Send Migrant Burmese and Thai Children to School


The Half Day School, started in 1996, continues to provide a free Kindergarten through sixth grade education and support for children from the surrounding communities who live in poverty, are orphans and for children who are at risk of being abused or forced into commercial sex or exploitative labor. The vast majority of the 139 students that are attending the school this year are from one of the many hill-tribe communities in and surrounding Mae Sai, but some travel daily from Myanmar.

The educational classes for both Kindergarten and Elementary grades continue to run in the morning, and the vocational classes (Cooking and Handcrafts, Sport, Art and Culture, Gardening) take place every afternoon. There have been many activity days held for the children throughout 2008. These have ranged widely and have included an excursion to Chiang Rai University Science Fair, numerous sports days, a non-formal education day, Loi Krathong festival, a presentation by staff from Laos Zoo, and New Year celebrations.

The computer class, sponsored by Global Giving, has been well-used throughout the year. Regular classes have been held for the elementary students as part of the Half-Day school curriculum. By enabling the children to become computer-literate, they will be more employable when they enter the job market.

The staff has maintained their communication with government groups, NGOs and local schools, which has contributed to the development of the school curriculum and accelerated community awareness of DEPDC. Home visits and parents’ meetings have ensured that parents and guardians have maintained their involvement in their children’s education.

The newly built shop, also sponsored by Global Giving, has been kept stocked and ready for visitors. The sewing, weaving, knitting and handicraft products are made by students from the Half-day School, as well as students from DEPDC and the vocational training program. The funds made are put back into the sewing and weaving programs to continue their development and growth.


