Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category


Why kids in SE Asia need your support

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Why we are supporting Child’s Dream…

We both care about children – Chris works with vulnerable young people and children in crisis, Liz volunteered for a charity called Home Start which supports families with children under 5.  So we are both passionate about supporting children and their families, to give them the confidence, knowledge and belief that they can improve their situation or make changes in their lives.

Sustainability

We both want to work with a charity whose projects are sustainable… ‘give a man a fish and he can feed his family for a day, teach a man to fish and he can feed his family for a lifetime’. Child’s Dream goes one step further than that and works with the communities to find out what they need…is fishing the best option? Do you even want to fish? The projects provide infrastructure, community development and resources, building both sustainable school structures and lasting relationships with the villagers. The communities are actively involved and ultimately have ownership of the projects, with a vested interest in their survival.

Risks to children in Southeast Asia

In the UK we are very aware of the suffering of children in Africa and it’s easy to forget that there are other children in the world who live in equal poverty. South East Asia is one of the poorest places for a child to grow up. The risks children face include child trafficking, being force into the sex industry, forced resettlement or displacement, as well as a lack of basic healthcare and clean water, often living in families surviving on just a few dollars a day.

Despite the vast array of 24hr news channels and newspapers online, there is very limited coverage or reportage about this region and the lives of the people who live here. No one hears much about the lives of children living in Thailand, Loas, Cambodia, Burma or Vietnam. No one tells their stories.

Globalisation – cheap goods and cheap labour

Here in the UK we enjoy buying cheap products from linen shirts to DVD players that cost just £30, we expect to eat a wide variety of food all year round from king prawns to mangos.  What we forget or don’t know is that many of the foods and products that we want, come from South East Asia and the people who grow, produce and manufacture these things for the west, live in poverty. There is a human cost, if not a retail cost!

Whilst globalisation has benefited some, it has also led to a change in the way of life for many. With increased urbanisation and industrial development, people are under pressure to go to the cities to earn more money, moving away from their families and working and living under harsh conditions. As few are very well educated, the only option open to them is factory work, manufacturing items or processing food mostly for export. Even the governments in this region focus on the development of natural resources for export, not on the development of communities.

Surely we can’t just keep taking? Surely it’s time to give something back?

Education and a future

Education is key to the children in this region. Whilst some may consider the idea of Europeans arriving in countries and prescribing education as the answer, as arrogant or may argue that it undermines their way of life – subsistence farming and agriculture – we don’t believe this to be true or fair. Their way of life has already been undermined and changed forever by the impact of globalisation and urbanisation, by our demand for cheap goods and cheap labour, and their governments’ policies on trade and export. If farming is no longer a long term option, then education will give children a chance to learn skills and equip them with knowledge to understand the world they are growing up in. Education gives people choices, the children may have little in terms money, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have aspirations to grow up and do something interesting with their lives, or at the very least earn enough money to be able to support their families.

Education and a school environment also provides stability, where perhaps there is little elsewhere in their lives. It gives children self-esteem and self-belief, empowering them to learn and grow with confidence. School isn’t just about learning, it is a place to find  out who you are and what you can do, you may be musical or artistic, or good at sport, good with other children; a place where people listen to you and share with you.  Why should we deny any child access to education, everyone deserves the choice and the chance to become who they really are.

Child’s Dream are giving children and their families that choice.

To make a donation please visit:  http://childsdream.org/donate/ and let us know too so we can add you to our grand total.  We really value your support, thanks!

Why we are supporting Child’s Dream…

We both care about children – Chris works with vulnerable young people and children in crisis, Liz volunteers for a charity called Home Start which supports families with children under 5. So we are both passionate about supporting children and their families, to give them the confidence, knowledge and belief that they can improve their situation or make changes in their lives.

Sustainability

We both want to work with a charity whose projects are sustainable… ‘give a man a fish and he can feed his family for a day, teach a man to fish and he can feed his family for a lifetime’. Child’s Dream goes one step further than that and works with the communities to find out what they need…is fishing the best option? Do you even want to fish? The projects provide infrastructure, community development and resources, building both sustainable school structures and lasting relationships with the villagers. The communities are actively involved and ultimately have ownership of the projects, with a vested interest in their survival.

Risks to children in Southeast Asia

In the UK we are very aware of the suffering of children in Africa and it’s easy to forget that there are other children in the world who live in equal poverty. South East Asia is one of the poorest places for a child to grow up. The risks children face include child trafficking, being force into the sex industry, forced resettlement or displacement, as well as a lack of basic healthcare and clean water, often living in families surviving on just a few dollars a day.

