FED/GHRE Filling the Gap for Burmese Migrants’ Rights in Thailand

On June 18 I visited Foundation for Education and Development/Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development in southern Thailand – a place called Khao Lak.

Burmese migrants’ children ready to learn thanks to Grassroots Human Rights Education And Development

The first project I witnessed was the community leader training. Burmese migrants from fisheries, plantations, and construction who came to Thailand to find work had gathered for a 2-day training. These attendees were receiving training for improving and leading community development. All were from the Phang Nga province and were there to also network with each other.  The founder said that part of the training’s purpose it to increase the awareness of the migrants’ human and labor rights. Many workers come to Thailand not knowing their rights, which then are abused by those in authority like the plantation  owners, construction company owners, and immigration authorities.

The temporary shelter and women’s center – additional services provided to Burmese migrants by FED/GHRE

The second project I visited was the education program for the Burmese migrants’ children – FED/GHRE wants to protect children’s rights by encouraging that they don’t have to work or marry young… they can stay in school. Awareness is not just for children but for the parents as well.  I sat in on activities from preschool age to the young adult, youth outreach program.  The older children receive traditional schooling in addition to democracy and human rights training.

Preschool Class

In Thailand the problem is that to integrate migrant students into public schools, money and language-fluency in Thai is required, which many children of Burmese migrants don’t have. Additionally, transportation to these schools is not easy therefore students are provided transportation via the FED/GHRE truck from certain areas to the FED/GHRE school.

One FED/GHRE staff member I met had joined this organization at age 12 and continued through the program. She is now 19 and a translator for the organization. She said without FED/GHRE she probably would probably not have any opportunity and have to marry young or work in a plantation like many of her peers. I was able to also speak with a FED/GHRE recipient who has been integrated to a Thai school. He said he has both Thai and Burmese friends there and enjoys playing football as well as art class because he loves to draw mountains and landscapes.

Before I left, I was able to stop in one last time and observe a school celebration of Aung Suu Kyi’s birthday. The students were quizzed on historical events, the life of Aung Suu Kyi, and then watched a short documentary. Although there have been public changes within (Burma)Myanmar, change has not been seen in this area with an increase in new students arriving everyday.  This group of multilingual Burmese youth in Thailand will grow up not only with math and language skills, but a with a global mindset trained in democracy and human rights.

Aung Suu Kyi’s Birthday Celebration

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

A hand-up, not hand-outs for youth and families in Thailand

I was able to visit 2 organizations meeting needs of those in the Bangkok community that are disadvantaged or are affected in some way by HIV – both organizations give a hand up not a hand out. The first organization, Siam-Care, provides economic and educational opportunities while the second organization I met with, Step Ahead, provides business training, personal development, and micro-loans for existing entrepreneurs.

At Siam-Care I met 2 young women, one is studying finance and the other an international law student. One of the young women had been brought in at 12 years old for support by her “adopted” mother because she lost family from HIV/AIDS. She now financially supports her siblings. The other young woman was an orphan and studies law because she is interested in law and justice. We discussed that if they were not at Siam-Care they would be at higher risk for trafficking and or abusive work situations. Many youth migrate uninformed to large cities like Bangkok to support their families or themselves if they don’t have families. With the support of Siam-Care they can stay in school, receive education and support, and aim for professional careers like accounting, medicine, and law. The last youth I met was a young man that a relative brought in because his mom died when he was 5 of HIV and his father passed away when he was 2. He is now in school, part time working at KFC, and studying to be a computer programmer. He also is interested in giving back and volunteering – he even asked about volunteering for GlobalGiving!

The issue is that it is free to “sit in a classroom” but families have to pay for everything else including books, uniforms, and even specific haircuts. If the students don’t have this, they can’t attend.

Step Ahead is located near a slum community of Bangkok, Khlong Toei. After meeting staff and seeing the gorgeous purses that women are able to make with Step Ahead in order to earn income, I accompanied the founder, John, and a staff member to meet those receiving mentoring, training, and microloans. Additionally, Step Ahead hosts basketball and event days for local youth.