Beneficiaries There are currently 190 students attending the school anywhere between the ages of 4 and 18. There are 2 kindergarten levels and 6 primary grades. Student numbers by grade July – December 2007 Grade Male Female Total Kindergarten 1 18 25 43 Kindergarten 2 18 15 33 Primary 1 18 24 42 Primary 2 8 12 20 Primary 3 7 7 14 Primary 4 5 6 11 Primary 5 4 5 9 Primary 6 6 12 18 Total 84 106 190 Without one parent or both parents, it is highly probable that orphaned children would stay at home, or find work on the streets to earn money and help support the family. This in turn increases the likelihood of being trafficked. Number of orphans/ single parent families Male Female Total Both parents deceased 1 2 3 Father deceased 3 2 5 Mother deceased 1 1 2 Student numbers by background Ethnicity Tai Yai (Shan) Akha Lua Lahu Tai Leu Thai Total Students 66 73 11 1 34 5 190 % of total 34.7% 38.4% 5.8% 0.5% 17.8% 2.6% 100% There are many hill tribe ethnicities residing in Northern Thailand, especially along the Thailand/Myanmar border. Historically, many of these hill tribes originate from Myanmar and China, yet each has their own unique culture, customs, language, and way of life. Some of the children at the school may have emigrated with their parents from Myanmar, and moved into Thailand in search of a better life. Others have been born in Thailand. However, often children from these hill tribe groups do not possess any official documents (e.g., birth certificates or identification cards); consequently, they are not recognized as Thai citizens. Thus, securing their rights to an education, health care, land tenure and legitimate work opportunities can be very difficult. Therefore, poverty is almost inevitable for the vast majority of these families, and the familiar problems associated with poverty such as drug addiction, alcoholism and HIV/AIDS, are rife and all too often lead to the breakdown of the family unit. Past experience has shown that children from broken families are particularly susceptible to being trafficked into child labor or commercial sex work. DEPDC’s Half Day School plays a valuable role, in acting not only as a ‘safe haven’ for these vulnerable children but providing them with the necessary life skills children need to become healthy and well adjusted individuals. Recent activities: July – December 2007 July 25 – Tree Planting The Half Day School children traveled to Doi Sang Ngu in Mae Sai district to participate in a hillside beautification program. They joined government officials, teachers, and students from other schools to plant trees and water them. The activity allowed the students to learn about nature, how to care for trees, and fostered a sense of pride because they participated in the activity together to improve their community. July 27 – Khao Pansaa Khao Pansaa is celebrated every year on the day after the full moon of the eighth month, usually in July. It is also known as “Buddhist lent.” On this day, the students learned about the history and stories behind the holiday. This is an important custom for children in Thailand to understand. The children prepared offerings from natural materials – candles, incense, and colored paper – and attended a traditional ceremony at the local temple. August 10 – Mother’s Day On this very special day that also commemorates the Queen’s birthday, Half Day School children invited their mothers, grandmothers, and other family members to attend a special Mother’s Day celebration. The day included an opening and welcome ceremony, a discussion about the life and the Queen as an example of motherhood, followed by a show of dancing and singing prepared by the children. The children also presented their mothers with small gifts and drawings that they had prepared in class. The celebration ended with singing a special song for mothers and sharing a meal together. August 16-17 – Science Fair The Half Day School children attended an annual science fair at Mae Fah Luang University in Chiang Rai that encompasses the best science projects, displays, and cultural performances from area high schools and universities in Chiang Rai province. The science fair lasts for four days and students from all over Northern Thailand participate and witness the innovation and ingenuity of Thailand’s youth. For our first graders, this was the first time at a science fair. They were amazed by all the technology and scientific knowledge that they have yet to explore. This was their very first encounter with microscopes and other magnifying technology. The first graders went from station to station absorbing knowledge and asking questions. Among many things, they learned about DNA, mixing chemical dyes, making organic watercolors, composting, bacteria, and the growth stages of butterflies. August 24-26 – Dhamma Camp This camp was held for three days and two nights at Wat Suan Mok in Chiang Rai. The camp participants learned about Buddhist teachings, which they practiced applying to everyday life situations. This knowledge will help the children improve themselves and their behavior. September 20 – Field Trip to Flag Park in Chiang Rai HDS students took a field trip to Flag Park to learn about how ethnic minority groups interact with the environment. Included in the discussion and presentations were information on tribal customs, environmental issues, global warming, and government environmental programs. The students learned about sustainable living and possible solutions to environmental problems. October 29 – Teacher Training at Baan Huay Rai Samakhee School Half Day School teachers attended a one-day, intensive capacity building workshop to improve their teaching techniques. They learned about how to better identify and utilize students’ potential, how to incorporate the arts and culture of various ethnic minority groups into their teaching activities, and they practiced preparing and setting up spaces and activities for children around particular child development themes. November 21 – March to End Violence Against Children and Women Thirty of the HDS children participated in a city-wide march to end violence against children and women. They represented DEPDC and the Half Day School and joined with other students, teachers, and government officials in this event organized by both government agencies and NGOs in the Mae Sai area. The march concluded with activities for children and drawing pictures to express thoughts on violence against women and children. November 23 – Loi Krathong Loi Krathong is a special holiday in Thailand that celebrates waterways. The custom is to make a small raft out of a section of banana tree trunk, decorate it with natural materials such as folded banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense, and float the raft down the river. This also symbolizes self-purification and letting go of the previous year’s bad deeds and feelings. On this day, the HDS students made their own rafts (krathongs) and floated them down the river. There was also a contest for the loveliest krathong. December 4 – Father’s Day Father’s Day is one of Thailand’s most important holidays. It is celebrated on the King’s birthday and Thai people honor their own fathers as well as the King who is the father of the nation. The HDS students held a drawing contest and drew their favorite pictures of the King, which were displayed in the school. They also set up a display to honor the King on his 80th birthday. In the afternoon, the children participated in a show with music and dancing and talked about the importance of Father’s Day and respect for one’s parents. Ongoing Activities There are morning classes five days a week, Monday to Friday from 08.40am to 12.00 covering the subjects of: • Mathematics • Thai language • Science and Technology • Computer training • Physical Education A free lunch is provided for all students. The kindergarten children have lunch at 11am and the primary children have lunch at 12 noon. Computers This year, computer training, which was previously offered as a vocational training, has now been integrated in the standard curriculum. The course focuses on typing, using Microsoft Office tools and the Internet Explorer for research purposes. It is also hoped this training will provide the students with another invaluable skill in the changing job market. Vocational Program After lunch the children attend practical workshops which are part of the Vocational Program. The vocational program started in 2000 and is designed to train youth in a variety of practical skills such as cookery, carpentry, art and agriculture. This is achieved through afternoon workshops which take place from 1pm – 3.30pm, Monday to Friday. There are currently 134 students attending these workshops. Vocational Training Female Male Total Cooking 21 21 Sports 38 38 Music 6 4 10 Art 16 9 25 Handicrafts 26 26 Weaving 3 1 4 English 9 1 10 TOTAL 81 53 134 Through receiving such training it is hoped that their employability will be increased. Thus, they will be able to support themselves and generate a stable income without having to resort to entering commercial sex work. In addition, mastering a skill boosts a child’s self-confidence and morale, and therefore, is conducive to starting a healthy adult life. Children can learn one skill per semester (there being two semesters per year) and each workshop session provides training and practice in the design, manufacture and selling of the products within the selected skill. The skills chosen reflect local industries. The history of each skill is taught, and if it pertains to a particular ethnic minority in the area that aspect is highlighted. Experts from the community and parents are asked to help teach the particular craft. This helps to strengthen the ties the Half Day School has with the local community—staff members are working closely with community members.