Despite the vast array of 24hr news channels and newspapers online, there is very limited coverage or reportage about this region and the lives of the people who live here. No one hears much about the lives of children living in Thailand, Loas, Cambodia, Burma or Vietnam. No one tells their stories.

Globalisation – cheap goods and cheap labour

Here in the UK we enjoy buying cheap products from linen shirts to DVD players that cost just £30, we expect to eat a wide variety of food all year round from king prawns to mangos.  What we forget or don’t know is that many of the foods and products that we want, come from South East Asia and the people who grow, produce and manufacture these things for the west, live in poverty. There is a human cost, if not a retail cost!

Whilst globalisation has benefited some, it has also led to a change in the way of life for many. With increased urbanisation and industrial development, people are under pressure to go to the cities to earn more money, moving away from their families and working and living under harsh conditions. As few are very well educated, the only option open to them is factory work, manufacturing items or processing food mostly for export. Even the governments in this region focus on the development of natural resources for export, not on the development of communities.

Surely we can’t just keep taking? Surely it’s time to give something back?

Education and a future

Education is key to the children in this region. Whilst some may consider the idea of Europeans arriving in countries and prescribing education as the answer, as arrogant or may argue that it undermines their way of life – subsistence farming and agriculture – we don’t believe this to be true or fair. Their way of life has already been undermined and changed forever by the impact of globalisation and urbanisation, by our demand for cheap goods and cheap labour, and their governments’ policies on trade and export. If farming is no longer a long term option, then education will give children a chance to learn skills and equip them with knowledge to understand the world they are growing up in. Education gives people choices, the children may have little in terms money, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have aspirations to grow up and do something interesting with their lives, or at the very least earn enough money to be able to support their families.

Education and a school environment also provides stability, where perhaps there is little elsewhere in their lives. It gives children self-esteem and self-belief, empowering them to learn and grow with confidence. School isn’t just about learning, it is a place to find  out who you are and what you can do, you may be musical or artistic, or good at sport, good with other children; a place where people listen to you and share with you.  Why should we deny any child access to education, everyone deserves the choice and the chance to become who they really are.

Child’s Dream are giving children and their families that choice.

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25 things I love about cycle touring in Southeast Asia

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
  1. The power of a wave and a smile – the international language of friendship
  2. Seeing crazy scooter stuff like 5 people on a scooter, 10 year olds riding scooters, scooters piled high with stuff, scooters with crazy attachments, people riding along holding their helmets under their arm!! The list goes on…
  3. Finding you are no longer surprised at crazy scooter stuff after a while, in fact you come to expect it
  4. Friendly children, babies in slings tied onto their mothers, mothers working with kids in tow
  5. Learning new languages and connecting with people, finding you can ‘talk’.
  6. Finding yourself talking pidgin English, missing words out and using the present tense way too much
  7. Getting somewhere under you own steam and seeing buses pass you, sometimes the same bus several times over a few days
  8. Going to ‘tourist free’ places and meeting local people
  9. Seeing red chillies laid out on a mat, drying in the sun
  10. Being independent – backpackers are often at the mercy of buses, tuk tuks and boats, all weary on arrival
  11. Living cheaply and being self-sufficient
  12. Trusting people
  13. Traditional hill tribe women eating betel nuts that make their teeth and lips blood red as they chew
  14. Not knowing where you are going to sleep that night, but not worrying about it
  15. Trying different food and discovering just how much rice it is possible to eat in one day
  16. Fresh pineapple
  17. Cows with big floppy ears standing in the road, reluctant to move and slightly put out at you being there on their road
  18. Learning about the world, people, their stories, politics and culture
  19. Feeling you can do anything, go anywhere, trusting your instincts
  20. Nice feeling you get when you feel comfortable in a country and find you have relaxed
  21. Being in tune with the weather, reading the signs and being exposed to the elements
  22. Seeing giant golden buddha statues  and brightly coloured, pristine temples in the most unexpected places
  23. Beautiful, shiny green paddy fields
  24. Cycling for 5 hours a day = plenty of time and space to think
  25. Weight loss, need I say more?!

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Should humans ride elephants?

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Northern Thailand is awash with posters of elephants and happy smiling tourists sitting on top. Some ride bare back covered in mud, others are perched on comfy seats with umbrellas to shade them from the sun’s rays. Some of the cities have small or young elephants wandering the streets with their owner or handler (mahout), for a small fee you can feed the elephant and take a great picture for the photo album.

