We currently have 31 people on staff in Thailand.
10 Thai nationals, 16 Myanmar nationals, and 5 Americans.
This team ranges from management and and board members to financial control to child care providers to trainers to farm staff to the team that visits families in crisis.
When we started working here 8 years ago the situation was very simple. I flew to Thailand several times per year, got a tourist visa at the airport and went out into the mountains to provide training and hold strategy and management meetings. Almost no paperwork or in-country admin.
Now, with more projects and a Thai National foundation, things are rather different. Labor contracts, Thai Social Security, GST Tax withholding, mandatory annual external financial audits, complicated visa and work permit processes for all foreign nationals.
Heal families, strengthen families, and keep families together. That is not only our organizational mission, it is also our HR policy.
It is not cheap or simple or fun to do all the administrative work that goes into running this operation. But we work to live our core mission in the admin and internal policy part of Charis as well. Our mission to heal, strengthen, and keep families together has us working in impoverished communities, with families at serious risk of disintegration. We are working to empower those families. But, what would it say if in doing that we abused our own staff?
We have just gotten through a process of making new Myanmar identity documents for our Myanmar staff people who never had any documentation anywhere before. They needed these documents in order for us to be able to get visa and work permit documents for them along with the rest of the Myanmar citizens on the team. We pay a decent wage, but the documentation still costs too much for most of our team to afford it, nearly all of them would rather spend the money on rent and food for their families. So, we consider legal documentation a fringe benefit of the job, part of the compensation package. We figure that if we can’t afford to make people legal then we can’t afford to hire them and can’t afford to do the projects we need them to work on.
Sadly, this is not a priority that all organizations share.
It is not cheap, it is not easy, but it is the right thing to do. When in doubt, we will do the right thing and pray that we will be able to afford it.
Just yesterday, one of the Myanmar team members told me a story. We have been working to get her fully documented and legal for a year-and-a-half and just recently finally succeeded. Very shortly she will be getting full Social Security benefits (including extra support for her children, and full medical coverage) on top of her salary. She told me that just a few days ago the police set up a checkpoint near her house and began combing the area. When her neighborhood saw this the people ran to get a few things from their houses and then began running out into the forest to hide until the police left. They work here on farms and in factories but do not have documents and the police will arrest and deport them. She was speeding her steps back to her house, thinking about what she needed to grab first and figuring out how she would carry her infant, toddler, and disabled 9 year old to hide in the forest. She is telling me this with tears forming in her eyes,
“It was just then that I realized that for the first time I no longer have to run and hide.”
That is why we go the extra mile with the admin and HR. It is not mere formalities. Here at Charis, well done admin changes lives.
Thank you for your support. Thank you for making this sort of story possible.
Please help us tell you more stories like this and please invite and encourage others to do the same.
Carrien is co-founder of The Charis Project, Family Education Curriculum Developer, and mom of 6.
You can get her free mini-course on Making Your Family More Resilient here.