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.
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