A couple of weeks ago, before my vacation from reality, I went on another field trip. I just realized I forgot to tell you about it. A while ago I found an organization that seemed interesting for my field study next semester, so my teacher invited them to our school to present their organization. The organization is Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation. They’re doing an incredible job when it comes to refugee questions.
Thailand is a bit special when it comes to refugees. They have several refugee camps on the Thailand-Myanmar border, but they haven’t signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and still today they don’t have any domestic laws concerning refugees. Thailand doesn’t even recognize the refugee status, so all refugees outside the refugee camps are considered illegal immigrants.
Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR) works on several different levels to help refugees in Thailand. They have a border education programme, an urban refugee program, an advocacy programme and a statelessness programme. They’re also working on the first Thai refugee bill. It was their urban refugee programme we got to see (a small part of it) a couple of weeks ago. We got to visit a school class with refugee children. These children live hidden in Bangkok, with their families. They had been in Thailand between a week and a year. They’re all waiting on being resettled. It was a class that spoke a little English, so it was very fun to speak with the children and observe their class.
Since these children live hidden, the “school” has to be hidden as well. They had just changed location because a former neighbour had threatened to call the police. It was sad to hear that the older children (10-12 years old) were always reminding the younger (youngest was 5 years old) to be quiet so the police wouldn’t find them.
The location, the classrooms (they had two) was so small. They were smaller than the bedroom I had growing up, and they were 10-12 children in each room, plus a teacher. It felt very crowded when we were there as well. They had a chair each, basic school supply like pens and paper and a whiteboard. I thought the teachers were doing an amazing job in there! The children were so bright, their spelling in english (when they practiced the weather) was near perfect and when they practiced telling time they were all also very good.
Me and my two classmates that were visiting, brought some notebooks, coloring pens, pencils and erasers. I wish there were something more I could do, but at the same time I know that these are the “lucky” children. They get to go to school, to get out. We were told that since a family only got a little money (I think from the UN), like 2000 baht, they had to be maybe five families in a small one room apartment.
It’s impossible to even imagine what they have been through. First having to flee from their home. Come to a country where they have to live hidden… The children seemed so happy, they were smiling, singing, were very shy and laughed a lot. Children are incredible, their ability to adapt. I just wonder how their parents are. Imagine the stress to keep your family safe in this situation? I was very pleasantly surprised that they had also started an english class for the parents.
TCR has a lot of information on their website, so make sure you check it out. If you would like to donate to help them in their work, you can do so here. TRC work completely from donations, they don’t get any support from the Thai governmnet.