The Life of Best

The Life of Best

The Ngow River flows through the Yao and Pha Mon mountains of the Wiang Kaen district, with a story of a girl that washes them in darkness and sorrow.

Best comes from the Kamu hill tribe. A young impressionable girl who would be fated to lose everything when first her father; and then mother succumbed to HIV/AIDS. Luckily, the Keep Girls Safe project administered by ADRA Thailand would take her away from such heartache.
Under the protection of KGS since 2006 when she was a grade 2 student, things have improved dramatically. She is now even able to go home in the school breaks. At the shelter she performs many house chores such as cooking rice, washing clothes, planting vegetables and more; perhaps a way to erase unpleasant memories and plant fresh ones.
The tale of her past begins with her father; a Laotian; who after marrying her stateless mother, died of HIVAIDS. After her father’s death, Best lived with her mother, who re-married, a Thai man. The husband had a previous child, “Pha”, younger than Beer by three years. It was soon obvious where favour lay and she faced heavy discrimination while living with her mother’s new family. Such hardships only increased with time and when her mother passed away; she was left alone and unwanted in a family who did little to acknowledge her existence. She did not understand why this was happening; and was left yearning for a loving embrace.

Best (right) and a fellow KGS shelter member.

Photograph by Rodolfo Mansalve

If things were tough until this point, they soon became worse. For her stepfather remarried a woman from Laos; packaged with four children of her own. An utterly mystified Best watched on; there was no longer a place for her in this home. She was not a biological child; she was nothing but an eyesore to them. They physically and verbally assaulted her with little reasoning. The scars became much deeper than skin level.
Today, Best is with the KGS project, a warm-hearted foster home that takes care of 27 girls from remote areas who are at high risk of human trafficking. These girls have been through unrelentingly harsh circumstances, often orphaned or homeless. The KGS shelter provides that warm embrace Best was seeking; for all the girls who find their way to them. Best is currently a third year student at a vocational school, majoring in design and she hopes to study Fine Arts at Chiang Mai University or Lanna Rajabhat University. Her talent is to design. She helps design the workshop’s stages including leading a reaction session of a workshop. She sings and plays the guitar and piano with her peers and at church as well. These activities are an inspiration for her to seek a better life for the future.

This summer, she is a volunteer with the Stateless Project. She is enthusiastic to learn and help people who are negatively impacted by being stateless; this is her story as well. Best owns an ID card where the number starts with “0”; the code for a stateless person. She understands the difficulties of being stateless first hand; she is willing to help as much as she possibly can.
Best also takes very good care of the girls who recently moved into the foster home because she knows what it is like being unwanted and depressed; she never wants anyone to feel like this when she can help them.
Best’s life is slowly but surely turning for the better. The Ngow River continues to run through the Yao and Pha Mon mountains. Best, who was once a miserable little girl, has become a strong support to her new family in this imperfect society.
Kindly join us to support Best who has successfully conquered her miserable life.

A Fresh Lease

The Community Sensitisation Project started in October 2015 and is concentrated at providing stateless people with official documentation that recognises them as a Thai Citizen. People who are stateless lack access to basic healthcare; have difficulty acquiring employment and are unable to travel out of their districts.

Since then it has impacted many lives, including that of Mia, a young girl from the Acha Tribe. Mia was born in the Mae Fa Luang District and is also part of the Keep Girls Safe Project, who came to the shelter when she was nine years old. She has three older sisters, two of which live with her mother.  Mias relationship with her mother has been tense for a long time; when she was little her mother got remarried and left her & her sisters with a mentally ill Uncle who was extremely poor and had no income. None of Mias family have a Thai ID and this creates extra pressure on the family. Mia used to stay with her sister when she went home to visit her family while living at KGS, because her mother would not welcome her or the KGS staff. Even when Mia gets to go home she needs to have an ADRA staff member with her as the project is in a different area and without a Thai ID she cannot leave the district.

Fortunately, the CSP project has been able to help Mia’s family with Thai Citizenship. Her sister was given a Thai ID in December, now she can travel locally or abroad and access government subsidies. Her mother was also provided with a Thai ID in February which has made her much more friendly towards the ADRA staff, and now Mia can stay with her when she visits. The staff have created a mutual understanding with the mother in relation to Mia and now she can spend quality time with her mother. Her other two sisters have also submitted applications and are now waiting to see what happens.

Currently, CSP staff are in the process of getting Mia her Thai ID. There have been many difficulties in doing so as they need documentation and witnesses that Mia has been at KGS the whole time and not elsewhere. Unfortunately, all staff at her previous school have retired and the shelter has since moved locations; and so finding witnesses is tricky.

Staff are working with Mae Fa Luang offices and Chiang Rai City Hall to acquire evidence so their claim can be substantiated. Mia was however able to get her birth certificate, which is a step in the right direction and hopefully will help in her battle to be recognised as a Thai Citizen. Something she should not have to be doing, but has been easier thanks to the CSP team, their hard work and Mia’s smiling face.

