One of the simplest, yet effective ways of preventing various forms of abuse and exploitation of children is to help them stay in school. The problem many families face here is simple; work provides income, while school is an expense they can’t afford so they have their children work. A nearby government school may be tuition free, but the simple cost of uniforms, supplies, and food can be a high enough barrier to keep kids out of school.
We are partnering with another project in our foundation network called Education Matters that provides scholarships to help remove the burden of school expenses. This program has been going on for quite a few years, and nearly every single scholarship recipient has gone on to receive college degrees which is incredible! Each child is matched with a mentor, which has been a key to making the program a success. The Light Center and Education Matters are sharing the cost of supporting some children in our area so thank you for helping us provide this opportunity to families in Ubon.
Recently our team attended a ceremony honoring youth who are making a positive impact on the community. Our director Kanyapon was asked to speak to the young leaders at the meeting. She used this as an opportunity to talk to these future leaders and decision makers about protecting life, teen pregnancy prevention, and supporting women and children in need. Many of these youth were only high schoolers but already have a passion for serving their communities. She encouraged them to not worry about anyone in the community who may look down on them because of their youth or gender. They are all bright students, love to serve, and can each have a long term impact on their communities.
At the ceremony, we were also honored to accept an award from Ubon Ratchathani province for the work The Light Center has done in the region to hehlhp young women and children.
We recently we began preparing care packages for 77 families who had lost loved ones due to Covid in our province. Because of our team's experience providing counseling to young mothers and abuse victims, the local government asked us to join their "Mental Health Crisis Assessment & Treatment Team" as they visited these families. Each family received basic food and home supplies. The purpose of the visits was simply to encourage and comfort those who were grieving and for the Department of Health to conduct a survey of mental health. Our hope was that this simple act of kindness would help them be comforted in their loss, encouraged, and that they would know they are not alone in their grief.
A few months ago we started caring for a baby girl that we nicknamed Grace. She was born to a 14-year-old mother, but was abandoned at the hospital with a note on the birth certificate that said she was a donation to the hospital. A brain scan found that she might have a developmental birth defect called Schizencephaly. In addition, a doctor told us she may have complete hearing loss and/or blindness. We know she can hear because she loves music and listens to us read to her every day, but we aren't sure how her vision is yet. We met with a major adoption agency that is legally authorized by the Thai government to facilitate international adoptions and they added her to their special needs program. The prospect of finding a family is not good, but they reaffirmed their commitment to help find one while we continue to provide her with care. We need to see a specialist to get a more specific diagnosis and treatment plan, but Bangkok is currently on lockdown with the recent Covid outbreak. We hope to get her to see a specialist there soon. In addition, we are applying for a royal medical grant that would provide Grace with free top of the line medical care. We don’t know all of her physical challenges yet, but we are committed to doing everything we can to give her the highest quality of life we possibly can because EVERY life matters. Thank you for helping us support infants like Grace!
Another important piece of The Light Center project is our emergency foster care program. We do this in partnership with Thailand's Department of Social Development & Welfare to ensure that the child is protected and that his or her case follows the legal guidlines of our local laws. If an infant is removed from a home due to abuse or immediate danger, we can provide foster care until it is deemed safe to return to that home or the government places them with a safe family member.
Recently a 14 year old girl gave birth to a baby girl and the family wasn't able to raise the child. We nicknamed her Grace. Normally a baby in this situation would be taken to an orphanage several provinces away. Instead, the government placed Grace in our care and we can give her the loving home she needs until the government matches her with an adoptive family. This helps reduce the number of children in institutional care and helps the child develop the attachments they need. It's a win-win for the child and our local government. Thanks to your support, we have the resources needed to continue offering this service to the Southeast region of Isaan so that children can growup in safe and loving families.
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