Happy holidays from DEPDC! Thanks so much for your generous support of our project.

The Half Day School for Migrant Children in Thailand, is off to a good start this term. All of the children (204) returned from the mid-semester break to begin classes in November. Thankfully, none of the children has been affected by the political turmoil in Burma, even those that commute to school from villages in Burma daily (DEPDC picks them up in the bus once they reach the Thai side). The school break can be a risky time for students, as they sometimes travel and do not have the stability of school.

Project activities are going according to plan. The children continue with their academic studies in the mornings and various vocational shops in the afternoons, including cooking, agriculture, music, traditional dance, and arts. The staff are helping the children learn about taking care of their environment, putting garbage into rubbish bins, and keeping the place clean, which is no small task for over 200 primary school students.

The weather is beginning to get colder, and this can be difficult for many poor families, especially those living in bamboo houses and without enough blankets, shoes, and clothes for the family. Some of the teachers have been visiting families on both sides of the border to see if DEPDC can help them prepare for the winter months.

The last month has also brought some special activities and holidays particular to Thailand. In late November, the Half Day School children celebrated Loi Kratong, an ancient holiday where Thais create small rafts from a section of banana tree trunk and decorate them with natural materials: flowers, leaves, incense, and candles. The rafts are released on a river or other body of water, symbolizing letting go past mistakes, grudges, and defilements. People will also cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the raft as a symbol of letting go of the bad parts of oneself. Many Thai believe that floating a krathong will create good luck, and they do it to honor and thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha (Wikipedia).

The children also celebrated the 80th birthday of His Majesty the King of Thailand, which is also the national Father’s Day. The children participated in a contest to draw portraits of the King, which have been posted around the school.

During this season, consider giving to the Half Day School project on GlobalGiving as a gift — to a friend, a colleague, or anyone you would like to honor in this unique way. You can choose from several different designs and send a beautiful card (including project details) via email or post. When you find a project you'd like to give to, simply choose "Make this a Gift" when you're completing your donation! With your support, we can continue our work and you can spread the word about what we do and give some good for the holidays. Thank you again for your support. Every dollar help and goes a long way. Best wishes for a Happy New Year.

With gratitude,

The children and staff of the Half Day School


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Organization Information


Location: Mae Sai, Chiang Rai - Thailand
Project Leader:
Alinda Suya
Director of Mae Sai Projects
Mae Sai, Chiang Rai Thailand

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Thanks to 194 donors like you, a total of $32,289 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving. Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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