Elephant at Hua Hin Market

Elephant at Hua Hin Market

Recently in Thailand however, there has been quite a lot of media attention given to elephants, especially those that are worked in the cities. It is now illegal to bring an elephant into Bangkok, and in the smaller cities the practices is strongly discouraged or also outlawed.

chiang mai elephant poster

chiang mai elephant poster

The elephant sanctuary near Chiang Mai, elephant nature park, takes or buys old or unwanted elephants so they can rehabilitate them. They believe that most of the uses of elephants are either unnatural or cruel.

Whilst I agree that animals should be treated well and have good living conditions I was intrigued by some of their ideas. Not using elephants for logging or trekking? We ride horses and have used animals for centuries to aid humans in all manner of activities from transport and heavy lifting to communication.

Mahout and elephant crossing the road

Mahout and elephant crossing the road

My feelings were if the elephant was being treated well and had good living conditions it was not so bad. But how do you know if they are being treated well and who decides what is right and wrong? We all have our own ideas of what is good or bad, depending on our own feelings, most of which has been derived from our experiences of life, our culture and religion. Some of us eat pork/beef, some of us don’t, some of us eat meat and some don’t. Other believe animals testing is wrong others disagree. Are the needs of humans, whether it be medical, sustenance or pleasure higher than that of animals and if so do all animals count? This is not a black and white situation, remember depending on who you speak to and where they are in the world, you will get different answers.

elephant rides

elephant rides

The opportunity arose for me to go on an elephant ride. As we approached, two giant, foreboding yet majestic elephants towered above me. I longed to be able to experience something new and exciting. I asked some questions about the elephants welfare and got some answers, but really due to the language barrier I was still not sure or convinced this was a good idea for me or the elephant.

I decided to ponder my quandary over some noodle soup. I was of the opinion that elephant riding was OK so long as the elephants lives were OK. Not being on speaking terms with the elephants I was really never going to be sure, but I decided I would go for it. At least I could then comment from experience.

We returned back to the elephants, despite having made up my mind I had yet to convince myself completely. So I observed for a little longer while my brain was working over time trying to process all the spiralling thoughts . As I did this I observed one of the mahouts practising his Bruce Lee kung fu kicks to the elephant’s penis, while the other guy was hitting the elephant in the head with a hammer, which drew blood, in order to get it to do what he wanted. This was too much for me We use crops on horses and this apparently does not hurt too much, but the claw end of a hammer and blood?

My thoughts were running in spirals again. If it took this much to control an elephant, maybe it is not meant to be. An elephant could kill a human, as a human could kill an ant. Surely if it takes this much, it is not worth it, elephants are just too big to control in a ‘humane’ way. So we should let them be. Stick to horses, I am comfortable with that.

Since this experience I have been looking more closely at the elephant posters. Some claiming their elephants have a good life, they only work four hours a day. Others have pictures of people sitting bare back on the shoulders of the elephant, hammers in hand.

Now I don’t claim to be an expert on elephants and what is right and wrong. Maybe they have limited feeling in the head, but until I know more and perhaps have the time and money to see living conditions in more detail I am leaving the elephants for now. I am still intrigued but I don’t want my curiosity to be at the detriment of another animal.

Have you ridden an elephant if so where, how was it. Do you train, work or have experience working with elephants? What are your thoughts?

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Photo blog for August & September – part three

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Misty moody morning up in the hills whilst trekking

Sleeping snake spied whilst trekking

Hunter preparing freshly shot squirrel for the fire!

Ben and his wife, with Chok dee (dog). Chok dee means 'Lucky' - Ben rescued him as a puppy.

Me with Karen 'Long neck' lady in their village

Chris with Long-ear lady.

Me trying out the Long neck costume

Andrew taking an Elephant ride

These elephants are huge!

One the favourite things we see on the road, scooters with bits attached!

Local man walking along the road

Some of the kids work - animals that live in the jungle

Animals that live in the sea - results of our painting party, last ever lesson

More work on animals

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Photo blog for August & September – part two

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

A day spent wading through paperwork, transferring records onto computer, bringing Ben into the 21st century.

Us on our final evening of teaching with Ten and Ben.

Ben slicing a bamboo shoot, fresh from the farm

Salween River Restauarnt, Mae Hong Son - quite possibly our most favourite place to eat - great Thai food, amazing western breakfasts, burger, chicken breasts. Book swapping. Lovely staff, with ever such cute babies! Thanks to them also for supporting our charity with a donation!

View coming down the hill on a scooter

Me in a rather fetching scooter helmet!

Huge waterfall on the way up to Tomato , that we somehow manage to miss seeing despite passing it about 8 times! Got there in the end though.

Tea tasting in Ban Rak Tae.

Ban Rak Tae, Chinese/Taiwan village, nr Burmese Border where they grow and sell tea.

Me with B Class on last evening of teaching - pianting party

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