The new term at our Half Day School (HDS) started on November 3, marking the start to a busy period full of feasts and activities.
DEPDC is happy to report that nearly all students who finished the previous term returned for this term. This is not always certain as quite some of our students live in very difficult economic and social situations lacking any stability. In case that the children's caregivers are forced to move following their work, the children will be forced to drop out of school and follow as well. In other cases the economic pressure on the children to go to work to support the family's income becomes to strong and dropping out of school is just a matter of time. Under these circumstances it is already some effort that this term nearly all students from the last term came back to study on.
The last two months of the year are marked with many holidays that we recognize at DEPDC including both traditional Thai and Western holidays.
On November 6, the students of HDS celebrated Loi Krathong by setting free little floats made of banana trunk, banana leaves, flowers, candles, and joss sticks on rivers and lakes. These little floats are supposed to bring good luck and make one’s wishes come true. The students made these floats themselves during an art class.
Our American English teacher, Channing, celebrated Thanksgiving with the students on November 27. She had the students create hand turkeys and reflect upon what they are most thankful for. The students were thankful for many things, ranging from family to good health to friends to music.
The next important celebration was Thai Fathers Day, which is celebrated on His Majesty King Bhumibol's birthday on December 5. In the morning, the HDS students had special lessons on the history of Thailand and its monarchy, and in the afternoon the students and staff of DEPDC held a ceremony to wish a Happy Birthday, good health, and a long life to His Majesty.
Finally, Christmas time approached and HDS English students participated in the “A lifetime of Christmas Cards”-project for Addie Fausett, a six years old girl suffering from a terminal disease, sending handmade Christmas cards to her to show kindness and to instill a central theme of Christmas: showing goodwill to all mankind.
On Christmas Day, our Christian students had the chance to stay at home to celebrate Christmas with their families and friends.
On the day after Christmas, HDS made a field trip the Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non - Forest Park. In the morning, there were special lessons on the various fauna and flora native to Northern Thailand and Mae Sai District. After lunch, the students made a trip to the main cave before the children went swimming at a lake nearby.
Finally, the New Years vacation gave the students and staff of DEPDC a very much welcomed break to relax.
The staff, volunteers, and the students of HDS would like to extend a kind thank you to all of our generous donors. It is only because of the continuing and constant support of people like you that DEPDC is able to perform its mission to make a positive difference in the lives of children who are at risk of being trafficked into the commercial sex industry or other forms of exploitive labor.
Thanks to everybody and we wish everyone a Happy New Year!
The Half Day School (HDS) Program aims to provide a well-rounded education. Apart from a foundation of traditional academic subjects, students learn practical vocational skills and have frequent opportunities to development themselves and their community awareness, along with other critical life skills. Half Day School students often take educational field trips to learn firsthand about the issues that their natural and social environments face, as these have a direct impact on and can even be threats in the children's daily lives.
In July 2014, students participated in a trek to Wat Phra That Doi Tung, where they studied the ethnic minority communities that they each belong to and about neighboring communities in the surrounding the Mekong Sub-region.
Wat Phra That Doi Tung is a wat (temple) which sits at the peak of Doi Tung (Mount Tung), the tallest mountain in Chiang Rai Province, at approximately 1,400 meters above sea level. The field trip began as students piled into the school bus to make the steep and circuitous journey. They talked and laughed as the bus wound and climbed toward the starting point of their 2-kilometer hike to the base of the temple's naga stairs.
Once to the temple, Half Day School teachers organized the students for group work by grade. The groups were assigned different types of communities to examine: the family, the village, Thailand, Asia, and the global community. The activity emphasized the importance of human rights and environmental conservation, and how these issues are related to the well-being of all these communities.
After a day of hiking, learning, and games, it was time to head back down the mountain. Smiley but tired students were ready to relax and have a quiet bus ride back to each of their villages in Mae Sai. The next day at school, each group presented their work and teachers further discussed with the children the issues which affect these communities.
In September 2014, Half Day School students enjoyed the school's annual nature camp activities. This year's theme was Life Skills Development. Students and teachers camped for 4 days and 3 nights at the Mae Chan Watershed Conservation and Management Center, about 50 kilometers from the Half Day School site.
Half Day School teachers organized a wide variety of camp activities, ranging from domestic violence workshops and lighthearted interactive games, to a nature trek and tree planting guided by rangers from the Center. When students and teachers arrived to the campsite, they settled into their cabins and visited hot springs located nearby the campsite. On the afternoon of the second day, Half Day School teachers and International Volunteers of DEPDC / GMS (Mae Sai) led team games and relay races to get the children moving and enjoying the fresh air.
