This past week Children on the Edge held its first football camp for migrant Burmese children living in Thailand. Working with local partner organisation Social Action for Women (SAW), 64 children aged 8-18 took part in the two day event in Mae Sod. Six volunteers helped host the camp which was led by former Leeds United Youth Team player Chris Hasting, who now plies his trade in the Thai professional league for Lamphun Warriors FC.
The two day camp aimed to provide migrant children, without parental care, to have a memorable experience during their holidays. “We decided to hold the camp during the Burmese New Year break,” explained SAW social worker Thwin Linn, “as most of the children who stay with us during this time have no home to return to.”
The success of the camp could be seen on the beaming faces of the children throughout the day. In spite of temperatures that pushed up to 40C, their enthusiasm didn’t wane in the least. “The children arrived an hour early each morning just to be there. We gave them an hour for lunch, but they just wanted to go straight back out on the pitch and play. Their energy was incredible,” noted volunteer Lee Stevens, Athletic Director at Nakorn Payap International School in Chiang Mai. “The joy on their faces after each goal was fantastic.”
The camp was also sponsored in part by UK-based company Cherrytech Group who have had a presence in Thailand for over 15 years. Company President Stuart Knight says “We are aware that so many of these kids have had a difficult life, and we want to do our part to help give them a positive experience”.
It appears that the experience was one that will not be forgotten soon by the kids. “We usually play on a dirt field with many cows around,” remarked Than Lyun age 16. “We have never been able to play on a real field, with real shoes, and be trained by a professional … it’s been great.” As about a third of the participating children owned only sandals, Children on the Edge was able to provide a pair of athletic shoes for many of the kids.
As the camp came to a close, the focus was already being turned to the next time. “This event has definitely been the highlight of their break. They already want to know when we can do it again. These kids are crazy about football!” remarked SAW Child Crisis Centre manager Yiyi Win.
Find out more about our work in Thailand
, and consider donating
to the project.
For the Karen refugee community in Thailand, the future is uncertain. With the Thai government threatening to send back one million migrants next year to an area that is not yet fully secure, concern amongst the Karen people is growing.
Within Karen State there has been a formal ceasefire with the Burmese government for a month, but human rights violations continue outside the conflict area. Landmines still need to be removed and a safe and secure place established for the return of refugees and internally displaced people. Return at this point is too dangerous.
The Children’s Crisis Centre we support in Thailand exists for unaccompanied refugee children fleeing Burma, it provides temporary shelter, education, nutrition and trauma counseling until a time when children can be reunited with their families. If conditions in Burma do radically improve, then some of the children at our Crisis Centre must be fully resourced and well prepared for the possibility of returning to their homeland, whilst those who cannot, need support in building a future within Thailand.
At the Centre we have started a Thai language training program for 8 teenage residents to prepare them for the possibility of entering Thai secondary schools or universities. In addition to their usual studies, these students are also participating in a General Education Degree (GED) programme not only to qualify for University but to get a grounding in other subjects including Non profit management, Accounting, and Community Development. Many are volunteering or working part time locally to build experience.
Seven younger children at the Centre have been orphaned and have no family in Burma to return to. To enable them to build a secure future in Thailand, these children are also receiving Thai language classes with the hope of enrolling them in local schools next year.
Staff at the Centre are talking with local agencies and the Ministry of Education to prepare for the possibility that some students, who have remaining family in Burma may later be able to return to Burmese schools across the border. We are ensuring they have a corresponding grade level for attending Burmese school.
Whether they have the option of returning to Burma in the future or not, most of the children here have experienced some serious level of trauma before, during or after their escape from the conflicts across the border. This term we will be focussing more on spending time with the children, especially those who have shown signs of stress or trauma. Activities will include play therapy, discussion groups, talks on nutrition, and one-on-one mentorship time.
One of the children described the play sessions “Other children might think that we are bored so we are playing games. But actually we are doing these activities to develop our life in a good way. Because these activities included unity, brother-sister hood, and trust.” Find out more
about our ongoing work with Karen refugee children in Thailand, and please consider donating
to the project.