Working through local districts, Step Ahead first hosted meetings to reach out to the community. In the slums, people either live in tall government projects that have about 250 rooms and about 1500 people per building or they live in shacks between buildings through winding alleys. These homes are made from bits and pieces of scrap metals and wood all stacked on top and in between each other. Walking through Khlong Toei, John explained that the situation is much better than it was before. A few years ago I would have seen sewage-filled alleys. The first Step Ahead micro-entrepreneur we came across was at her stand selling confectionary items.  She said she uses the loans to buy “stuff to sell”. Another woman has a restaurant serving food through a window facing the alley. Finally, we came to a family business close to a pond turned into a sewage and trash dump.  Outside of their home were bathtubs filled with water and chickens’ feet. This family processes chicken feet to be sold at the market.  The family told us that the helpers (who come to de-bone the feet) and the buyers have not been coming as regularly – and they did not know why. One member of the family was a single dad of 3 kids.

We continued to walk through the community meeting local citizens and observing their daily lives.  Because of the support of Step Ahead the local citizens can continue to run their businesses and not have to go to loan sharks that charge high interest rates while emotionally and physically bullying their loaners if money is not repaid back on time. Despite difficult situations, economic instability, and families affected by HIV/AIDS everyone was hopeful, inspiring, and committed to making theirs’ and others’ situations better.

Find out more at: Step Ahead and Support 100 Thai Prisoners And Families With HIV

Flood Relief in Thailand – Where are they now, Part 1

Part 1 is dedicated to my site visit with Global Vision Charitable Trust in Lop Buri, Thailand:

BEFORE: School in Lop Buri flooded almost up to second floor (Source: GVI Archive, Jax)

After one of the worst flooding in Thailand, Global Vision International Charitable Trust responded by providing relief and assistance so that communities could rebuild themselves.  On June 1, I was able to accompany GVI to one of its flood relief projects at a school in Lopburi.

GVI works with local groups and organizations to support communities. This specific one was in dire need of rebuilding its school that had to shut down for 2 months due to the flooding. During this time students had to stay at home and fell behind the rest of their peers where the flooding did not reach or subsided quickly.

Sitting with school staff and patron (the monk) learning about what really happened with the flooding

GVI was informed by a contact about the emergency situation, so they went out to survey the area. Before, community members had to walk through the water and take boats around the town.  Some of the staff at the school shared that GVI was the first people they saw handing out water in the emergency situation.   This school has 125 students from preschool to 6th grade with many from the hill-tribe areas. Some students have to sleep at the school since they live in such remote areas. During the flooding these students all had to return to their homes with no education, school, and away from their friends for 2 months.

One of the teachers explained that they were preparing for flooding, but the news never gave a clear timeframe for when the waters would arrive. By the time it arrived, within an hour almost the entire first floor was under water. She said the last big flood was about 16 years ago, but the school has never flooded like this before.  At the end, I asked the main supporter and patron of this school (a local monk) why he was so passionate and committed. He explained he was born in this town, studied at this school, and the monk he studied under had started the school. He wanted to continue it – it was the first and largest in the village.

The before and after pictures of the flooding are incredible. GVI was able to help bring volunteers to clean up flood water lines, repaint, rebuild walls that were rotted and or washed away, clean up furniture, and salvage what could be reused. They also rebuilt the gardens (where students learn about where food comes from and use the vegetables for meal times) and the playground.  GVI volunteers helped bring new bedding for the boarding rooms and new books since many were destroyed in the water that rose too fast to move everything upstairs.  GVI was one of the first to respond to the flood in this community. With the support of donations through GlobalGiving, children have returned to school. I am thankful to Jax, Apple, and GVI staff for taking me to see where the communities affected by the flooding are today.

Before and After Pictures:

BEFORE: flooded classroom (from GVI archive)

AFTER:cleaned, rebuilt, and restocked classroom

BEFORE: School gardens and playground damaged from flooding (SOURCE: GVI Archive)

AFTER: Gardens rebuilt

AFTER:  Playgrounds rebuilt

AFTER: Local school rebuilt, re-opened,and children back at school


Providing education for marginalized migrant youth in Thailand

DEPDC students

DEPDC students headed to class

GlobalGiving and donors have helped DEPDC fund many projects like a clean water source for the center and the education building that provides a free school in the day and a community-learning center in the evenings. Additionally, funds have helped provide education grants to send migrant children to school, provided a computer classroom, is currently fundraising to send 200 at risk children to school, and offering community learning center classes including English and business training. DEPDC supports the community in Mae Sai near the Thai-Burma border including Burmese children living in the border area and hill-tribe communities nearby.

