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Fleeing violence and finding hopelessness.
More than 100,000 Shan people live in the orchards of northern Thailand, many having fled violent clashes in Myanmar between 1996 and 1998. Because most did not have refugee status, they lived in hiding and worked under oppressive conditions in Thailand’s orchards. In the two decades since, their lives have seen little improvement. Families face cancer risks and respiratory illnesses, as they’re required to spray chemical fertilizers and insecticides without masks. Should they fall ill, medical treatment is an unaffordable luxury. Until recently, children had no opportunity to go to school. They toiled in the orchards alongside the adults. The future looked hopeless for the Shan communities.
Bringing education to the orchards.
Twelve years ago Khun Adul, a Thai national specializing in community development, visited the orchards and witnessed the desperate plight of the Shan people. Moved by their perseverance, he founded Group For Children (GFC) and dedicated his life to helping them escape the endless cycle of poverty. Since 2007, GFC has opened five schools and provides free education to the children of the orchards. Over 800 have since graduated, with many going on to build lives beyond the orchards.
To solve a problem, know the ecosystem.
Instead of a piecemeal approach, GFC considers the entire ecosystem when addressing a problem. For instance, it wasn’t enough to open schools and hire teachers; GFC also lobbied Orchard owners, convincing them to allow the children to attend school. They even arranged transportation. Thanks to Khun Adun’s insight into the lives of migrant workers, GFC is able to create effective, long-term solutions.
A plot to improve lives.
Khun Adun knows that in order for the Shan communities improve the quality of life, incremental savings and income opportunities must be available. Recently, while relocating one of the GFC schools, he noticed a small plot of land nearby. Recognizing its potential value to the Shan people, he secured it from the local community, and the Seeds of Hope project was born.
A community-driven project plants the seeds of hope.
With a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a wealth of organic farming experience, Khun Adul believes GFC can teach the Shan people to grow vegetables organically. Currently, an average household of four spends about 40 baht per day on meals, which consist mainly of vegetables. This expenditure represents up to 25% of the household income. Producing their own safe, healthy food will allow families to save what little money they earn, instead of having to buy expensive, less nutritious vegetables from shops.
It’s a self-sustaining solution.
Not only will the Seeds of Hope Project provide healthy food and an opportunity to save, it will also generate additional income, because what isn’t consumed will be sold. Additionally, some seeds will be harvested for planting. This is an important advantage, given Thailand’s agricultural system. Typically, farmers must purchase hybrid seeds—specifically the F1 hybrid—which grow into plants that do not produce viable seeds. Thus, farmers must repurchase seeds from a supplier each year. Moreover, the hybrids require significant quantities of fertilizers and other chemical compounds in order to grow. The Seeds of Hope project will allow the Shan people to harvest their own organic seeds year after year. And because this is a community-driven effort—one that is maintained by the Shan themselves—the participants are highly motivated and the project will quickly become self-sustaining.
Overall Objective: Food Security
The project’s immediate goal is to make it possible for children, young adults and their migrant-worker parents to grow organic vegetables on their own land. Ultimately, this will provide them with food security by:
- making them less dependent on outside food sources
- ensuring they have healthy staples in their diets
- generating additional income through the sales of excess produce
- giving them a free source of seeds for future planting, thereby perpetuating their ability to grow their own food
- Choose two qualified GFC teachers to oversee the implementation of the project and send them, along with two migrant youth leaders, for external training in organic farming and seed harvesting; these four will then provide onsite training for other teachers and families.
- The GFC teachers will prepare the organic farming site, and purchase materials and equipment, including farming implements, seeds, and organic fertilizers.
- There will be a working group consisting of teachers, children, migrant youth leaders, and parents that will continually meet and coordinate organic farming activities
You can help make it happen!
Group for Children needs to raise just Baht 250,000 to implement the project. Initially, 120 families will participate. A caring donation from you will go a long way toward easing the struggle of the Shan people—toward helping parents and children who toil side by side in the orchards. You have an opportunity to give the most precious gift of all: hope.
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