On Day 3, rangers guided students and teachers on a 2-kilometer trek and taught the students how to plant saplings in the Center's reforestation area. Half Day School teachers discussed and re-capped camp's activities with the children on the final day before everyone returned home to Mae Sai. Students remarked on the things that they liked most about this year's camp, which included that: they felt free and happy to be in nature; they got to observe the local flora and wildlife up close; they enjoyed spending time with their friends; their teachers and park guides were friendly and caring; they felt more responsible while away from their families; they liked the freshly cooked meals, especially around the camp fire.
We look forward to keeping you informed of our Half Day School students' growth and progress, and about the hardworking, compassionate teachers and staff members who teach and lead them throughout theschool year. Many thanks for helping us to make the Program possible!
The following is a postcard from Charissa Murphy, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Southeast Asia, about her recent visit to DEP-DC in Thailand.
Approaching DEP-DC's campus in Mae Sai in northern Thailand, I saw a collection of children with workbooks and engaged questions filling the outdoor classroom area. Although they were on their school's break after the end of the school year, the children and the teacher were studying together for extra help on their Thai language skills. The age ranges of the children varied, and each child had a language workbook suitable to his or her specific language level. I was captured by how engaged they were in practicing, collaborating, and asking the teacher questions when they needed it. It was clear from the beginning of my visit how dedicated DEP-DC is to supporting these children, allowing them opportunities for not only language development, but also for personal empowerment to feel confident in asking questions and understanding the value of education.
Since its beginning 25 years ago, supporting children and communities who are at-risk for human trafficking, DEP-DC has grown into an organization that not only provides support to the children and families in the surrounding community, but also to groups and organizations who want to learn from its strong model of programming. The staff shared that they host visitors often who are eager to learn from them, which has also allowed the organization to grow strong relationships with other support organizations in Thailand.
During my visit, I toured the Half-Day school, which really is a full day school with educational, as well as life skills and personal development teachings. I also saw the community learning facilities where they run programs for the entire community, including Thai literacy courses, English as a Foreign Language courses, and vocational trainings. Due to funding limitations, some of these courses have temporarily stopped unfortunately.
One of the volunteers, Matt, has been working with DEP-DC now for over 8 months, and he plans to be there for about a year in total. His enthusiasm for the organization was contagiously inspiring, and he hopes to return there for his research studies or after he finishes his university studies. Matt enthusiastically shared his experience working with the children at the Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home, which currently houses eight children, providing them opportunities for rehabilitation, reintegration into society, and educational and skills training. I could almost feel him glowing from across the room as he shared some of the agricultural and training experiences the children share daily!
Though it was extremely motivating to hear about the many programs that it currently runs, it was disappointing to hear that it has stopped various programming due to lack of funding that supported the children and community in more non-traditional teachings. One such program is its Child Voice Radio, which helped the children learn about reporting, journalism, developing research and sharing it to an audience, and overall confidence and practical writing and speaking development.
As I left and smiled and waved my farewells to the students who were still at the school, I felt really thankful to meet an organization that is not only dedicated to its beneficiaries, but that also has developed programs that truly make a difference here.
Upcoming Event on GlobalGiving - TODAY, this Wednesday, July 16th, is a Bonus matching day!:
Today, July 16th (Wednesday), beginning at 9AM EDT, GlobalGiving will match 50% of any donations (of up to $1,000 from any individual donor) to DEP-DC. There are $130,000 in total funds available for matching today for all of GlobalGiving’s partners. To ensure your donation is matched before the funds run out, please consider donating early today shortly after 9AM.
I want to thank DEP-DC for allowing me to visit!
Here in Mae Sai, the Half Day School program has just started the new school year. The students are back from their summer break and it’s great to once again have the Centre filled with the sounds of fun and learning, which we’ve all missed while the kids were away. Academic classes and vocational training have resumed and the Centre, where the Half Day School is located, is again filled with the new and improving abilities of the children.
The morning air carries the scent of food as children learn and help to cook for themselves and their classmates. The sound of tools attests the new projects and continuing improvements around the Centre. This gives the children the opportunity to learn and to help preserve the second home where their days are made brighter. Among the many other life skills and vocational training classes going on, the agriculture site stands a lush green. The field is located just outside the Centre building and has begun to soak up the seasonal rainfall. Students and staff members diligently maintain the agriculture site throughout the school year.
Last but not least, the games and spontaneous fun of happy, carefree children have returned. Badmintons fly between friends, whose games are driven more by enjoyment than rules. Soccer balls curve and score to shouts of success and broad, delighted smiles. Volleyballs rise and fall to a chorus of laughs; the score less important than having fun with friends, trying their best and surpassing their own abilities. And the sun sets each day, splashing baby blues, inviting oranges, deep purples, and delicate pinks across the sky, as it watches the children return home with warm hearts, light minds, and the promise of an approaching tomorrow.
