooperation between government and civil society to promote safety for children in such an essential sector.
While bride trafficking appears to be on the rise in other parts of Southeast Asia, thus far, and thankfully, it doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue in Thailand. However, we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
We’re very excited about continuing developments, especially the prospect of being able to be back in person with our students and their families more like usual. It’s been a very challenging couple of years, but reconnecting definitely helps to rejuvenate spirits and reinvigorate energy to all our various initiatives! We’re very thankful for our donor community who makes this work possible, and hope you all are as excited as we are about what’s to come!