Critical Resources for Urban Refugees in Bangkok

by Creative Life Foundation
Critical Resources for Urban Refugees in Bangkok

In 2016, after 1/2 of the children dropped out of school within the first year of joining our program in the north, we knew that creating access to education for children and youth would take more than providing scholarships. 

We learned that a one size fits all model doesn't work for us because among our diverse students are a unique set of obstacles and hardships which threaten their right to an education and their freedom. Creative Life Foundation's holistic and individualized approach has proven critical to their success. Since 2016, the graduation rates among our students in the north have increased to over 85%. [Read our Theory of Change to learn more]

While holistic care supports our programming, we continue to look at other ways to reinforce the importance of education throughout the villages we serve.

Among these villages, families live in geographic isolation with few available government or social services in reach. Economic opportunities are limited, and sustenance farming is how most make a living. These opportunity deficits are often compounded by statelessness, poverty, and the pressure of child marriage. Here, many girls are encouraged to abandon their education, marry, and become mothers while still children themselves. 

While advocacy continues to be a key element of our work, we wanted to help make access to education available beyond children and youth. Earlier this year, we launched a pilot program to teach basic Thai literacy to women from the villages where we serve. Among the women are grandmothers, mothers, and youth who have had to abandon their education to help at home.

Standing tall with smiles on their faces, we watched as 24 participants proudly held their Level-1 certificate of completion. 13 of whom learned how to read and write, including writing their name for the very first time!

Breaking cycles of poverty and exploitation demands considerable energy, creativity, and risk. By boldly following this pathway of change, we envision a Thailand where all children, youth, and adults are free to live full lives, pursue their dreams, and live without the threat of exploitation.

—an excerpt taken from CLF's Theory of Change

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We want to introduce you to a family, a relationship we've had the priviledge of developing for a year now.  

Our friends come from Sri Lanka and have been living in Bangkok since 2009—exchanging one traumatic experience for another. Civil war forced their family to flee their country and go to Thailand.

"When I was in Sri Lanka, I faced many problems with civil war in my hometown."

Like many refugee families who come to Bangkok, they submitted their application for refugee status only to be rejected—leaving them unable to return home and no hope for getting resettled.  

"We applied for refugee status in 2009. Unfortunately, we were rejected in 2011. We tried through many churches, humanitarian organizations, and humanitarian people too, to sponsor us or resettle us in another country but we didn't get any favorable responses."  

Immersing themselves in Thai culture for the last 10-years, the family has had to live on survival mode—depending on the generosity of others to survive. The parents receive some financial support for their son's tuition and help out at the school, allowing them to enroll their daughter too. 

It's uncertain what the future holds for our friends who still hope to one day get resettled, but they are at least finding comfort in knowing they are not alone.

"Sometimes God listen to our prayer then send help like sister Mina and Creative Life Foundation. Before we don't kow about them. This is one of the hope for us."

Since expanding the ways Creative Life Foundation supports urban refugees in 2021, Mina, CLF's project leader, has made around 200 food deliveries to 43 refugee families—140 individuals. She has distributed educational materials to 52 children, and supports 1 family with supplemental income every month. 

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Hello friends,

 

First, let me share some words of gratitude with you.

“ Your kind donation has made a huge impact in our life especially during this hard time. Our family is so thankful for the food donation as well as education material for kids. Thank you again for your kind help.” 

“My family thanks you for your help. We are so thankful for the food you donate. I am especially thankful for the books and paint colours that you gave me. I use the books and the colors everyday. Thank you so much.“

“Thank you for helping our community during this difficult time. We are so thankful that you bring so many different food for us! We are also very grateful for all the nice school materials you brought for students as well.“

 

Thank you to everyone who has already responded so generously to our request. 

Last year, with much of your support, we were able to expand the ways we support urban refugees and asylum seekers in Bangkok, Thailand. 

The contributions we received last year have been making a difference:

  • In response to families who stress over whether or not they will have enough food, CLF is now making monthly food deliveries to 43 families.
  • In response to families experiencing isolation and hopelessness that exacerbate risks of exploitation, Mina, CLF's Program Leader, is connecting with individuals weekly, averaging over 125 encounters a month.
  • In response to refugee children and youth who can't access education and experience learning deficits and knowledge gaps, CLF has begun distributing individualized education resources for 52 children and youth. Additionally, Mina has begun receiving book donations so that kids can check out books on the days she makes food deliveries. 
  • Families who receive support come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Sri Lanka.

The reality is, we need monthly donors who can help sustain our services. It costs $600 (20,000THB) a month to provide 43 families with food and other essentials (rice, flour, pasta, oil, eggs, vegetables, and fruit)

The good news is, we only need 12 people who can commit to $50 a month to make this possible. If you give through our page on GlobalGiving, donors who set up a new monthly donation will have their first donation of up to $200 matched at 100%!

If $50 isn't doable, maybe you can commit to $15, $20, or $25? There is no such thing as too little!

 

Thank you,

Team CLF

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Dear Friends,

You will be please to know that since the launch of our campaign, we have done A LOT with the limited resources we have! 

Since our last update, we have increased the number of families we serve to 40 families, over 100 people. With your support, we are providing monthly food deliveries that include hygienic items too. Whenever Mina, our program leader, shows up at one of the three pickup destinations, she is greeted with smiles and gratitude, but the reality is there is still so much need.

