Getting a child off to a good start is essential for long-term growth and development. When a child brings home a paper they colored in kindergarten, we may strain to figure out what it is supposed to be a picture of and praise the child for drawing such "an awesome picture" without thinking much about the essential skills the child is developing.
Pei Pei is a 5-year-old kindergarten student who attends a temple school because it's free. She lives with her mother and younger brother. Like many single-parent families, her mom struggles to care for herself and her two children. She has found help and support at Home of the Swallow, a sister project of Education Matters under The Family Connection Foundation. Home of the Swallow provides support for single moms who are struggling to take care of their kids. The teachers at Pei Pei's school noticed that she was restless and had difficulty sitting still. They told her mother she should get her checked for ADHD! When the staff at Home of the Swallow learned that Pei Pei was having problems, they started working to help Pei Pei improve her focus. Pei Pei would come to Home of the Swallow after school, and the staff encouraged her to draw pictures and color them. They hoped that this would help her learn to concentrate and engage her imagination. The staff noticed her progress and provided positive feedback. Pei Pei's mother also got involved by helping Pei Pei find videos to improve her drawing. This collaboration has resulted in improved concentration and a calmer demeanor. In a recent coloring contest at school, Pei Pei won second place, which made her really happy! She continues to develop her interests and skills.
Pei Pei's story is an excellent example of why Education Matters works so well. The program not only provides financial support for children to go to school but the help and support of the mentors and staff who work with the children and their families combine to ensure that the child is successful!
I was recently visiting my nephew, who was telling me about his limited edition Nike basketball shoes he got for Christmas last year. He was so excited to add this special shoe to his collection that he has proudly displayed in his room. He never wears any of them - he only collects them. I was struck by how different things are for many children in Thailand. Take, for example, Sage and Thyme (not real names), who are eight-year-old twin sisters. They live with their grandmother because their mother has AIDS and is bedridden. Their grandmother is the only breadwinner in the family, but her income is not enough. While grandmother is out working, the twins help care for their very sick mom. In fact, one of the biggest financial burdens for the family is the cost of the AIDS medicine that is keeping their mother alive. The family was so poor that they could only afford to buy one pair of school shoes the twins had to share. That meant only one of the twins would wear the shoes one day and go to school, and the other twin would wear the shoes and go the next day. They didn’t have funds to buy school uniforms or lunch, so sending the twins to school was a tremendous hardship for the family. Not only that, but their friends at school would tease them because they had to share clothes.
Two years ago, a caring neighbor saw the difficult circumstances of this family and connected with Education Matters, and they were able to get a scholarship so that both twins could get the shoes, uniforms, and school supplies they both needed. Now, they can both go to school every day. The small amount of support it takes to buy them shoes and school uniforms has greatly impacted the lives of Sage and Thyme and the entire family. The scholarship also guarantees they get at least one substantial meal each day at school. So, next time you look in your closet at your collection of shoes, remember Sage and Thyme and the many thousands of kids in Thailand who are grateful to have one pair of shoes to wear to school!
Why do so many children need help to go to school in Thailand? The simple answer is that people here are poor, but there is much more to the story. To better understand why the need here is so great, you have to understand the family dynamics and social norms of Thailand. Phrao’s story is a great case study. Phrao was born into a typical Thai family with a mom, a dad, and one older brother. Life was good for a while, but a couple of years after she was born, her parents were divorced. In Thailand, a father can walk away from his family without any legal obligation to provide for their care. The burden falls entirely on the mother to provide for her family. Many women in Thailand do not even have a 12th-grade education, so the best they can do is make a few dollars per day. A better solution is to find a new husband who has a good job. But often, the new husband will not accept her children from the previous marriage.
This is exactly what happened to Phrao. Her dad left with no support, her mom remarried, and Phrao and her brother were passed off to their grandmother to take care of. But no one was helping grandma take care of Phrao, and they were not the only grandchildren she had to care for. This scenario is widespread in Thailand, and there are no laws or systems to take care of these children who are essentially orphaned by divorce.
Phrao’s grandmother was working as a day laborer, but she could not work and take care of Phrao and her young cousins at the same time. She was struggling to provide enough food to survive. When Phrao turned five and needed to go to school, there was no way Phrao’s grandmother could pay for the school uniforms and school supplies that were required in order for Pharo to start school.
By receiving a scholarship through Education Matters, Phrao received the help she needed to start kindergarten. She even got a new dress! Phrao is a quiet child, but she is learning to speak up, and she enjoys participating in activities at school and Church! Her grandmother is very grateful that she does not have to carry this burden all by herself! Your support makes all the difference in the world for children like Phrao!
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