Once within the facilities – I was greeted with children playing and bright colored buildings. At the front of the main building, immediately I saw a big sign over a door thanking GlobalGiving for the computer lab. I was then guided  on a tour of the DEPDC education building.

First I saw Child Voice Radio – a DJ training facility where students can learn how to DJ a radio station and speak on issues.  Then we went over to the broadcasting area – complete with stage, couches, and lighting as if ready for a talk show. Here DEPDC creates YouTube videos and provides opportunities for students to create alongside as well. Among these vocational training opportunities students can learn agriculture, weaving, and even intern through a youth leadership program. This is part of the Half Day Program where students receive formal education for half the day and vocational training of their choice the other half.

During my tour, I witnessed students in class, learning everything from math to teamwork and trust.  One of the classes for the older students occurred only on Fridays and focused on peace, self-confidence, and Thai culture. DEPDC provides a completely free education as opposed to the local Thai schools that are “free” but require students to pay for uniforms and books, which many families cannot afford. DEPDC also offers the opportunity for students who start kindergarten at 12 years old (because they could not attend before for many various reason) to learn at their level, comfort, and ability.  In addition to supporting youth in the day, these facilities host evening, community courses open to all community members.

DEPDC students in class

DEPDC students in class
Teamwork and Trust Activity

Teamwork and Trust Activity
GlobalGiving everywhere!

What is the impact? A majority of DEPDC students have no documentation or identification, are migrants that face poverty and discrimination, are unprotected and targeted by traffickers, and unaware of trafficking dangers. Now over 4000 children have been helped by DEPDC and provided an educational opportunity, vocational training, and self-empowerment to make informed decisions when facing dangers of poverty and trafficking.

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Creating change for Burma-Myanmar through education and change-makers

Imagine living in a country where it was virtually impossible to access high quality, affordable education. Imagine that 30-50% of the population of this country lived in extreme poverty, and that education was a key factor in bringing desperately needed development to marginalized communities. This is the situation in Burma today.

Thabyay Education Network (TEN) works to solve this issue by providing access to higher education and professional development opportunities to people from marginalized communities who can make a difference. On May 8, 2012, I met with TENs staff, learned about its programs, and joined two scholarship recipients in a tour of their university in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  The staff I met all took time to show me the process, explain to me all of the background and steps, shared why they joined TEN, and the challenges they have faced along the way.

Michael, who runs TEN’s ‘low cost, high impact’ self-study university preparation program, explained to me how this program helps community development workers in Burma access international university education. “These individuals want to improve their skills so they can increase the impact of their work, but access to decent education is a major obstacle. They lack the necessary qualifications, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), to be eligible for international universities outside Burma. However, to get these qualifications, they usually have to attend expensive private classes, which they cannot afford.” Michael continues, “When they enroll with us they get full support to self-study in their own time so that they can obtain the university qualifications they need.”

“This program is just one piece of the jigsaw of services that we provide”, explained the Development Director, Quentin Hewitt. “Many of the individuals who successfully gain the necessary university entrance qualifications with us go on to receive a university scholarship administered by us. We also support the development of communities in Burma through providing curriculum development and teacher training, organizing professional internships for community workers, running schools and placing skilled volunteers with community-based organizations. Through our efforts, we would like to create a generation of motivated individuals with the knowledge, skills and networks to make a profound and positive impact on their country.”

After visiting the office and learning about TEN’s projects, I was off to meet two Burmese scholarship recipients who now attend Chiang Mai University. Kaythi and Naing Lin (names changed for security reasons) are both enrolled in CMU’s new Social Science program which includes courses on environment, sociology, statistics, and economics.  What did they like about their program? The fact that CMU offers a great social science curriculum, unavailable in Burma, challenges the way they think, and generates learning through class discussion. Such experiences are virtually unknown in universities in Burma where analytical thinking is discouraged and an overriding emphasis is placed on rote learning outdated and often irrelevant texts.

