Feature: DEPDC, Combatting Human Trafficking with Education in Mae Sai, Thailand

March 1st, 2007

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See Related Posts from the Field:
Human Trafficking: MRICRH
Human Trafficking: DEPDC
From Senjai, a Tale of Trafficking

Founded by Sompop Jankatra, who is now working to develop sister organizations in more vulnerable communities throughout the Mekong region, the Development and Education Program for Daughters and Communities Center (DEPDC) is a Thai NGO providing housing and education for youth at risk of being trafficked. (at left: Jankatra gives a lecture on trafficking)

Recruitment is made through community networks, largely in hill the surrounding hill tribe communities where lack of Thai citizenship increases poverty and vulnerability. Most children attend a half-day school on the DEPDC campus while some, mostly girls, live on the campus and attend nearby public schools–which is not free.

The University of Wisconsin, Steven’s Point, happened to have a winter break bridge-building program where a dozen art department students spent roughly ten days teaching classes at DEPDC and touring the countryside including some of the Akha hill tribe villages DEPDC recruits from. In its second year, the program is now trying to raise funds to provide four DEPDC students with American college educations free of charge. They have already negotiated the immigration barriers for the chosen girls who have no identifying papers or official nationality and are left with raising close to $170,000 by the fall of 2007 to send these students to UWSP. (at right: UWSP students are guests on the DEPDC radio station)

In the town of Senjai, which only received electricity five years ago, is a woman named Ayee. Trafficked as a young girl by a German, she returned to Thailand months later to find her sister Booka living and studying at DEPDC where her risk of being trafficked like Ayee was minimized. Soon Ayee moved to the DEPDCfacility where she learned how to cope with her experience; today as a woman in her mid-thirties she is an advocate for women’s and children’s rights works in her 50,000 person municipality to end human trafficking. In spite of today’s awareness, says Ayee, 40 to 50 children were trafficked from her municipality in 2006. (at right: Ayee at right, sister Booka, and nephew Nalin)

In Mae Sai, where the main DEPDC campus resides, is an OTOP store where Soo Lang, a past resident and student of DEPDC, works as a buyer and retail sales person. The OTOP network buys and sells traditional hill tribe garments and accessories. Soo Lang credits Sompop Jankatra and DEPDC for helping her find a well-paying profession. (at left: Soo Lang at work)

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