Children and families from the poorest regions of Thailand as well as neighbouring countries of the Mekong Region, migrate to Pattaya in search of employment.
Many of the parents make a living by collecting anything from garbage cans which can be sold for recycling. Some are daily labourers. Many women work in the bars as prostitutes. There may be violence in the family, often parents are separated and children are left unsupervised. The environment of Pattaya city can have a severely detrimental effect upon children, since it has many entertainment places related to sex tourism, pornography and child trafficking. Apart from having no social rights, children are deceived by exploiters and fall victim to trafficking, sexual abuse and child labour.
Sister Michelle Lopez and Khun Lampa Watanasunthorn established the Fountain of Life Children’s Center, in 1998. Today it is a NGO working in Pattaya for disadvantaged children and their families. The aim of the project is to provide a healthy environment for children aged 3 to 14. The children have never been to school, are at risk of drug and alcohol abuse and violence. Children without adult supervision and in danger of being trafficked or caught into the sex industry.
Focus on health, nutrition, hygiene and dental care. The children receive two meals a day and a snack before going home.
Regular contact with the parents and guardians of the children.
The teachers follow the syllabus that is used in the government schools
The children are grouped according to the age and ability.
Learning life’s skills is important – as most of the children live in environments with high risk.
These skills include making handicrafts which are marketable and the children are paid for what they produce.
The children are taught the meaning and the importance of religion and culture.
Children are taught to save their money in the Credit Union. Though the amount is small it is important to the children.
There are regular meetings for Parents and Guardians of the children to help them be aware of Human Rights, the Rights of Children, Family laws and the Law of the country and the importance of education for their children.
Counselling services are provided for families needing help.
Many of the children are undocumented. Some were born in Thailand but were never registered, and many have been trafficked into Thailand from neighbouring countries.
The centre has an attendance of 100 to 120 daily, with about equal numbers of girls and boys.
The number of ex-students who are in different schools and work places – are visited by staff regularly, and there is a meeting of former students every year, approximately 250 to 300 students come with their parents.
‘One person is of more value than the whole world’ – from the teaching of the Foundress of the Sisters, St Mary Euphrasia.
Staff, volunteers, friends and visitors know this beautiful concept. It is also explained to the children who grow to understand that it is their responsibility to help and protect each other. Even the Motor Cycle Taxi drivers in the city, who have little education and a low paid job, know that FOL (Fountain of Life) is ready to help the needy and those with problems. Many times when when a newcomer is asked how they knew about FOL, they say that the Motor Cycle taxi man told them about the place and brought them to FOL.
Good Shepherd Sisters, lay partners and staff.
FOL has been registered as a Foundation. It provides social security to all its staff members.
FOL found that if the children have access to education, which is appropriate to their situation in life, they will be less likely to become victims of abuse and violence.
The majority of the children go to Government Schools for Primary and Secondary education and a small number go on to University.
FOL holds a meeting for all former students every year and many come to visit regularly.
Some past students have graduated from university. They are now working as lawyers, physiotherapists, teachers, assistant-teachers.
Many have started income generating businesses such as selling food, motor-mechanics.
Boys prefer to do engineering.
The government get more than 70% of their information regarding trafficking and child abuse from FOL.
FOL Staff are resource people.
In January 2013 FOL received the “Good Citizen’s Award” from the Thai Government Social Welfare Department for its excellent services.
The work with the children has been incorporated as a national agenda with supportive laws. Under this development FOL has been chosen to recommend and propose policies on children’s development at Provincial and National level.
To ensure that its objective is maintained:
Regular staff training sessions
Ongoing training for staff
Exposures for the children and staff
Yearly evaluation by external professionals.
Education for children and parents.
Teaching marketable skills and how to earn and save.
Health, hygiene, dental care and nutrition are important components in our centre. Health education is given to children and parents.
Good Health & Wellbeing
FOL encourages pre and post natal care for pregnant mothers.
FOL gives sex-education suitable to the age of the children. Older children are taught about HIV/AIDS e.g. how the virus is contracted, how to avoid this and how to protect oneself.
Parents are also given this information
All the children in FOL are given the opportunity to further their education to the level they are capable of. Assistance is given when necessary.
This is promoted in FOL and in any gatherings, meetings, discussions where FOL staff are present.
FOL encourages girls not to marry at a young age.
With additional resources, FOL would like to implement the following:
(1) Employ more people who are professionally trained
(2) Update teaching equipment
(3) Getting documentation for children will prevent them from exploitation.
(4) Continue to get the participation of all concerned: parents, guardians, motor-cycle-taxi-drivers, police,
bar owners, NGOs and GOs, schools.
(5) Get the different religions involved in this project.