The city of Chiang Rai is the capital of Chiang Rai province in Northern Thailand. The province, which borders Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, is one of the poorest parts of Thailand. Traditionally, the people have lived mainly on the cultivation of poppy for the production of opium, using slash-and-burn techniques. Although now illegal, this form of cultivation is still practiced. Apart from drug-related problems, it causes deforestation, which increases the risk and impact of ecological disasters, such as floods and landslides. However, due to the remoteness of the area and the lack of mineral resources, the population has hardly any alternatives of making a living.
Driven by poverty and malnutrition, scores of children cross the Thai-Burmese border every day. Most of these migrant children have never attended school, since there are only very few schools in the border area of Myanmar (Burma), most of them with fees the poor cannot afford. Therefore these children are forced to earn their living by taking any job they can get. Many of them do not speak the Thai language, so they end up doing menial work in tea parlors, restaurants or hotels. Many youngsters move to the large cities in the South, where they hope to find a better life.
The Thai government has launched a number of projects to help those children but there is still a great need for long-term family-based care. Therefore, SOS Children’s Villages Thailand started a fund-raising campaign inside the country and managed to raise the money needed to buy a piece of land for a new SOS Children’s Village.
SOS Children’s Village Chiang Rai is located on the main road from Bangkok to the North (highway number one) at a distance of about 12 km from Chiang Rai International Airport. A hospital, a market, schools, a college and a university are all within a radius of about 12 km. The SOS Children’s Village consists of twelve family homes, a community house, staff accommodation, and the necessary administrative buildings.
There is also an SOS Kindergarten for about 100 children, both from the SOS Children’s Village and from the local community. For poor families, especially for single mothers, it is very important to have a place where their children are looked after during the day. Children receive a hot meal at the kindergarten every day.
Two of the SOS Children’s Village’s family homes have been converted into a temporary SOS Social Centre. Children who suffer from malnutrition are admitted to these houses and they are treated there. This program will be run until it is no longer necessary. Then the two houses will be turned into family homes again.
In 2006, SOS Children’s Villages launched its family strengthening programmes in Chiang Rai. These programmes are intended to support families at risk of abandoning their children and to encourage families to stay together. SOS Children’s Villages therefore works with local authorities and other service providers to support families and enable them to take good care of their children. The Chiang Rai family strengthening programme provides primarily medical and health support. The programme also aims at raising awareness of hygiene and child rights and improving people’s parenting skills.
In December, SOS Children’s Villages celebrated another landmark in history with the official opening of the 450th SOS Children’s Village in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
The ceremony was presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali, which officially opened the 14 family houses which will provide a new family home to 140 needy children. A nursery school adjacent to the village will provide a basic education to 100 children, both from the village and the surrounding community. For poor families, especially for single mothers, the day care provided by the nursery is vital to enable them to earn a living and ensures that their children receive at least one hot meal every day.
During the ceremony, the Princess presented the President of SOS Children’s Villages International, the charity’s umbrella organisation, with Thailand’s highest civilian honour for a foreign national – “Knight Commander: The Most Admirable Order of the Direkgunabhorn” for the outstanding social work the charity has undertaken in Thailand.
The new village is located in Chiang Rai, capital of the northern province of the same name, in one of the poorest areas of Thailand. Local communities have traditionally cultivated poppies for the production of opium, which in addition to being illegal, causes drug-related problems as well as deforestation due to the slash and burn techniques used. The resulting ecological problems, such as flooding and landslides, simply add to the hardship for the people in the area.
Scores of children, driven by poverty and malnutrition, cross the Thai-Burmese border every day. Because of the lack of schools in their home country or fees their families cannot afford to pay, most of these migrant children have never attended school and are therefore forced to earn their living by any means they can find. Many of them do not speak the Thai language, and end up doing menial work in tea parlors, restaurants or hotels. Many youngsters move to the larger cities in the South, where they hope to find a better life.
The Thai government has launched a number of projects to help these children but there is still a great need for long-term family-based care. In response, SOS Children started a fundraising campaign locally, raising funds to buy a piece of land for a new SOS Children’s Village, which will provide many of these children with hope for the future.
Two of the family homes at the village have been converted into a temporary social centre, where children who suffer from malnutrition are cared for and supported back to health. The program will run until it is no longer necessary, when the two houses will once more be used as family homes.