Kids Ark was founded in 2000 by Allan Gustafsson and Rita Holm Gustafsson. The idea was born out of their time spent as volunteers at Chiang Mai Vienping Childrens Home, a government orphanage in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.
There they witnessed up close the plight of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, reduced to poverty and vulnerable to exploitation. They drew on their joint experience – Rita had worked for HIV/AIDS service organization for Noah’s Ark and Allan was a retired economist – to create Kids Ark.
They began with a child sponsorship programme with 53 children from the orphanage. Their objective was to help these children stay with their extended families while attending school. Keeping children in familiar surroundings with their extended families, instead of in institutions, is now the hallmark of Kids Ark and draws on a local culture where orphaned children are often cared for by relatives, however poor.
Over time Kids Ark has broadened the scope of its projects establishing the House of Hope and Early Childhood programme, child sponsorship and income-generation schemes.
It counts among its success stories so far:
2001 A day care centre in Ban Pong Hi village in Mae Ai district, which provides care and food for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. It was taken over by local authorities in 2006.
2001 Two dormitories and housing for teachers built in Ban Wa Na Luang village, in Maehongson province, so children with long and dangerous routes to school have somewhere to stay on weekly or term basis.
2001 Two toilets were built in the Ban Pong Hi village school
2006 A training center for teaching traditional crafts built in Ban Pong Hi village.
2006 House of Hope 1 after-school programme established in the poverty-stricken San Sai district of Chiang Mai in close collaboration with Jiratiwat Auppatham School.
2006 A project to assist the ethnic minority Lahu people helped them form an organization to obtain Thai ID cards and/or citizenship.
2006-2008 A two-year Reproductive Health project funded visits by instructors to remote villages to provide information in local languages on sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.
2008 House of Hope 2 established in the severely impoverished village of Banphakwee on the Thai-Burmese border. Local authorities took over in 2013.
2010 House of Hope 3 established at the Maekaetnoi School in the San Sai District of Chiang Mai.
2011 A day care center started in the village of Baan Jalor.
2011 An agricultural project started by the Baan Huay Poo School in Thaton with assistance from Kids Ark where children learn about sustainable agriculture and grow their own vegetables.
2012 A traditional herb garden planted in Bang Pong Hi to teach children and villagers how to use local herbs as food and medicine
2013-2014 The Young Mother and Young Man Project started in the village of Baan Jalor to teach literacy, health and reproductive education and life skills.
2014 House of Hope 4 established in Baan Pakawai village, Fang district. It was moved to Baan Huay Poo village in 2015
2015 A day care center opened in Ban HoyMoungNai village, Mae Ai district.
2016 A pilot skills development project for women was started in Ban Hoymungnai .