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Building Communities And Capacity In Thailand’s Hill Tribe Districts

Human trafficking, child marriage, labor exploitation, and limited access to education are some of the issues and challenges confronting Thailand’s hill tribes – the Akha, Karen, Meo, Yao, and Lahu – who live near the Golden Triangle.

Some of the 21 GE volunteers who visited the Doi Mae Salong village district in March.

Hill tribe people, especially young women, are at risk because career opportunities are limited in Thailand’s remote, under-developed northwest region. Their outlook is improving however, and more than 280 women from the Mae Suay, Mae Chan, and Mae Fah Leung districts have received entrepreneurial and vocational skills training under the Green Horizon Project (GHP) started by NGO, Plan International and GE Thailand in 2015.

Ms. Nutjarin Ruenthong, Project Coordinator – Youth Vocational & Life Skill Development, Plan International said the GHP program has made a positive difference in a short period of time.

“After completing Mattayom three (Grade nine), hill tribe children left school with few opportunities and many women – especially teen mothers – relied on their husbands to support them, said Ms. Ruenthong.

“But thanks to the GHP training which covers bookkeeping, how to start a business, job skills and more, many women have formed small businesses to supplement family incomes. Many feel they have options besides getting married, or working for the family, and hair dressing, child and elderly care, handicrafts, and sewing are some of the popular opportunities being embraced.”

GE volunteers handed out school books and equipment to students at local schools.

Pig-farming is another new commercial area, and more than 30 families now raise pigs to earn up to 54,000 baht (USD 1750) per year. E-marketing and social enterprise development are some of the programs in demand for the next phase of training. Three job skills and entrepreneurial programs have been run for the hill tribe women under this GE Foundation funded initiative since 2015.

GE Volunteers Support Local Schools and Students

GE Thailand volunteers provided more support on March 8 and 9, when 21 volunteers left the big city (Bangkok) for the big hills, and mountains in the Doi Mae Salong village district to help hill tribe communities in the area.

Clothes and food were also donated to children living in various hill tribe villages.

Painting and repairing school playgrounds, and fences, kept many of the volunteers busy. They also donated books, teaching materials, and new school uniforms to the school’s students. In addition, they shared stories, meals, and snacks. The two-day trip made a big impression on the volunteers who shared these thoughts.

Renovating school playgrounds was another activity taken up by the volunteers.

“The visit to Doi Mae Salong was a great way to help communities in need and bond with colleagues. I was skeptical about how we could clean the facilities, but when we put in the effort we got excellent results. And while many of us also got blisters, and had some aches and pains, it was worth the effort. The team spirt was amazing and it showed that determination and perseverance makes a difference.”

– Nattapat Nitiwattanatorn

“This was my first volunteering project and although I wondered how much impact we could make in two days, we achieved a lot in the end. The visit also reinforced that ‘taking the first step’ is the hardest part – once you get started however, the motivation and inspiration comes naturally.”

– Puangpakar YarchumpooPam

“Living in the city we can become tied down to routines, and spend too much time on the phone and devices. That’s why it’s good to leave the city, and coming here I enjoyed meeting the students and teachers, and their smiles and appreciation will stay in my memory for a long time.”

– Doungporn Payoungtung

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