In Bangkok, on a very hot and humid June day, the Jolkona team got the opportunity to visit a vocational school run by Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB). Greeting us were many students dressed in white shirts and dark pants. They were there to attend 2-hour classes held every Sunday, studying subjects such as English, Thai, or computer skills. They all seemed to take these weekend classes very seriously. For many of them, this is the only education they are able to find. The majority of them have not graduated from high school and currently hold full time entry-level jobs at factories or in sales. Students can attend more than one class depends upon their financial resources.
TACDB was founded in February of 2003. Its mission aims to support the Burmese refugees and immigrants who come to Thailand from the poorest and most war-ridden areas of Burma.
Today, besides providing education and vocational training for these Burmese young adults, this non-profit organization also supports Burmese immigrants with legal assistance in labor unions. They strive to break down the language barriers for these workers, improve their awareness of their legal rights, and organize democracy campaigns to signify their presence in the Thai community.
We asked Myint Wai, the Director of TACDB, what they currently need the most. He responded without hesitation â€“ financial support. It is easy to see that the school is running way over capacity. Thailandâ€™s law dictates that there should be no more than 500 students in this size of facility, yet they are enrolling close to 850 students on a regular basis. There are 45-60 students in each class. And there are only 10 computers that are functioning and being used for teaching. All of the teachers volunteer their time. They receive nothing besides a minimal travel stipend to get to and from the school.
To further understand the impacts this school provides, we interviewed a couple students.
Ngelay-Bright has been attending English class for the past 5 years. She works full time as a sales clerk. She emphasized to us that she is saving money to continue learning at the school, because she believes advancing her language skills (both English and Thai) and computer skills will significantly improve her earnings. She wishes to one day finish high school and attend university.
Aung Naing is a fairly new student at the school. He has only been learning English for about 5 months, but he had no problem communicating with us. He said that he is thankful to have found out about the school and started studying there. It is impressive how much education, commitment, and determination can work to make a difference in the lives of these young people.
Investing in education is undoubtedly the best way to improve the lives of the Burmese refugees and immigrants in Thailand. Personally, it touched me a great deal to be able to relate their story to my own, when my family first migrated to the United States. Without the educational opportunity available to me, I wouldnâ€™t have been able to finish college, obtain a good job, adapt and establish my life in a foreign land. I am passionate to campaign for the support the â€œTACDBâ€ school needs most. Let me break it down:
- With 350 Thai bahts (11 US dollars), we can send one student to one class for 3 months.
- With 250 Thai bahts (8 US dollars), we can support the travel expenses for one volunteer teacher a week.
- With 10 donations of 1000 Thai bahts (32 US dollars), we can pay the facility fees for 1 month.
In any amount possible, I hope you consider supporting the TACDB, or at least learn more about their work.