Win in his Pineapple Field
Thank you so much for all of your continued support for our prevention work in Thailand, The FREEDOM Project. It's been truly amazing to see the impact of prevention come full circle. Earlier this year we hired our first graduate: Win. Win grew up undocumented in a rural part of Northern Thailand. In High School, he applied for a scholarship from SOLD to study in law school. His dream was to help people like him - undocumented and without citizenship - to know their legal rights. Six years later, Win graduated with a Law Degree and with citizenship! Only a few months ago The SOLD Project offered him a job on our scholarship team. His role as Mentor and Legal Advisory has allowed us to facilitate workshops for undocumented students in our program, educating them on their rights, and beginning to carve the road towards citizenship for them.
Statistically, Win was very at risk of being exploited. Lack of citizenship means that no government is aware of you - or protecting you. This is a traffickers dream - you are trafficking someone that legally does not exist. We are so thankful that Win had the courage to pursue his dreams and the vision to bring his talents back to the community he was born in.
This is the impact your support is having. Lives are changing, And those lives are having a ripple effect.
We asked Win to share a few thoughts with you, here is what he has to say:
Can you tell us a bit about what your role here at SOLD will be?
Primarily, I will help conduct home visits, follow up with students, be a part of the mentorship program, and help P’Gade with the 3-3-5 prevention program. I also will try to help the students and others in the village navigate legal issues surrounding getting Thai citizenship. For example, we have one scholarship student who has no citizenship, only some documents allowing her to stay in Thailand. She wants to be a tour guide, but doesn’t know if she can get the tourist guide certification, so my role is to find out details about how to make this possible, give recommendations, and advise her.
Are there any specific goals you have in mind?
Because I focus on law, in working here, I really want to center my efforts on helping students & parents communicate with government officials about their citizenship rights and requirements. I want to try to find out who has citizenship and who doesn’t. And I want to get more training and study the law more deeply, especially around citizenship issues, to find ways to help them get citizenship.
How big is this problem?
On an individual level, it's devastating. It really weighs you down, makes you feel sad, depressed, hopeless when you don't have citizenship. You always think, "Why don’t I have opportunities like other people? What did I do that I don't deserve an equal chance?" You just feel constrained and stuck because there's so many things you cannot do. As an example, one scholarship student is a runner, and he’s studying at Rajabhat University. He wants to be a Physical Education teacher, but he doesn’t have citizenship, without which he cannot get a degree and cannot teach. He's trying hard to get it. If you can't get citizenship, you just feel like you don’t have a purpose in life. If you can't pursue your dreams, it makes you want to quit. You feel like you have no hope, no confidence, no choices, and your worth is not equal to others. If you have none of these things, how can you focus on what you really want to be?
On a macro level, I estimate in Chiang Rai alone, there are more than 100,000 people in this situation.
How do you think your experience will serve you in this position?
I hope that the example of my own life can provide a good role model for the younger students and inspire others to fight to improve their lives. And I will try my best to help them as much as I can.
What do you think is the biggest challenge?
The hardest part about this job is that I'm the first one here to do it. I have no model to follow and no advisor to ask for help. Any time a new situation comes up, I just have to wing it, and make it up as I go. The other challenge comes when the students don't do much to help themselves. If they don't fight for themselves, there's not much I can do to help them.
What do you do when things get difficult?
I just think to myself, "If we don’t do anything, nothing will change. If you don’t try, everything will be the same. But if you try to move even just a little bit, even if you don’t know the result, that means you are changing something." That gives me hope that I can make things better.
What do you do to relax?
I like to drink coffee and read books. I also go check out my pineapple farm to see if it’s getting bigger. I get so happy about my pineapple farm--especially when I tried to sell my pineapples and I actually got money for them!
Thank you so much for all of your support to help change not only Win's life, but the lives that he will continue to influence. We are incredibly grateful for your partnership and support.
A Citizenship Rights Class Facilitated by Win
Student Graduation in Chiang Rai