Thailand – National Council of YMCAs
Date of foundation of the YMCA: 1965 Full/Associate/Related Membership in the World Alliance of YMCAs: Full Member
Full member of the World Alliance of YMCAs since: was accepted in 1977 as Full Member.
The Thai Alliance of YMCAs consists of two local Associations namely the YMCA of Bangkok and the YMCA of Chiangmai. Apart from the YMCA activity programs such as camping, swimming, education, etc. which aim at developing the growth of persons in body, mind and spirit, both YMCAs have played an important role in social development which aims to meet emerging and changing social needs.
During the last quadrennium, the YMCA of Bangkok has been actively involved with many social development projects. However, due to the limited space given to this report, emphasis would be made only on a specific project namely ‘Awareness Raising Program on Trafficking of Woman and Child Prostitution’. The main concept of this project is to protect as many chil-dren as possible from being lured or forced into sex trade or sex abuse. The strategies are :
to keep them in schools by providing scholarships to them;
-to change their attitudes towards child prostitution through child development train-ing programs; and to work closely with their families as well as the communities, empowering them to develop practical skills and right attitudes to sustain and improve their quality of life.
Since 1995, more than one hundred girls and a few boys have been saved by this project. Here is a story of a girl which may reflect the risky situation of girls in many places.
The Path She’s Chosen … Opportunity
I want to go home. I don’t want to learn how to sew. ‘Baw told the staff one day. Baw is a 13 years old Hmong girl from ban Hoh Noi, Chiangkham District. Her parents are rice farmers and rely on her elder sister and herself to help cul-tivate the rice. Unfortunately, Baws’ older sister is reluctant to help her parents and with Baw currently living at the YMCA Emergency and Training Cen-ter the majority of the work falls upon her mother. Baw is emotionally torn. Should she stay at the YMCA Center and continue her learning, which will provide with greater skills in her future or return to her village and help her parents in the paddy fields? Baw feels an enormous amount of guilt being sepa-rated from her family knowing their daily struggle.
Baw first arrived at the YMCA Emergency Home in April 1997. She had never attended school and was extremely behind in her studies to enter a formal institution nor get on with her student peer group. Therefore, she began an in-home study program taught by the YMCA staff and volunteers until the Informal Education Department of Phayao provided two teachers to implement a credited Informal Education curriculum to be taught at the center.
Baw studies with four other girls living at the center as their academic situations are similar. Baw has completed a basic sewing course in March of this year and through learning sewing skills she is able to make school uniforms and sells them to other YMCA sponsored students for her pocket money of which she usually sends home to her mother. She is very energetic and active teen. However, a few months later Baw appears to be withdrawn and preoccupied so the staff watches her closely. Soon they discover that her mother wants her to return home, as her sister is not helping in the paddy fields.
She is sympathetic to her mother’s positition but Baw fears something stronger than the hard work and impover-ished family situation. There is an older man in her village who wants her. She fears being sexually as- saulted (molest-ed and raped).
This is a very real scenario for the young women of the Hmong Tribe. It is accepted behavior among the males in the Hmong Tribe to sexually assault any woman they want, with no punishment.
The staff and Baw engage in long discussions, which provide encouragement, guidance and options. We encourage Baw to make her own decision and appreciate the difficult choices she has to make. Baw chooses to continue her various studies and sewing classes here at the Center. She believes that she can earn more money sewing and learning alternative skills rather than to return home to be assaulted. She will continue to send her earnings home to her parents.
Parents play a very important role in the decision making process their children go through. Parents can control their children to satisfy their own desires. Just look at Baw’s situation. Will she be strong enough to overcome the pull of her family. Knowing she is considering their situation and wants to provide the utmost for them?
Baw, herself, does not have enough education to understand human rights and the cultural norms nor the societal understandings. In this situation the YMCA is the key which unlocks thousands of impoverished, uneducated and misdirected people of the North. The various programs the YMCA pro-vides throughout the North act as a figurative lifesaver. Through education and protection of the children, their futures will bring forth more options and opportunities.
As for the YMCA of Chiang Mai, it has paid high emphasis on sustaining the environment and natural resources during the last quadrennium. Organic farming, protection of forests and water-sheds and water-quality monitoring are some examples of the major concerns. They also aim at raising self-awareness among young people through education and the development of ‘Green Schools’. At present, there are eight ‘Green Schools’ in different provinces. Each serves as a model to show the importance of environmental education and how the students can use the surroundings in their schools for education.
Environmental situation in Thailand
A few years ago, whenever we looked into the sky, we could see a blue sky. The sky has however begun to transform slowly into gray and black colors. Soon there will be no more beautiful blue sky for us and our future generations. The trans-formation has alerted us that the current environ-mental problem is a serious issue and everyone on this earth has a responsibility to prevent and decrease the damage to the environment. Each and everyone on this earth should realize that the envi-ronmental problem is not a ‘future problem’ but a current problem.