Throughout this year the British government and media have been focussing on the positive changes occurring in Burma. The government also agreed to the suspension of EU sanctions despite none of the benchmarks originally set being fulfilled. These included the unconditional release of all political prisoners, the end of violence in ethnic states, and allowing humanitarian aid to be delivered without hindrance in ethnic states.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office published its Human Rights and Democracy report for 2011
on July 10th. Despite some welcome reforms, the paper describes continuing (and in some ethnic states, worsening) human rights abuses in Burma, including villages been razed to the ground, torture, rape, and the continued use of child soldiers.
Currently on the Thai-Burma border there is increased government discussion regarding Karen refugees being sent back home. Thailand’s National Security Council said last week that refugees from Burma who have been sheltering on Thai soil for more than two decades could return within a year.
Despite this statement, and the growing representation in the media that as things are ‘improving’ in Burma, the situation on the ground remains precarious. Ceasefires are still fragile and do not yet include an enforceable code of conduct; troops still reside in local villages, and although the security council claims to be clearing them, the ground is still littered with land mines. A spokeswoman from the Karen Community Based Organisations
(KCBO’s) stated that “We hope that we can go home one day soon, but it is just not possible under the current conditions in Karen areas.”
This is especially poignant for the children at our Children's Crisis Centre
in Thailand, the majority of whom are Karen refugees, and also those at our Nursery Schools
inside Burma. While the situation in Karen state remains unstable a report recently published by Human Rights Watch details the difficult plight of Burmese refugees in Thailand. Ad Hoc and Inadequate: Thailand’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers
describes how “Thailand presents Burmese refugees with the unfair choice of stagnating for years in remote refugee camps or living and working outside the camps without protection from arrest and deportation”.
To be separated from parents in this environment is extremely dangerous for refugee children, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation. Our Crisis Centre gives 72 children support, shelter, education and nutrition until a time when they can be re-united with family. For the Karen child refugees in the Ei Htu Hta refugee camp, there is a high risk of malnutrition. Our Nursery Schools give not only vital early years education, but a nutritious meal each day to 300 displaced children under 5 years of age.
We welcome news of positive reforms, but acknowledge that there is still a long way to go before Karen State is stable enough to provide a safe homecoming for these people. Until such a time, our projects in this area will continue to enable children enduring these circumstances to find a place of safety, where their needs can be met, their potential kindled and their sense of childhood protected.
Find out more about our Children’s Crisis Centre
on the Thai-Burma border, our Nursery Schools
in Karen State Burma and consider donating
to our work.
In February of this year we set up a new kitchen garden at the Children’s Crisis Centre that we support in Thailand. The Centre helps children on a temporary basis who have fled Burma and have lost or become separated from their parents. It provides food, shelter, education and trauma counseling for those who have been through traumatic experiences. It is vital in the protection of children who are otherwise extremely vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation and abuse.
The kitchen garden was set up to meet a number of needs and in the last few months it has really taken off. One of the primary needs is food. It costs £30,000 to ensure all the children receive adequate nutrition for the year and this is a way for the centre to start to provide for themselves in the long term. It cost just £3000 to set up and run the kitchen garden including the rent of the land, employment of a skilled gardner and the purchase of tools and seeds. The aim is that the produce from the garden will reduce the Centres’s food bill by 20% each year.
In addition to this, the garden project is a fantastic opportunity for the children who work in groups of five and use the experience to learn about responsibility, nutrition and basic agricultural skills. Each year both the staff and the children will be getting specialist agricultural training where they can learn about the land in their area and how to get the best out of it.
Yeye Win (the director of the Centre) described how the program has given many of the children a great creative outlet during this month's summer school break and thinks it will be really helpful for preparing them with skills for their future.
John Littleton, our Asia Regional Manager says “The children are very enthusiastic about the project and considering they have plowed and planted almost 3 acres of land in 3 weeks and helped dig a well, I’m pretty impressed!”
So far the children have planted eggplant, chillies, tomatoes and pumpkins, and they expect to get their first crop in 2-3 months time.
Feel free to find out more about our work in Thailand
and consider donating
to the project.
