Basic Feeding Program
In the past two years, nutrition has become the most important focus of Room to Grow’s activities. The focus on nutrition was inspired both by our staff’s experience and observations with children on the ground, as well as the results of a survey conducted in 2010.
The survey found that children attending migrant schools in the Mae Sot area had higher rates of malnutrition than children in refugee camps. Rates of stunting and underweight children were double those found in similar populations of children in rural Thailand with as many as a third of all migrant students showing signs of malnutrition.
Since then, R2G has been working to collect information on the rates of malnutrition and under-nutrition experienced by children, help staff recognize signs of malnutrition and vitamin deficiency and increase local capacity to prevent and respond to the problem.
The Infrastructure Program aims to provide all children with safe housing, clean toilet facilities and access to water. The program includes funding repairs and renovations to existing buildings as well as new construction.
Boarding House Supply Program
Separated children often arrive at their boarding house with very few clothes or supplies. What they have is often quickly outgrown and children without families often lack the means of replacing worn out clothes. Without money, children lack the ability to purchase even simple things like underwear, blankets, shoes or toothpaste. In addition we supply boarding houses with mosquito nets, sleeping mats, kitchen supplies and other materials shared by children.
Health and Hygiene Program
The main focus of this program is the provision of sanitary pads to menstruating girls. Although the cost of purchasing pads isn’t great, children without family support often cannot afford this regular expense. Girls with no access to funds often struggle to afford soap and regular hygiene supplies, which can result in an uncomfortable and sometimes distressing situation when menstruation occurs. Girls adapt in a variety of ways, but the most common response to this problem is to stay home from school while menstruating. Over the course of the year, this can result in a significant loss of education for girls.
In addition, the program provides children with individual hygiene supplies like soap, shampoo and toothpaste, and provides boarding houses with cleaning supplies such as soap and laundry detergent.
Educational Support Program
The Educational Support Program is primarily focused on enabling migrant children from boarding houses to attend Thai schools. In recent years, the Ministry of Education in Thailand has changed its policy on migrant children and allowed them to attend Thai schools. In contrast to the informal Burmese migrant schools, the education received from Thai schools is formally recognized in Thailand and can provide opportunities with Thai employers and further education in Thailand. It equips children to survive in the country where they are currently living, teaching them to speak and read Thai, as well as to know and respect local culture.
In order to succeed in Thai schools, Burmese migrant children often require assistance paying for uniforms, stationary and school fees, as well as additional tutors in the evening and weekends to help with their Thai language.
The Well-Being Program aims to engage children’s emotional needs in addition to the support provided for their material needs. Many children have experienced trauma as a result of conflict inside Burma, particularly in Karen State. Others have had difficult experiences living as an undocumented migrant person in Thailand. Many children remember the death of a parent, both parents, and/or siblings; or the experience of being left by parents who never returned for them. Well-being programs include facilitating dance sessions with children, providing supplies for drawing and craft activities, and connecting volunteers with opportunities to connect with children and teach English.
For the past three years, Room to Grow has been working in partnership with Khom Loy Development Foundation to improve the ability of schools and boarding houses to produce their own food. Khom Loy now takes the lead in training and implementing garden and agriculture projects. In 2012, Room to Grow’s agricultural activities were focused almost entirely on mushroom huts and mushroom growing. In 2013, most of these projects will be undertaken by World Education in partnership with Thai Children’s Trust, and with Khom Loy Development Foundation. R2G will continue to provide support for the purchase and raising of pigs, chicken, fishponds and gardens.
Natural disasters such as severe storms, sudden flooding and fires often have the greatest impact on those living on the margins. Within a very short span of time people, who had very little, can lose everything. Room to Grow attempts to provide immediate assistance to those in need, particular to families and children. Our goal is to support existing efforts whenever possible, and to fill gaps when they arise. In the past, our emergency assistance has included providing food, clothing and toys to refugees fleeing flighting in Myawaddy (2010), rebuilding a nursery classroom following a fire in Umphium (2012), and providing uniforms and clothing to children affected by fire in Mae Sot (2012).