Welcome to my second blog!!
The first time I heard about the MAP Foundation through the programme, I was slightly curious as I thought the Foundation does not work with migrant workers. Answering a phone call from Saphan Siang, I found out that I was selected as one of Saphan Siang Youth Ambassadors, and that MAP Foundation was going to be my host organization— I was confused. Eventually, I found the answer; the Foundation was working in the field of health and knowledge of ethnic labour, which essentially involved many many migrants!
After completion of my Orientation Training in Udon Thani, I tried to stay with my family as much as possible, because of the length of the programme; it was difficult to return home. When we arrived in Chiang Mai, my friend and I went to the Foundation, it’s not far from my dormitory. Upon seeing the office, I thought that the place doesn’t look like an office, but more like a house!! (there were a lot of motorcycles in from of the it). I decided to ask if this was the Foundation. Went inside and waited for a few hours for the coordinator, I was informed it was the right place. He and I decided I would work three days per week (as guided by the programme), Monday through Wednesday. The name of the project I was placed to work with is RFA (Rights For All). It all seemed interesting since the start!
The purpose of RFA is to work with migrant families, including women. Our identity and education team support migrant families. Some of the responsibilities involve getting a birth certificate for new born babies and providing access to education for migrant children. It also organizes Youth Camps, where young people learn life skills and make new friends. In addition, it has a women’s exchange team that provides counseling to victims of violence (e.g. domestic violence and rape). They also arrange secure accommodations, legal assistance and support.
I started working at MAP Foundation on 31 March 2014 – I was very excited!
We start at 9 am and everyone is ususally busy preparing for their morning coffee. This has become an office tradition! At noon, everyone ceases what they are doing and have lunch together; some bring food with them from home. It was very lovely! After lunch sometimes I was invited to join others for mango and shrimp pastes session (It was very delicious!) My first day of work was going well; I read many books, such as rights of migrant workers and the meaning of identification numbers. Although these were difficult at first, I tried to read because knowing this information would benefit many migrant workers.
The foundation had a staff meeting and I was very excited. The meeting room was very surprising to me, there are no long tables or chairs, but many seat cushions. The meeting was very familial—we were able to eat snacks and fruit during the meeting. 🙂
On 8 April, MAP and MMN (Mekong Migration Network) observed the students at Dara Academy Chiangmai. We provided the students with a problem to solve. One of them dealt with how a migrant worker who could not speak the local language and could not communicate with officials get assistance he or she needs. The purpose of the exercise was to allow the students to understand the needs of migrant workers; especially around the context of language barrier.
I find the activity to be useful for children because children are prone to absorb new information. If they received wrong information, it could stay with them forever. Because of this, we tried to instill right information and make sure that they have a positive image towards migrant workers. Therefore, I think it is important to teach them objectively about migrant workers and what they contribute to the country, for example.
Before Songarn Festival everyone at MAP made tie-dye shirt together when they were off duty. We were excited for each shirt we made, and I was very happy to be part of this!
MAP has a Youth Camp which aims to share experiences and training on migrant worker issues such as, love, safe sex and law. The camp took place between the 25th and 27th of April at Wang Tarn Resort, Chiang Mai. The children were nice. They were from around Chiang Mai. I was a master of ceremonies, and I had to create games and other events for the children. The camp turned out to be an exhausting, but more importantly, it was very fun and interesting. When I saw their smiles— I was very happy.
MAP recently organized a May Day conference, Workers Get Together: Proper Social Welfare for Workers, at Holiday Garden Hotel in Chiang Mai. The conference gave training and allowed participating migrants to share experiences in different sessions, including the one called ‘Labor Movement for the Proper Social Security for All Workers’. After the conference, we marched and handed a petition to the Chiang Mai Province Governor. While in the two-day congference, I had a chance to be an assistant lecturer in a session which provided a training on causes, effects, and solution of domestic violence. This topic was proven to be a very engaging among these migrants, and as I was looking into it, I became more interested in the issue. I was glad to be able to be part of this process.
Recently, we, the RFA team, travelled to Mae Sot for 7 days. We donated a lot of school uniforms, bags and shoes to about 300 migrant children in many locations. Each place was very far and we were very tired, but when we saw smiles of the children, we were very happy. They also taught me Burmese and Karen. It was very difficult, but found it challenging to learn them. We visited one girl for whom we had a lot of sympathy. She ran away from her stepfather who had sexually abused her sister. She had tears in her eyes as she told us the story. She was afraid of her own shadow. Now she lives in boarding school and is supported by an organization. I was very concerned with this issue, but I hope that she will have a better life from now.
Although MAP Foundation is working with people of many different races such as Thai, Shan, Burmese and Western, they are able to work and help many in need. MAP is like a house—a very friendly one.
In the past month of being a Saphan Siang Youth Ambassador and a volunteer at MAP Foundation, I have learned and seen good and bad things. I hope in the next few months, I will be able to speak a little Burmese and learn to work as much as possible, so that I can contribute more towards helping migrant workers and Thais to live together in harmony.