Kaythi previously worked as a volunteer with an international organization working with the elderly in Burma. Naing Lin was a teacher and a volunteer. Why did they volunteer? Because they “want to help people and want to be life trainers”, said Kaythi.  Education is extremely important and they wanted to spread awareness about it – “we are the pioneers”, Naing Lin said.  Although she had a good job, Kaythi decided to apply for a scholarship because she felt that she could work more effectively if she was better educated . Her parents are small-scale farmers who had no opportunity to attend formal education. Although they need the help of every family member to obtain enough food from their land, her parents encouraged her to take this opportunity. “Don’t come back to the fields. Continue to study,” they said.  Naing Lin explained that learning English is “a great tool to attain knowledge and then share it.” He wanted to promote awareness about education to his Shan community – “if I don’t have anything to share with them, what’s the purpose of learning?”

w/ Scholarship Recipients and Thabyay @ university

w/ Scholarship Recipients and Thabyay @ university

Afterwards, we all went to the Chiang Mai University campus to meet the scholars’ Director and Coordinator of the Social Science program, accompanied by TEN’s Development Officer, Tom. The Director explained that the goal of the program was to prepare the students in multidisciplinary studies, but a big challenge was the certification of Burma’s education systems – which often is not internationally recognized. Through the international school at Chiang Mai University, the Director stressed the importance of extracurricular activities to promote integration among the students from Burma. Kaythi and Naing Lin both spoke passionately about their university life and the difference it will make in their future endeavors.

To support Thabyay provide more scholarships visit: http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/5168/thabyay-education-network/

Beautiful tree on campus… Thabyay is creating leaves of change to trickle down into the community

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention in Thailand – The SOLD Project

This is the home of one of The SOLD Project scholarship recipients. This recipient lost both of her parents, and currently her sister is raising both this girl and her young brother. They are at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

On May 10, I met with an organization that is addressing human trafficking and sexual exploitation from where it starts instead of at the end of the line. The SOLD Project is using education as a means of trafficking prevention from the outskirts of Chiang Rai, Thailand.

I met with Shannon, Director of Interns and Volunteers, to visit The SOLD Project facility and resource center for youth. GlobalGiving funds provided a computer lab and provided new desks to this facility. When I arrived, a local university student was teaching students the importance of social media safety. A lesson I think we all could benefit from. Shannon shared that there are about 120 youth in its program in total, but about 20-30 attend daily. Youth spend their time after school, on weekends, and on breaks learning about computers, art, guitar, photography, and any other projects that volunteers and mentors wish to teach.

Class in session - Social Media Safety Training

Class in session – Social Media Safety Training

During computer time, I was able to sit down with a few of The SOLD Project’s scholarship recipients and get to know them better.

Cat, one of the first scholarship recipients, shared a bit about her background: Her favorite subjects include English and math. When not in school, Cat watches TV and listens to music. After high school she hopes to do something with communication and language. She loves to learn because of the variety of knowledge she gains, and she wants to learn more. After, she said “thank you very much for tables, chairs, and computers.” Because they have access to computers and Internet, they can all learn so much more. In addition to the computers, the new shiny desks were wonderful to see compared to the old ones that were falling apart.

Nan is another young student I spoke with who has applied to and just passed the entrance exam for a good school that teaches English and Chinese. In her free time she likes to listen to music and read books. Her favorite subject is language, and she hopes to pursue studying tourism when she gets to university.

I was told by one of the SOLD students that if SOLD wasn’t there, she would not have anything to do, be bored, and not be with friends. The SOLD Project provides an outlet for these youth – a chance to continue education past what they can afford, continue learning, and a safe place to be when not in school.

At the end of the day, I sat with staff and spoke about their backgrounds and what brought them to SOLD.  Many shared how their religious backgrounds drove them to work with an organization like SOLD, but all shared their passion and commitment to working for this organization.

Getting to know the students

Getting to know the students – looking at family pictures and sharing memories
Speaking with staff
The SOLD Project students playing at their school

If interested in learning more please go here: http://thesoldproject.com/about/ … and to support The SOLD Project go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/6013/the-sold-project/.

