Objectives

* To remove barriers to children’s access to education
* To improve the knowledge, health, education and social skills of students
* To provide a safe living environment so that children can attend school
* To protect children from abuse, trafficking and forced recruitment

Target

* Capacity for 50 children at a single time; ages 5-18
* Children whose parents live in conflict affected regions in Burma; children whose parents are migrant workers in areas where education is inaccessible

SAW started the Boarding House in 2005, at the same time that the SAW school was established. SAW already had the Safe House and the Children Crisis Center. Both these shelters were established to address needs of children who had very particular experiences: the Safe House is especially for orphans and the CCC is especially for children who are the survivors of various kinds of abuse and violence. The Boarding House is targeted specifically at Burmese children who cannot access proper education in their places of origin and for children living in Mae Sot who need a secure base from where to attend school.

The Thailand Burma Border Consortium estimates that there are nearly half a million internally displaced villagers in Eastern Burma, the result of ongoing conflict and forced relation. It also estimates that nearly 40% of the population in Eastern Burma is under 15 years old. Children live in complex and insecure conditions and are unable to access education, in addition to being at constant risk of forced labor and forced recruitment into government or ethnic armies. To protect their children, parents will try to send them to areas, such as Mae Sot, that are more secure and where education is more readily accessible. With their parents in Burma, these children need a safe and supportive environment to live in and schools to go to. SAW provides this.

Estimates indicate that there are over 2 million Burmese refugees and migrants residing in the Thai-Burma border region. An estimated 150,000 migrant workers are living in the Mae Sot area. 20 per cent of these are school age children between the ages of 5 and 18, and only 26 per cent have access to education regularly. Parents who come to Thailand as migrant workers often experience unstable working conditions and they often have to move from one job location to another. Some workplaces will only allow children to stay with their parents up until the age of 10 or 11. After that, the children are expected to start working. This is not a stable or safe living condition for children. Parents who want their children to be able to have a future different to their own often seek out SAW’s services. If these children were to remain in their parents’ work places, the chances that they would begin working and not get a chance to receive an education are very high. Additionally, the living conditions and the availability of education services in these areas are limited, at best, and non-existent at worst. The Boarding House also offers children from these families a safe and stable home and access to a good quality and supportive learning environment.

In addition to covering all essential needs (food, shelter, daily care), the Boarding House also provides all the children with school uniforms and school stationary. Every child also receives a monthly medical checkup and a daily nutritional checkup. Children at the Boarding House attend the SAW school and in addition to this, outside tutors are hired to support the children with their homework at the daily “night study” time.

Two full time staff live at the Boarding House and care for the children. Some of the older children also help with taking care of the younger ones; in the same way older siblings look after younger siblings. For the older children who are interested, workshops on psychosocial issues are offered, making them better able to support the other children and identify children suffering from psychosocial problems resulting from previous traumas. In such cases, the children are referred to SAW’s trained mental health personnel. SAW facilitates weekly meetings at the Boarding House for all the children to participate in. Challenges are discussed and everyone brainstorms and shares opinions for how to solve any problems. SAW’s intention is to build the capacity of the children to solve their own problems, to work together in achieving this, and to help them to create a strong and safe community among themselves. SAW’s priority is to ensure that the children are well, happy and thriving.

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