The Bamboo Children’s Home is located inside the Umpiem Mai Refugee Camp. Through the Home, Mae Tao Clinic helps take care of children that arrive at the Camp unaccompanied.
Bamboo Children’s Home (BCH)
The Bamboo Children’s Home is located inside the Umpiem Mai Refugee Camp. MTC has been part of the Coordinating Team for Displaced Children’s Education (CTDCE), through which MTC has supported the Food Programme for Boarding Houses. Activities include securing food supplies for boarding facilities, developing child protection policies, standards of care for boarding facilities and offering training on child rights issues.
Given the capacity limits of the Bamboo Children’s Home, the number of children living in this boarding house has not increased as dramatically as in the migrant school area.
MTC has responded not only to the needs of the children living on the Thai side of the border, but also to those of the children living inside Burma. At MTC’s civil clinics in Sah Khan Tit and Cho Gali, the staff often saw children who had been orphaned by war or illness, and thus, health workers and teachers often ended up caring for these children, with the clinic also functioning as a boarding facility. When these clinics were attacked and evacuated in 1997, 10-20 children from each clinic were brought to Thailand under the continued care of the staff. The children spent a brief period at MTC, and were then moved to Kway Kaloke refugee camp where they were cared for by MTC staff in the Bamboo Children’s Home (BCH). BCH has since been moved to Umpiem refugee camp, but continues to be supported by MTC.
BCH began with 3 staff members and 49 children; by 2008, there were 16 staff members, and 154 children from various ethnic groups. The boarding house continues to see an increase in the number of unaccompanied adolescents coming from Burma in order to access education beyond the primary level. Each year, many children complete their studies and leave the BCH to pursue their chosen careers; some examples have included those working as medics, as administrators at MTC, or as teachers at the CDC.
Like so many boarding facilities, BCH struggles with enforcing rules among its students. When a student breaks policy, showing little interest in education and failing tests, the policy is to remove them from the boarding house, making room for another student that would greatly benefit from the support and access to education. This is always difficult, as the children often have no parents and nowhere else to go.
For the students who have one or more living parents, BCH tries to arrange monthly visitations, allowing parents to see their children as well as meet with the BCH staff and discuss any concerns they may have. Although these students are fortunate to meet with their family members, it is still incredibly difficult on their emotional and mental health. This is a recognised problem and BCH works hard to provide strong psychosocial support to all of its students.