Yee Win’s day began like many others at the Children’s Crisis Centre
in Mae Sod, Thailand. Rising at 6.30 in the morning, she wiped the sleep from her eyes and glanced out the small wooden window next to her bunk bed. “I couldn’t believe it” she said “Our garden was gone. There was only water. Everywhere I looked there was water.”
Over the past three months, Thailand has endured its heaviest rainfall in a century. With 75% of the country facing unprecedented levels of flooding, the situation has reached crisis levels. The government reports that the floods have claimed 281 lives this year, many of the victims have been children. Rising waters have inundated homes, shops and schools, directly affecting over 19 million people and causing an estimated USD $5 billion worth of damage.
Children on the Edge’s partners with an organisation called Social Action for Women (SAW) who have have borne the brunt of floods here directly. Stores of dry food like rice and beans have been contaminated straining already tight budgets. Piles of books and stationary at the nearby SAW migrant school have been ruined as well.
With most of the major roadways under water, usual supply lines are cut causing the price of staples to rise dramatically in rural areas. Vulnerable groups, such as migrant children, are the first to feel the effects of the crisis. With limited resources available to them, they have little choice but to make do with what is available.
With your help, Children on the Edge would like to assist those affected by flooding in Thailand. Supplies of food and clothing are in acute need. Furthermore, numerous schools and shelters for children have been seriously damaged.
Please help us intervene in this crisis by making a donation today. Text HELP FLOOD to 70080 to give £3. This small amount can buy three textbooks, or replenish 3 days worth of food for a child at the crisis centre. Thank you.
As the sun starts setting in Thailand, children all over the country can be seen playing ‘Takraw’, a popular game similar to volley ball where the players don’t touch the ball with their hands but with their head, feet or any other part of the body. The children love leaping high into the air to punt the ball back to their opponents.
On a recent visit to our Children’s Crisis Centre on the Thai-burma border, our Field Assistant Satawat Sriprakarn had the opportunity to see the children enjoy a few matches of Takraw in the evening. He said “I saw them playing on the cement field that we made for the Crisis Centre instead of playing in the dust and getting dirt on their clothes”.
The cement court is one of the new facilities that have been built as part of our renovations to the Centre in the last 10 months. The renovations have focussed on improving sanitation for the 75 children in the centre including new flushable toilets and a bathing area.
For these children keeping clean is vital, but we’re fairly convinced the new playground’s appeal lies in the extra bounce it gives to their ball games rather than the extra clean appearance it gives to their clothes!
The Children’s Crisis Centre was set up to support refugee children fleeing the brutal regime in Burma. Many of these children arrive in Thailand having been separated from their parents. Without parental care and support they are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation, many have suffered traumatic experiences and have little or no access to food and education.
The Centre provides much needed shelter, food, education and trauma councelling for these children. Where possible we work to re-unite children with their parents. We are thrilled to be able to make these improvements to the Centre this year thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
Please feel free to find out more about our Children’s Crisis Centre
and consider supporting the project by making a donation
As a stay at home Mum of two Carol Shipley wanted to find a way to make a positive difference to society whilst still being able to take care of her children. She and her husband were particularly disturbed by the reality of child trafficking across the world. As a result they decided to support projects run by Children on the Edge in Thailand which protect children vulnerable to trafficking.
In order to raise funds for this work they opened Jewels for Freedom
, an online shop selling a range of beautiful jewellery where every single penny of the proceeds goes to our projects in Thailand.
Each and every Jewels for Freedom purchase can make a difference to a vulnerable child in Thailand. The money from each piece bought will go directly to our Children’s Crisis Centre, Migrant Schools and Boarding Houses via JustGiving
So whether you’re looking for a gift or something to complement an outfit visit Jewels for Freedom
to browse through their ranges of classic, bridal, mens and ‘princess’ jewellery. Each item is produced with stringent environmental standards and sent in beautiful gift boxes made from recycled materials.
Find out more about our Children’s Crisis Centre
, Migrant Schools
and Boarding Houses
for unaccompanied refugee children to see how your money can make a difference.