The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner

Saw Htoo first joined ADRAs Vocational Training project in recent years, where she participated in the Cooking course. The course taught her hygienic food handling skills and how to make an assortment of Thai and Burmese dishes, including Padka Pow, Ejakway, Doughnuts, Cookies and Chicken Osa Rice. Before the course, she had never used flour. Now she uses it daily.

She chose to learn about cooking and baking as she previously ran a small Tea shop in Myanmar, and was familiar with customer service and running a food/beverage establishment. Now Saw Htoo has a greater understanding; and this has enabled her to open her own bakery with the help of her family.

“I can support my family with the bakery” mentioned Saw Htoo. “Before I had to buy from others to sell at a higher price. Now I can save money by making myself and get more profit”. The bakery finances help to pay for school fees for her two boys, the eldest of whom is now at University in Myanmar where he studies Business, and the general costs of living for the whole family. If she didn’t have these skills she might have to get work outside the camp in the fields in poor conditions. Her business has daily orders for specific dishes that they go and deliver around the camp, which her family helps to prepare and transport.

Saw Htoo was forced to flee Myanmar when the Government started investigating allegations that they were involved with the KNU, a rebel group of Karenese fighters. Her sister had moved away to another country but the official family registration stated she was supposed to be living with them and thus the whole family was suspected of conspiring against the Government. If they didn’t leave they were sure to be arrested for crimes they didn’t commit. Saw Htoo had already lost her parents and two brothers, and did not want to lose anyone else, and so her husband, son, and sisters family made their way over to Thailand and into the Om Piom Refugee Camp; the other four siblings remaining in Myanmar but in better circumstances than they had. She hopes that she can stay in Thailand and make business here, and send her boys to good schools, especially her son who has never known another way of life outside the camp because he was born a refugee. Most of all she would like to thank ADRA for their project. “Myanmar has no VT, when I come to Thailand I get skills to support my family, Thankyou ADRA”.

Saw Htoo outside her shop with some of her special order items.

Photography by Brittanie McLean

Some of the food they make at store (Samosas & Ejakway).

A traditional woodfire is used to create these delicious treats

ADRA Connections Visits KGS

ADRA Connections Visits KGS

The Keep Girls Safe project has gone through some major improvements this past month, and it’s all thanks to Sanitarium and their crew flying over from Australia! The team of highly capable individuals arrived on Sunday the 15th and got stuck right into business discussing what needed to be done.

Already having some ideas, they talked to the staff to see what improvements would be needed the most and divided it into three project areas; excluding odd jobs around the place. As the plans evolved the team decided upon erecting an area for drying clothes, storing rice, and planting vegetables; as this would be the greatest benefit to the shelter. “The expectations of what we could do changed a bit, as we spent time with the staff to assess needs” Team Leader Julie Praestiin mentioned whilst showing us what was happening at KGS. The team has come as an executive group working at Sanitarium Factory in Australia in varying leadership positions. They work with Mission Health Foods in Asia in manufacturing and distributing food to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. Due to this the staff at Sanitarium decided to base the next company volunteer trip in Thailand to give back to the community.

Sanitarium provided 18,000 AUD for the project, a great amount to make some much needed changes around KGS. The group helped setup an area for the girls to dry their clothes, which meant laying concrete, extending the veranda and stringing the clotheslines. The end product looks fantastic! Now the girls are able to have dry clothes even in the wet season when rain is constant. Another building was built in the corner of the KGS property to store large quantities of rice. Soil was spread across a designated area that will be used for planting larger crops later on, which will help keep down food costs and will be a good project for the girls to engage in.

Julie planting in the newly made raised garden bed.

Photograph by  Brittanie McLean

Daniel preparing wood for the raised garden bed.

Photograph by  Brittanie McLean

The last aspect of the project included creating raised garden beds so that the girls can grow vegetables for the kitchen and learn about gardening. It also includes a compost heap which comes in pretty handy for the garden and reducing waste! Apart from this, the team conducted improvements in other areas as well, including painting the kitchen. Dominique and Sharon even brushed up on their cooking skills, helping the staff to prepare lunch everyday.

 “Essentially the project is about Sanitariums work with Mission Health Foods in Asia and giving back to the community” voiced Cyravil, the groups ADRA Connections staff member earlier. The group were met with loads of enthusiasm from the girls, who just loved having visitors to play with and share meals with. Some of the girls are learning English, but most find it difficult to understand so it was interesting to see how the group interacted with them. Team member Sharon Green found it  “surprising how much people can communicate with body language once language is taken away”. The team were sad to say their goodbyes to everyone at KGS, but left on a high note and have already conducted their own needs assessment of improvements they can make on the next trip! They even contracted someone to take a look at the KGS water waste management system, and proposed a semi-permanent fix which should be put in place in the near future. So it would seem that the team are already thinking of the possibilities further down the road, which is good news for us!

 The Team has been a wonderful help to the KGS shelter; and we are grateful for everything they have accomplished in their short time here. A special thanks to Lynden Rochford for organising the trip and Daniel Bernhardt for representing Mission Health Foods here in Thailand. We hope everyone got just as much out of the trip as they put in; which is no small amount. We are excited about what the future holds for KGS.