 

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Supporting schools and artisans in Laos

On April 26, I met with SouLy from SEDA in Vientiane, Lao to visit one of the schools in Ban Phao (or Phao village) that received GlobalGiving funding for renovation and to visit participants of the Micro-Credit weaving project.

at the SEDA supported school

at the SEDA supported school

This village’s income generation is mainly from rice production, cassava, vegetables, and potatoes. The town consists of mostly farmers supplying these items to cities. In this town, there is an elementary and middle school but no high school – the children have to go to the next town for high school. Before renovation, these classes were held in flimsy buildings that were practically huts with dirt floors.

Walking around, I could hear laughter see kids playing and teachers congregating. A horn was blown, and the students were being called back to class. These classrooms were no longer held in huts, but in solid structures allowing the children to study and learn in a sturdy and safe environment.

I sat with two of the students who spoke to me about SEDA and the volunteers SEDA brought through to teach – they said they learned a lot of things like English, numbers, months, fruit, and conversation in English. One girl even said her favorite subject was English because it helped her to understand others that speak it. The teachers were happy to sit and speak with us also sharing their needs with us – the school currently needs science equipment to turn theory into practice, books, a library and computers.

speaking with students

Speaking with 2 students

classrooms receiving renovation

Classrooms receiving renovation

Renovated Classrooms

Renovated Classrooms

After visiting the school, we went on to visit participants of the Weaving Artisans – Micro Credit Project. SEDA was working with a specific village where the women are wives of handicapped military veterans – therefore usually the main income generator of the household.

We visited 3 women who benefited from and were part of this project. All three were highly grateful and dependent on the support of SouLy and SEDA for marketing and selling their work. Tuh, the 1st woman to participate in this textile project in thie village shared some of her beautiful work. She spoke about her current situation while we all sat on the front porch next to her large weaving machine. Tuh was an orphan who went to work at the handicapped veterans camp where she met her first husband. Now Tuh was a widow – twice she was married and both times they passed away leaving her alone to support herself and her children. I asked her what she was able to do with the money earned – and she said finally buy a computer for her kids.  She had been a weaver before, which is a tradition passed down, but now with the market testing of quality, color etc. SEDA helped bring her products to the market.

After, we met with another woman who was part of this project. We sat with her and her husband while she weaved. Her husband had lost both of his arms – but one wouldn’t notice from the great big smile he had when he greeted SouLy and myself upon arrival and sat laughing and talking with us. Both husband and wife were warm and welcoming eager to speak with me despite the language barrier.


visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

a weaving artisan with her husband

a weaving artisan with her husband

Creating beautiful and intricate traditional Lao skirts

with a SEDA weaving participant

with a SEDA weaving participant
 
The final product
Finally, we went to explore the local market so I can learn a little bit more of the culture through food, smells, and sounds.
 
Choosing from a variety of rice – who knew there were hundreds of types 
At the market in Vientiane Laos
Yummy dried frog dishes in the market…
… or perhaps you prefer beetles, grasshoppers, and grub worms?
I would like to thank SEDA and SouLy for her support and hospitality in accompanying me to visit this project, experience how GlobalGiving funds were used, and learn more about the Lao culture.
*SEDA is now a for-profit entity called Guo Angkham Technical Expertise Ltd. (GATE)

Where nature meets technology and e-creativity – an environmental-education program to be replicated

Imagine entering your science class and the teacher says – “today we will learn how to create a video game, then you will create your own, enter it in competition, and then finish up playing the games.” I am sure your experience with textbook-based environmental awareness – the importance of nature, animals, plants, and RECYCLING – would be forever changed. Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam (or YAWA) has partnered with corporate partners like AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) to change the way environmental education is being taught in Malaysian schools – through technology training and creativity capacity-building.

Me with YAWA staff and current student now a volunteer trainer for new youth groups.

Through a train-the-trainer approach, youth train younger youth creating mentor-mentee relationships. This particular youth said before he did not know a lot about the environment, but now he knows more about things like recycling, has fun doing it, and now hopes to be a landscape architect.