Until recently, the majority of Thai people possessed very little knowledge about the importance of envi-ronmental protections. Due to lack of knowledge, some may even choose to ignore the problem sim-ply because they think it is beyond their concerns and responsibilities.
Recently, signs of improvement can be seen clearly. In 1998, the Thai government passed a new constitution which gives more power to the public and to organizations to be involved actively in activities that support environmental protections. Since then, people are becoming more alert and plan various projects. People are beginning to actively share ideas and seek solutions to make the projects come true.
Also, a law has been created to determine that big projects should undergo a feasibility study which includes analysis of the project’s ecological and social effects. The project will only be approved if it passes that criteria.
Due to the improvement of information systems, people become aware of environmental destruction. They begin to learn about their responsibilities and the importance of providing protections to natural resources, forests, wild animals, watersheds, etc. Thus, opportunities for developing mutual learning and exchanging ideas are widely improved. Local, regional and international GOs and NGOs also play a major role in facilitating information and support to the public.
Concept and strategies of The YMCA of Chiang Mai
The YMCA of Chiang Mai plays a major role in protecting the environment. It emphasizes creating an environmentally friendly situation and achieving sustainable resource management through promotion of organic farming, protection of forests, wild animals and watersheds. The public especially young people are encouraged to have self-awareness regarding this issue. They can develop an attitude through education. ‘Green Schools’ have been established by the YMCA for the purpose of developing the values and attitudes.
The Environmental Education Center at Saohin YMCA provides various information and educational materials regarding environmental protections. The YMCA also provides various environmental education programs. The programs aim to increase awareness about the environment among teachers, administrators and students in all schools.
Youth camps have also been established from time to time. Young people are more likely to learn about the issues of environmental protection through these adventurous programs.
The YMCA also establishes various environmental camps, training, workshops, seminars, and field studies to encourage people to consume and manage natural resources in a sustainable way.
Address – National Office
NGS, Chularat Phongtudsirikul
Thai Alliance c/o YMCA of Chiangmai
11 Soi Mengrairasmi, Sermsuk Rd
Tambol Changpuak, Muang
For hotel information, please contact YMCA National Offices directly.
From the Field : Thailand: Rights for AIDS orphans
The Bangkok YMCA Foundation works with AIDS orphans in both rural and urban communities, focusing on the four areas of protection outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says that every child should: receive proper medical care and access to government services; have the opportunity to develop physically, intellectually and physiologically; have the chance to grow in a family environment without discrimination; and be involved in his/her own development and able to express him/herself fully.
The Foundation has 3 strategies for promoting the rights of AIDS orphans. Strategy 1 involves providing direct social welfare and development assistance to children. For example, when a child is abandoned or orphaned the YMCA will immediately coordinate with the medical authorities, social welfare officers, hospitals, local governments and volunteer networks. It is important to know if the child is HIV-positive, the state of their immune system, and to know what medical care they have received. Social development officers make visits to try and gather information from families and villages, since it is vital to find out as much background information as possible about the child. Once a child is accepted on the project, the YMCA coordinates with a child psychiatrist to draw up an individual plan for the child’s development and to plan activities for the ongoing development of the child’s skills. They are supported by education that is appropriate for their needs (this could be vocational training run by the YMCA or attending the local school) and accommodated in the ‘Happy Home’. This home is run by the YMCA as a family, not as an institution, and the children themselves take decisions about how it operates.
The second strategy focuses on engaging communities in child development. The YMCA works with the community to help them understand the problems that children face, and to work together to find solutions such as training volunteers to educate and engage the community. The YMCA mobilises youth and teacher networks and women’s groups to raise awareness of children’s rights and to provide them with practical assistance.
The third strategy is to address children’s rights at policy level by bringing together NGOs to lobby for more effective policies and legislation.
One of the children who benefited from the Bangkok YMCA Foundation is an 11 year old boy called Nong Bee. His mother tested HIV-positive 4 years ago when Nong Bee was just 7; she had serious symptoms of AIDS and was not able to look after herself. Nong Bee took care of his mother, preparing her medicine, washing her and attending to her food. After his father died, he was unable to enjoy his childhood as other children in the community were doing. His school attendance was irregular, since he was looking after his mother, and at the weekend he had to do casual jobs to support the family.
The Foundation was able to provide assistance to Nong Bee over a 4-year period. After advocating with teachers and social networks on his behalf, Nong Bee was given an educational scholarship. He was allowed to come to class a little later, in order to look after his mother, and this enabled Nong Bee to stay in school. The local administration helped by repairing the family’s house, and in addition, the hospital contributed to medical expenses and gave free anti-retroviral drugs. Today, his mother’s health has improved to the extent that she is now able to sit down, though she cannot stand. Nong Bee says, ‘I shall always try to take care of my mother and my hope is that one day she will be able to walk. When I grow up, I shall try to be good because my mother will surely be proud of me.’
An estimated 15 million children have lost at least one parent because of AIDS.
Ms. Suwan Limsumphan
Bangkok YMCA Foundation
Extract from YMCA World Magazine issue on : Children’s rights