This is the challenge we face every day, the inability to meet every need. Recently, Creative Life Foundation was awarded a small grant that will help. Mina will begin delivering bags filled with age-appropriate learning materials to 20 children and youth this month (December 2021) -kids who are of school age but are unable to attend school

Here is a quick overview of what we have done since May

  • up to 40 families receive food and other essentials monthly
  • 140 members benefiting
  • 250+ encounters
  • 1 family receiving supplemental income
  • 20 children and youth receive education materials (in December)
  • Families who receive support come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Sri Lanka.

As you know, long-term change requires a long-term commitment. With that, I have some exciting news. Thanks to GlobalGiving, new monthly donations (up to $200) started between December 13 and December 17, 2021 will have their first donation MATCHED 200% -Talk about a bang for your buck! 

Monthly donations are very helpful for planning, especially as we finalize our 2022 budget. Consider your monthly donation like a subscription to Netflix or Spotify, except this monthly bill, is helping refugees with food, community, and education resources for children and youth!

With much gratitude,

Team CLF

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Dear friends,

Thank you for your support and for helping Creative Life Foundation expand the ways we connect urban refugees to critical resources. 

Since we launched our campaign, we have begun partnering with two organizations, meeting with new families, and distributing much-needed food. Here is a brief overview of what we have accomplished since May.

  • Began a new partnership with Bridge of Hope, an organization run by refugees who support refugees. *We wrote about the first time we met the founders in a recent blog post; check it out below.
  • Began a new partnership with Scholars of Sustenance, an organization committed to preventing food waste and hunger. 
  • Met with five refugee families in their homes to provide moral support 2-times but now communicate by phone due to Covid-19.
  • Began distributing food regularly to 16 families (60 people). Families come from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia.

Stay tuned for another update from our program leader, Mina Thapa. 

 

Life Beyond Survival | A Refugee's Dream

 

“We are refugees…helping refugees.” These are the very words that left me in a fusion of awe and admiration the first time we met Hadi, a Hazara refugee, and our current partner.

I remember feeling the excitement when Mina said that we will be meeting Hadi for the first time, who is the founder of the ‘Bridge of Light and Hope’ organization. A few weeks later there I was, attempting to recollect what I had learned on traditional Muslim mannerisms, walking up to the room of Meharan who Hadi and his partner Ali -also a fellow refugee- had taken under their wing. 

One thing that struck me from the visits that day was how genuine the bond is between the families and Hadi and Ali. The men would call out to their “Brothers'' in an embrace, and the ladies would greet them with the warmest of smiles, hands over their hearts. The whole experience was made more bittersweet as the children gravitated towards them to offer their stuffed animals, a display of cheer and compassion despite the dire circumstances they had and have been facing.

Like many of the families, Hadi and Ali resettled years ago in the hopes of evading the life-threatening circumstances back in Afghanistan, to build a vibrant future for themselves and unleash their lifelong aspirations. Upon their arrival in Bangkok however, they realized that there is so much more to be done. Although they have been receiving support from other organizations, it was not always provided through a system of equity. Complex systems resulting in the reception of year-long expired foods, inaccessibility of basic healthcare, and living funds are just some of the constant struggles that kept refugees and asylum seekers in a consistent state of distress and limbo. 

“We cannot take care of our children properly because our living conditions are very difficult,” said Meharan. “We need food, we have no money and we are also sick and can’t visit doctors.”

The lack of inclusivity also appeared to be an issue, as Hadi and Ali felt that they were not involved in the resolution of these problems even though it is very important to them and their community.

“Since the four years which I've lived here most of the organizations do their services but no one is involved from the refugee community, so we wanted to make a change”. Hadi said, going on to explain how he felt that helping others in the same situation gives him hope.

“We believe that the change we make for them, this change is also good for us”, Ali added.

This inspired the two of them to co-found the ‘Bridge Of Light and Hope’ organization back in 2019, aiming to advocate and empower fellow refugees while collaborating with other NGOs on refugee-related issues. Through their initiatives, Hadi and Ali were able to start implementing the first of many projects intended to support other struggling refugees with much-needed necessities. This sadly had to come to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the families even more vulnerable than before.

“It has made a huge impact in our life. It's like we are in jail and can’t do anything for our life even we can’t go to other organizations to speak up our problems and get help”, Meharan said.

Recognizing the urgency, Hadi and Ali had tried to apply for cash support over a hundred times, only to be told by organizations that there are no fundings available for refugees. They have since been forced to rely mainly on periodic food packages being distributed by local churches and donors.

The disheartening circumstances had driven Hadi and Ali to work so much harder to seek support, but not without the compromise of their mental wellbeing. Both of them opened up about the immense stress and anxiety that they felt, not knowing when their next meal will be coming, where their rent money will be coming from, what they are going to do if they suddenly get caught by the police and so much more. Ali’s gaze fell to the wall behind me as he told us that this constant cycle is causing many of the refugees to have deep depression of their own.

The anticipation of resettlement is also something at the back of every refugee’s mind. It is their hope for resettlement that kept them persevering, and the possibilities coming from being able to get an education, to start working, or to simply start living without fear and finally rebuild their life. But for now, they will do what they can until that day comes. For Hadi and Ali, that’s continuing to work together with organizations like CLF to make sure that even if they are not living a full life yet, they are at least surviving.

“We've been trying to survive. Just surviving but we are not living,” Hadi added. “But we are happy to help. We have solutions for that, we can draw a map, we can plan it with you, we can propose the project, we can do everything but what is missing is an outlet with other organizations.”

Written by Me Me Zin Oo | Volunteer

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Organization Information

Creative Life Foundation

Location: Boston, MA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Timothy Hupe
Bangkok, Thailand
$10,112 raised of $42,000 goal
 
127 donations
$31,888 to go
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