One of the staff explained why she went from supporter, to volunteer, to staff with YAWA: Her own son had disabilities and was very shy. After joining the program, he started wanting to go all of the time and finally the pivotal day was when he asked his mom “to go home”. He was confident there and no longer needed her with him. She said she committed 100% to making sure he could make it to every YAWA activity because she saw the change in him. It gave him courage, and his grades even improved. Now he is a volunteer training younger youth.

at MyCore Cyberjaya (the tech-park of Kuala Lumpur) where a class is creating video games with environmental advocacy missions (defeating deforesters, poachers, gathering rubbish); AMD gave 112 pc’s to the program to promote the E-Creativity Green Competition

MyCORE was created through a government push for an educated and technoologically savvy population. It was looking to develop the job and economic future of Malaysia.  There they provide trainings and workshops.

The first collaboration AMD had was a road show to 10 states in Malasia for 9-12 year old students to compete in educational games. AMD gave 80 pc’s at first to 8 schools.

I was told that game development project not only cultivates creativity but develops skills for future careers.

Next we visited  YAWA Environmental Education and Interpretive Centre – students practicing combining entrepreneurship training through green-solutions, products, and businesses. This center is for youth to gather, organize, and meet building entrepreneurship skills, selling products, and starting businesses with a green-focus.  The picture above is one of the top students in the e-creativity competition demonstrating his environmental game that involved jumps, avoiding bad guys, grabbing rubbish, and depositing it in trash bins.

This group demonstrated their advocacy campaign by selling t-shirts they made about the environment with cool catchy slogans and colors

These 2 young women took old newspapers and made new paper to sell- they showed me how and then made a lovely card saying “thank you for coming”. Now I know what to do with all of my old newspapers – I never have to buy paper again.

This group was using old water bottles to create hydroponic plants and spices – which they then sold to the community.

This group of youth were practicing baking and fundraising… and creativity… by selling home-made sweets self-decorated  (even the icing was homemade.. and delicious).

Salina from AMD and me

with cupcakes to take home and the home-made card

Other projects not pictured were taking left over water bottles, fruits and vegetables to create home-made cleaners, soaps, and shampoos to sell in the community. Another project was to raise birds to sell eggs.

YAWA is trying to encourage the moving away from a culture of dependency and teach self-empowerment while also creating awareness about environment through a hands-on science education approach.

YAWA’s long term goal is to create a forest development center with land to provide hands on training for youth.

Although YAWA is not a current project featured on GlobalGiving, I visited because of GG’s involvement in the partnership between AMD and YAWA.  I was blown away by YAWA’s organizational structure, commitment and drive of its creators, staff, and volunteers (the volunteering and give-back culture of Malaysia is commendable and inspiring). Additionally, the students I met were learning not only about the value of recycling turning waste to new products, developing creative mind-sets, and practicing career skills that will support them for a lifetime. I would love to see these programs implemented in schools back home…

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Improving Rights and Opportunities for Citizens and Youth with Developmental Disabilities in Malaysia

Children’s laughter, coloring time, puzzles, math worksheets, and outside exercise… the activities, sights, and sounds of school.

April 20 I visited Wings Melaka, but this “school” was different  – Wings Melaka is a Center for Developmental Disabilities.  The youth at this center are special needs, and the teachers and staff are dedicated professionals and parents working to provide learning opportunities to bring out the youth’s full potential. In a country where rights and opportunities for those with disabilties barely exist (there is even a stigma against recognizing the issue), Wings Melaka’s staff and parents are joining together to petition for the govnermnet and community to recognize the basic rights of citiizens with disabilites and to provide education, training and opportunity for their futures. Wings is also creating best practices for special education and promoting special needs education and support in the major school system. Upon arrival in Melaka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I was greeted by Executive Director, Dr. Boon Hock Lim, at the bus station.

Immediately we departed for Wings Melaka’s location to visit staff and experience Wings first hand. I toured the facility, seeing all of the toys and resources available for parents and the youth. Their resource library was full of dvd’s, books, trainings, educational toys, and more for not only the teachers but also for parents to be able to rent and take home for after school is over.  I was able to observe and help out at Wings’ School Age Programme observing the class and spending time with the kids. The teachers were committed, patient, and creative making sure each student was busy completing his and her activities for the day. Some of the students’ favorite activities were coloring and some were puzzles. Many of the students in this class had autism and other development disabilities.

