The area where we are working is almost 80% Burmese. It is what Thailand designates a “special economic development zone”. Poor, mostly illiterate, subsistence farmers from inside Burma flock to the border to try and make a better life for themselves. They end up in closely crowded “camps” living in temporary shelters. As ASEAN, the SE Asian free trade agreement, comes into effect next year, the numbers of migrant workers are expected to swell drastically. The current number of documented workers is around 100,000 people. Estimates put the number of undocumented workers at at least equal to, if not greater than 100,000 people.
The short version. We have all these programs that do a lot of important stuff and we want to keep doing them more reliably. (We really want to tell you all the details, but don’t want to bore you if you don’t care, so if you click on the images they will jump down the page to where we say a lot about the stuff we’re doing.)
Women’s Center and Shelter Nursery School for Impoverished Families
We teach a childbirth and infant care class that empowers mothers to confidently care for their children and gets us involved with families from the very start so we can come alongside and support in other ways as we see the need.
The class was tailored to empower illiterate women to pass on to others the things they learned. So we relied heavily on colorfully illustrated handouts that they could take home and use to teach what we taught them. Every woman in the class, there were 27 from 5 different communities, was tasked with teaching at least 2 other people what she had learned every week.
We threw a big party for their graduation. These women invited other women from their communities, young and old, and that night the students became the teachers, reviewing all the course material for their guests. This one class has been able to educate approximately 100 women. The communities we work in are very eager for the next class to start, and some of the women ask me every week when we’re going to teach them again. We’ll be starting the next class in the New Year.
In the meantime, we continue to take the mothers a weekly nutrition package to help them and their families at this critical stage of their baby’s development. We will keep this up until the baby is at least 6 months old. We have been able to provide aid to 15 different families in this way since September.
We are preparing to translate the course materials into Burmese and Thai to give to women who come to the clinics and hospitals here. There is no such resource available for Burmese women at this time, and Thai women are almost as bad off. One of the women helping with translating told us, “These are very important things to know that no one has ever told us before.” ^
We do other Community Education that targets families at risk and empowers parents to provide for and care for their families. To date we’ve taught, in 2 different villages,
Basic Health and Hygiene
Basic Family Finance
Early Childhood Development
Burmese Literacy Classes – Many Burmese migrant are illiterate
Thai for Burmese Speakers –if migrant workers can speak Thai they get better jobs and function better in their host country
We’ve provided the Early Childhood Education class for staff at local children’s homes as well. We are developing classes in Maintaining Healthy Relationships, and How to Start a Business.
We also provide English classes for about 30 children in one of the villages where we work. We’re giving these kids every educational advantage we can. ^
We provided small business development loans to 2 mothers so far, one who was considering sending her children away. The first mother’s business has been extremely successful and led to the launch of a 2nd and a 3rd one. This month we are helping her expand her 3rd business, which is cooking for the single men in her village who want a hot meal, and she is now about to be catering her second large event with her amazing Burmese style dishes. This first mother (who we are preparing to teach a business class for women in the at risk migrant communities) is now mentoring the second, who has just started her new business since, with a baby on the way, she won’t be able to work as she has been to take care of her family. We consider it an honor to be able to partner with these enterprising women in providing for their families. ^
We started a Teaching Farm that trains impoverished farmers in healing and getting the most out of their land through organic farming methods and helps them further through business training. We’ve employed up to 30 adults for farm labor when needed, this means 120 more people in their immediate and extended families have benefited.
Our farm manager is a dedicated guy, educated, excited to try new things, and excited about what we are doing with the farm. He’s also gearing up to work directly with our staff at the Family Support Center to turn a lot of the land we have there into high yield permaculture. ^
We have a store that helps us to bring the goods and services of small business owners and entrepreneurs to the larger Mae Sot community at a premium price.
The storefront is located downstairs from our official foundation office. It is a combination of a classy looking thrift shop and a coffee bar, and is very close to not only bringing in enough money to cover the rent on the office space, but also to cover some of our administrative costs. We’ve been in business 6 months now, and our monthly revenues are steadily increasing over time. You business types will know to expect at least a year with any new start up before it becomes profitable, and how encouraging a steady monthly increase is. ^
Through all of this our original project continues to grow and prosper. Renamed as a Family Support Center, we are truly striving to assist the families of the children in our care, and foster strong family ties, and connections. Our goal is for each of these kids to be able to go home to a strong, stable family situation. In the meantime, these kids get entrepreneurial equipping and experience as they see our staff run the many businesses that are making the center self sustaining and a model of entrepreneurship for the community.
This year’s abundant harvest yielded enough rice for the entire year with more leftover. The garden has an irrigation system now so they can continue to grow food during the dry season when the ground goes months without a drop of rain. Now that the rice harvest is in they are setting up the only commercial egg farming business in the area, and cultivating their own organic chicken feed as well. ^
[The exclamation points create urgency so you feel like you ought to do something right away.
We would like that. It would help us.]
