“When I was around 4 years old, my parents decided to move to Thailand. The migrant learning centre my brother and I attended provides education up to grade 5. As we grew up my parents needed to find another school where we can continue studying. When our application was accepted, I was happy and excited but in the meantime I was deeply saddened because…”

My name is Aye[1] and I am 14 years old.  I am originally from Karen State[2], Burma. I have one older brother who together with me lives at the Social Action for Children and Women (SAW) boarding house[3] and attend SAW migrant learning centre (MLC).

When I was around 4 years old, my parents decided to move to Thailand in search of more job opportunities. They settled in Phop Phra area [4], working as tenant farmers. My brother and I attended one of the migrant learning centres[5] in that area that provides education up to grade 5. After grade 5, my parents searched for other MLCs for us to have access to education. In 2017, they found an MLC and its affiliated boarding house located in Mae Sot[6] and our application was accepted. When I look back at that time I have a mixed feeling: I was half sad and half happy. I was happy and excited that I was able to continue attending school while I was deeply saddened as my mother passed away due to cancer that she had been suffering for ages.

Living in the Boarding House

SAW boarding house

I like living in the boarding house not only because I feel safe here but also I have access to school. I don’t feel lonely here as I have many friends living together and my brother is always there. We, as a team, are assigned duties at the boarding house, such as cooking or cleaning, etc. I have learned a lot from these duties and I’ve built up some confidence: now I can cook chicken and fish curry well. I’ve also learned how I take care of myself. I cannot find any challenges while living in a boarding house.

A space for a boarding house student

My School

I am in grade 7 at SAW Migrant Learning Centre, and my brother is in grade 10.  I particularly like Mathematics and Burmese language amongst subjects at school. I like Mathematics because I think it is very practical and helpful in our life. The Burmese language is an easy subject for me compared to other subjects, that’s why I like it. Apart from the school programme, I like playing tennis after school.

My Dream

Sewing machines at the boarding house

I want to be a professional tailor. We have sewing machines at the boarding house and I like making clothes. I think it is a good career path and if I become a good tailor I would be able to make a good income.

Thank you for the generous support. Your food support helps migrant children living in boarding houses like me to keep on studying without fear of hunger and child labor.

Children enjoying the meal provided though the Dry Food Programme

(We conduct interviews with our students in accordance with the MTC Child Protection Policy. Interviews are conducted by our responsible Child Protection staff who are trained.)

Child Protection staff interviewing our student

Meet More Students here

Poor economic conditions and the lack of educational facilities are forcing students to leave their hometowns in Burma, and seek education and protection along the Thai-Burma border. Boarding houses ensure children access to education and protection. The Dry Food Programme provides food rations to 1,952 children and staff at 23 boarding houses in migrant communities (Thailand) and 15 boarding houses in IDP areas (Burma) managed by the Karen Women Organisation (KWO). The programme provides boarding house children with basic food provisions every month. Children living in the boarding house are protected from child labour and trafficking.

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[1] For student’s privacy, we used an alias.

[2] Karen State is a state of Burma. It is bordered by Thailand to the east. Majority of refugees and migrants along the Thai-Burma border are from Karen State.

[3] Social Action for Women (SAW) was founded in June 25, 2000 to assist displaced women from Burma who are in crisis situations after having fled to Mae Sod, Thailand. SAW is based in Mae Sod and was established to support women facing difficulties through the provision of shelter, health education, rights awareness, counseling, and vocational training for unskilled women. SAW has expanded its focus population to include caring for and educating orphaned children and children of migrant parents. (SAW Foundation official website: https://sawfoundation.org/about/)

[4] Phop Phra is a district in the southwestern part of Tak Province, western Thailand. [Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phop_Phra_District]

[5] Migrant Learning Centre (MLC): Migrant learning centres were established to give all migrant children access to quality education that is relevant and useful to them. Thanks to the support of donors and NGOs, most migrant learning centres around Mae Sot have come a long way from the early days when people ran classrooms out of bamboo huts and shops. [BMWEC website: http://www.bmwec.org/background/]

[6] Mae Sot is a city in western Thailand that shares a border with Burma to the west. It is notable as a trade hub and for its substantial population of Burmese migrants and refugees. Mae Tao Clinic is located in Mae Sot [Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Sot]