Wings Class in Action

Wings Class in Action
Class activities and resources -organized on a “tasks for the day” basis practicing focus, structure, and then reward for completion



Physical Education time – stretching and running races

Next, I visited the Young Adults Programme. Run by two of the orginal founding parents, this provides life and skills training for 18-25 year olds and teaches everything from cooking meals and cleaning, to employment and job training.   I met 3 of the current youth program attendees – all young men learning and practicing together the basic skills of life and even breaks for physical exercise.

This woman is one of the founding parents of Wings Melaka. Her and her husband now run the Young Adults Programme – and are so inspiring. Their son is one of the students in the program.  She explained that often there are little to no services for job placement, so after experiencing the lack of opportunity, Wings Melaka expanded its services. Speaking with this family was incredibly inspiring – despite their struggles they find solutions and are hopeful creating change both in the lives and on a public level for those with development disabilities.

At the end of the day, I sat in on the weekly Parent Support meeting (Coffee Session) where parents can share struggles, experiences, and questions to support each other raising children with special needs. Some of their children were autistic, some hyperactive, and some had very rare developmental diseases.  The parents opened up and began to share their experiences both with Wings and their children for example when they found out their child had a form of developmental disability like Autism and then the process of finding the right support and education. All of the parents shared the improvements they have seen with their children after being at Wings. There were tears, laughter, and encouragement.


A unique aspect of Wings’ program that inspired me was that at least 1 parent/guardian is required to attend sessiona and practice with their kids. This is because Boon Hock explained to me that the learning process only BEGINS at Wings, but in order to make progress it must be continued at home consistently. Wings Melaka is providing the tools and training for the youth and their families for a brighter future with options, possibilities, and hope when before it was a future full of questions and fear. Also, it was wonderful to see kids, staff, and parents from all backgrounds, languages and cultures – all seeking a better future for their children.

 
At the end of the day, Wings staff and parents provided this “Thank You” award and card to me and GlobalGiving on behalf of the support for Wings Melaka.

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Case on Scholarships for Students – Breaking the Cycle of Poverty w/ CCEF

On March 21, Alexis and I visited Cambodian Children’s Education Fund scholarship recipients’ schools, and we had dinner with a recipient family of CCEF’s scholarship program. A quick note before I share about the site visit… since the Khmer Rouge, education in Cambodia is basically starting at square 1. The Khmer Rouge killed/wiped out anyone who was educated in order to destroy the social class system/rich vs. poor – they murdered an estimated 1/3 of the population. The country is now in a state of re-building its education system, educated citizens, and even re-teaching and preserving its cultural heritage (all of the former documents were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge party). The importance of education in a country where every highly educated citizen was murdered or fled the country is EXTREMELY vital and organizations are now working to ensure that children are able to COMPLETE their education since a large number of the population cannot afford for the kids to finish schooling much less afford books and uniforms. The children normally have to stop going to school in order to start working some at the age of 10 to provide additional income for the family. On to the site visit…

The first stop was New York International School in Siem Reap, Cambodia where 12 students are being sponsored by CCEF. Alexis and I were able to observe a class with some of the sponsored students and then meet with the staff and principal.  The school has grades kindergarten through 12th grade.  We asked what the difference is between the public and private schools and the staff explained: security, holding students accountable (for example when they are absent the school calls the parents), and number of students per teacher and class. The students were getting more 1-on-1 support and courses in both English and Khmer (the local language). Later in the day, we visited Sunrise Children’s Village where CCEF sponsors 10 students. This is an orphanage that takes not only children without parents but also children whose families who cannot afford to take care of them or provide education – “economic orphans”.

That night we had dinner with Somalin, the first scholarship recipient, and her family.  Somalin, received a full scholarship since she was 3 to attend private school, and now has amazing English skills. Her dad often stopped to ask her how to say a word. Her dad said that she is determined to do well, doing more homework than is required and studying more than necessary every night.  Somalin’s father is a tuktuk driver – a common form of transportation in Cambodia which barely provides sufficient income for an entire family. Because of her education, her father now learned English too, and they both teach the whole family at home. Her dad also stays up late to help her with homework and says sometimes he has to keep the dictionary out to be able to complete it with her when it is very difficult.

Somalin’s education has installed the importance of education in their family. She was the first to receive formal schooling, formal English, and math training. It was incredible and inspiring to meet the children who can afford to go to school now, receive an education, and contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Alexis and I at dinner with Somalin and her family