There is more on the horizon, exciting work that the doors are open for us to step into. One is a community center for women that provides daily the kind of education that we’ve started to make available. It’s secret function is as a women’s shelter, a place with an excuse to slip away to when things go from difficult to dangerous at home. We don’t just want to be a refuge though, we want to start helping those fathers too with their addictions and other issues.
The other project we would like to take on next year is a nursery school for very young children. Having a small child at home costs the family the wages of one adult worker who must stay home and care for that child, or a girl has to stay home from school to do it. This is one of the main reasons children are given away and sold. They aren’t just expensive to feed, they cost in lost income, and lost education, also. A nursery school could change all that. Children would be cared for in a safe place that actually teaches them, while parents work. Children can come for free provided the parents participate in one of our education programs that are designed to equip them as parents. ^
But we don’t feel ready to step into either of those projects yet, and here’s why. We don’t yet have enough solid monthly support for the projects we’re already doing. To start 2 new projects in 2015 with our current monthly support situation would be overreaching, and frankly, we feel it would be irresponsible. The need is there, urgently, and we have people ready to step in and head the women shelter project, but the money is not yet stable enough.
It costs us $4500US/month to run our entire foundation and all of its programs. That’s almost 100 at risk families receiving empowering support, aid, and education per month, for approximately the equivalent of the median household income in the United States!
At this point our committed monthly donations are at about $2700. We get enough onetime donations at this point that we can cover our costs, but it’s not a reliable foundation to step out into anything new. Our goal, before the end of December, is to have another $1500/month in regular committed monthly giving coming in.
This is sort of boring I suppose. It’s not, GIVE MONEY TO FUND A LIFESAVING THINGIE! It’s “please commit to supporting the programs we already have in place, that are actually making a huge difference, to a lot of kids, and families. Help us reliably keep doing the job we are already doing, so we can make it harder for ourselves and add even more work next year.”
But this is what we need and I hope you will ask yourself if it’s something you can do. It’s sure not boring or insignificant to these people.
15 people giving $100/month would take care of this. Maybe you can make that happen with your monthly budget. Maybe you are thinking of the things you can rearrange and the designer coffees you could go without in order to help us protect children by walking alongside their families and empowering them to be strong. If you are, I urge you follow through on those thoughts and know that it would make an exponential difference to people over here.
Many of us don’t have that much wiggle room in our monthly budgets, and here’s where I say, “Every little bit helps.” It’s ok if the only thing you can do is $10/month. Our bread and butter is the generous people with limited means who give $10 each month because they care. But I ask you to think about making it regular, signing up to have it happen every month.
If you are reading this now and thinking, “I have $50 I could donate, but I don’t want to sign up for monthly giving,” I want to ask you, would it be so hard to sign up to give $10 or $20 every month? Would you really feel it? Because we would. Your commitment for the long term helps us to do our job better.
If you are a person who has occasionally in the past given us one time donations, please think about this year committing to giving a small amount every month. Are you able to do more to help? Only you know the answer to that.
We urge you to click through to our donate page and commit to monthly giving today.
[Here’s the part where you might expect us to make a ridiculously emotional and sappy appeal to all of your Christmas/Holiday type nostalgic warm fuzzy feelings….. but we decided not to.]
If you sign up to do this through Paypal it’s super easy. You don’t even need an account, just scroll down to the part where you can use your credit card. Do it once and then it automatically does everything for you every month and you only have to think of it if you make any account changes, or your credit card number changes or something. It’s all automated. You can do all that HERE.
If you prefer not to use paypal, you can set up a monthly account transfer or e-check through your bank, email me for our account information. carrienblue at thecharisproject dot org.
If you have online banking you can set up a monthly payment and have your bank pay to mail a check to us.
Just add us as a Payee, select the option for “I don’t have an account number” and enter our mailing address. Your bank will mail us a check for you, and you still never have to think about it again, except the 4 times a year, or so, that we send you an email telling you how awesome you are, and how much your gift is helping. Subscribe to that newsletter here.
If you want to keep up with us and hear what is happening on a more regular basis you can like our facebook page, which is updated almost daily, and follow our blog, which is updated every week or two. (There’s also Instagram, and sometimes twitter.) We too have very full inboxes and we try to avoid spamming you while still keeping you informed as to what we’re doing with your money. Because we really care about whether you feel we’re doing a good job with the resources you trust us with.
MAKE A FRIEND READ THIS!
You made it this far, and you’re committed to helping. How about you be a really good friend and encourage at least one other friend to read this too. Don’t underestimate your friends. I bet they are caring and wonderful individuals who would be happy to help, just as you are doing!
Use the share bar located, above, below, and beside this post to easily tell them to come give us money.
Because all of the above is true. We’re doing good work. We need you to help us do it. You are really awesome. This does really matter, and we are truly grateful to you for your generosity and care. Without people like you, we are helpless to help these children, and intervene in these critical situations for families at risk.
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.