“All children should have the opportunity to live in their familiar surroundings and village settings. Our goal is to optimize their health, increase their educational options, and empower them with knowledge for the future where they feel most safe.” Co-founder Rita Holm Gustafsson
Despite economic growth in Thailand, disadvantaged children and women still face enormous challenges and particularly those living in remote areas who have little access to education and health.
Among the most marginalised and vulnerable,are children of ethnic minorities, migrants, people who live in remote border areas and those who lack nationality due to lack of birth registration. For children and women, being stateless can leave them at risk of violence, exploitation, abuse and HIV infection. Unable to work legally, many end up in sex work, illicit drug selling and begging.
The high incidence of HIV/AIDS in Thailand has also led to large numbers of orphaned children. Orphaned or marginalised, many highly motivated children who wish to continue their education are prevented by poverty and lack of opportunity, since minority schools do not always receive sufficient state funds.
Kids Ark Foundation works to provide access to education and life-skills and break the cycle of poverty for disadvantaged children in northwest Thailand, some of whom are from ethnic minorities. These former nomads are often unaware of their rights and have difficulties advocating for themselves. They lack access to basic social services and opportunities for skills development and risk-free income-generation. Children often dropout of school to help in the fields and girls are married early.
The Foundation has three main strands of work:
- EDUCATION – The House of Hope programme which supports vulnerable children through after-school and early education programmes
- SPONSORSHIP – Child sponsorship linked to education
- SAFE WORK FOR WOMEN – Assistance to families, communities and women in particular through income-generating activities that foster sustainable development
- Around 500 children are currently enrolled in House of Hope and early childhood programmes
- Since 2000 over 100 children have benefited from higher education
- Through the child sponsorship programme an additional 500 children have received support to finish 9-year compulsory schooling.
- Over 1000 children have benefited from a nourishing school lunch
- Villagers have become more aware of their rights in particular in regard to obtaining a Thai national identity card.
- The Ban Pong Hi village day care centre in Mae Ai district which provides food and care for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, built in 2001; the day care centre in the village school of Baan Jalor and House of Hope 2 in the severely impoverished village of Banphakwee on the Thai-Burmese border have all been successfully transferred to local Thai authorities.