These activities mean a lot to the vulnerable children whom the Half Day School program cares for. One example is May, a 14-year-old student who has been at the School for 6 years and recently graduated from the 4th grade. Abandoned by her mother and left with distant relatives in Mae Sai, May has no citizenship papers and knows only that she was born in Nakorn Pathom Province in Central Thailand. May’s foster family cannot provide all the care she needs, since her primary caregivers are sick, elderly family members, so we make sure that she has access to basic food, water, clothing and medical necessities.
May faces significant inducement to leave school and to work in order to help support her foster family. Half Day School teachers appreciate the situation, and, though May will work part time, they have convinced her to remain in the vocational training until she finishes the program. This means that she maintains contact with the School, making it easier to monitor her situation, while she will also continue to learn important skills with which she can support herself in the future. For May, as for the rest of our children, the Half Day School program provides an opportunity for a safer, happier, and more secure life.
To all of the supporters of the Half Day School and DEPDC/GMS, thank you for your kind attention and generosity. We love the work we do and we are always trying to improve and refine its programs. We would love to know what supporters think of the program and any ideas for how together we can continue to tackle poverty, exploitation and human trafficking. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
The Half Day School (HDS) has continued smoothly since our last project report. The school has been abuzz with fun, laughter and learning thanks to generous people like you who help us to provide the children with the critical things they need to attend school. In addition to the always important basic necessities for students, your contributions have helped to provide good food, clean water and a safe place for children to be, learn, develop and spend time with friends. Below are some recent events that the Half Day School students have been involved in, some ongoing activities in which they continue to participate, and some upcoming events and activities we are looking forward to.
In November, the children celebrated the famous Loi Krathong Festival. About 100 students worked together to make the famous ‘krathongs’ which they float gently down rivers to celebrate Thai and Buddhist history and pay respect to their beliefs. It was a great bonding time during which the students had lots of fun and felt a sense of connection with each other and with the broader society celebrating alongside them. For children from vulnerable and often marginalised communities, this kind of event empowers them and lets them feel a sense of community that is important for people’s core well-being.
On the 10th of January, more than 100 children at the Half Day School spent Children’s Day, ‘Wan Dek’, playing games, winning awards and having fun with friends, Thai staff, and International Volunteers. Everyone brought something which they could give to someone else so that everyone received a present on the day, and if any children couldn’t afford to bring something, the Half Day School staff made sure they were given something which they could use as their own gift to give. With a speech about children’s rights, empowerment and futures from our founder, Khun Sompop, to close the day’s activities, the children received and left with a deep sense of belonging, self-worth and gratitude, which is DEPDC’s aim to provide.
Likewise, Sports Day on February 7 gave more than 100 children the opportunity to compete, exercise and have fun with friends and go home with full stomachs and big smiles. And lastly, on February 14, which was a Buddhist holiday called ‘Wan Makha Bucha’, HDS teachers led a study tour to the Opium Hall in Chiang Saen, the Golden Triangle, and two different Buddhist sites to learn about Buddhist, Thai and Greater Mekong Subregion histories. The students learned about the dangers of the Golden Triangle, crime, drugs and ways they can remain safe, all the while enjoying themselves. The children love these occasions and we love hosting them, so we must thank our generous supporters for helping us to continue to provide the students with events and activities such as these.
Other activities at the Half Day School have remained very much normal. Classes and the vocational and life-skills training continue to help the students develop their skills and build towards safe and self-sufficient futures. The Little DJ programme that trained the children about how to use radio for outreach and as a platform for them to communicate with others and to express themselves also continues, as does the agriculture programme that becomes more impressive every day and continues to teach growing numbers of children about sustainable, self-sufficient techniques to meet their basic needs.
We are currently on the verge of final exams for the 2013/14 school year and the graduation of our oldest class of students at the Half Day School ahead of our summer break. It is an exciting time and, although it is always sad to say goodbye to our sons and daughters, we are extremely proud that they have successfully completed the programme and will take their skills on into the future. And as they continue to create lives for themselves, they will always have a home at the Half Day School if they want to come and help teach children the way that they were once taught themselves. Besides that, we look forward to summer break activities at the centre, welcoming back students when the new school year begins, and adding new members to the family when new students arrive through our gates.
Thank you so much to everyone who has made and continues to make it possible for the Half Day School to do what it does. With support from you and others like you, our programmes will continue to make important differences in the lives of vulnerable, underprivileged children and to give them futures of which they might otherwise never have even dreamed.
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Director of Mae Sai Projects