Projects

Special project located in border south of Thailand 2016-2017

A Kharma Family Project Run in cooperation with the Santisuk Special Force.

The South Thailand Insurgency is an ongoing conflict taking place in Thailand's southernmost provinces. It originally flared up in 1948, due to ethnic tensions and an ongoing separatist insurgency the three provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala. There are also occasional breakouts of violence in nearby Songkhla.

Though a longstanding insurgency with low-levels of separatist violence, the situation has worsened greatly since 2001 with outbreaks of terrorism carried out by various groups. As a result, many of the charities and other agencies have scaled back their activities for the safety of their staff. The fact that so few outsiders know what is happening in the region, has compounded problems and the violence and disruption to everyday life means the economy is in a poor state.

One of the major concerns of KFAM is that education attainment is very low and this is holding people back from improving their situation and finding solutions to go forward. Muslims in the border provinces generally have lower levels of educational attainment when compared to their Buddhist neighbors. 69.8% of the Muslim population in the border provinces only have a primary school education, compared to 49.6% of Buddhists in the same provinces. Only 9.20% of Muslims have completed their secondary education (including those who graduated from private Islamic schools), compared with 13.20% of Buddhists. Just 1.70% of the Muslim population has a bachelor's degree, while 9.70% of Buddhists hold undergraduate degrees.

We talked to six women’s groups in the three southern provinces this year (2015-2016). We found out that the reason why they don't consider education important for their children is because they don't understand why children need a formal education to begin with.

Government schools teach their classes in the Thai language which alienates some learners. What's more, this secular educational system is being undermined by the destruction of local schools and the murders of teachers by the insurgent groups.

In these regions unemployment is very high. There are few job opportunities which is why people cross the border to Malaysia, where there are more jobs and a higher per capita income. Many of these cross-border workers end up working in rubber plantations or in the hospitality trade in restaurants. of course, due to the insurgency and terrorist attacks, there is no real hospitality industry left in southern Thailand as tourist tend to keep clear.

The people living in this region suffer on a daily basis from:

  • Large numbers of people living below the poverty line
  • Few employment opportunities
  • Lack of formal education
  • A society divided on ethnic lines
  • No NGOs or agencies on hand to assist
  • Negative attitude, nobody expects the situation to improve
  • Lack of communication between factions
  • A constant threat of violence or attack
  • Family members including children killed in the violence
  • School teachers being attacked or murdered
  • Soldiers coming under attack or being murdered by insurgents

Any one of these problems would cause a problem for a community. But for the people of the south, this is everyday life. This is why KFAM has gone into the region. We want to help people in places where the other agencies have pulled out. So we've spent time there, listening to people's problems and issues to ascertain exactly what help is needed. We want the people to make better lives for themselves without having to rely on government help.

Due to recent worldwide events, the conflict in southern Thailand is often seen as being the result of Islamic extremists. And this has made it hard to bring in international agencies or aid. And while it is true that there is an increasing religious element in the conflict, here at KFAM we believe in looking beyond this and putting the people first, whatever their beliefs. We see their suffering primarily and want to help. We believe that by helping society in the south, we can better break down barriers and help them to live side by side and resolve their conflicts.
Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala have a lot of problems so KFAM has to be selective in trying to address them and choose projects that benefit society as a whole.

This is why we focus mainly on children and their community. By fostering a feeling of community in people when they are young, we aim to build bonds and bring people closer in the long term. We also want to improve their quality of life in the short term too. We want to motivate young people and teach parents that a formal education for their children is vital. We aim to break down barriers of mistrust between community and the military as a way of stopping the violence.

We believe if we can reduce hate, then people can start to build a better future for themselves. This is why we bring in help from the outside, to those who need it most.

Over the last two years (2014-2015) of this special project, we researched a total of 20 schools and six women's groups to better understand what, where, and how should we help.

2014: we helped four schools, which benefited directly more than 1,000 young learners and their families. The fantastic results of the project amazed everyone, including us.

2015-2016: we are trying to help eight groups in total: four schools, one women's group and three groups of children from other schools. We are confident we surpass even the great results we had last year. We have challenged ourselves and now we just need your help to meet this challenge.

This project is very special because it will positively impact many lives. Due to the tireless work and dedication of our volunteers we have been able to cut our costs to zero in some areas. This includes:

  • Transportation
  • Construction labor
  • Volunteers
  • Shipping
  • Research

The money we have saved in these areas can go directly to the children.

Construction will be done by the military: the Santisuk Special Unit, local villagers and our team. Transportation is supported by Santisuk Special Unit who are directly responsible for looking after schools and communities in the area. Our volunteers are expected to fund all expenses themselves and we can give no financial support for our volunteers. They will also be expected to contribute to food and supplies for the working teams whilst we are onsite.

Our annual projects will change each year depending on where we believe we can have the greatest impact; we want to help those most in need.

This is why we'll be focusing on the southern regions for the foreseeable future. This is an area that has extreme poverty and educational problems. We believe too many innocent lives are being lost and want to help as much as we can.

Let us take this chance to thank the Santisuk Special Unit for supporting this project and making a huge effort to ensure our safety when we are in the region. We also want to thank the family members of KFAM who work so hard and give their time and hard work for free. And thank you to all of our sponsors and volunteers. Without your help, we wouldn't be able to get this project off the ground and make a difference in people's lives.

After all, helping people is what KFAM is all about. So let's really go for it this year. More than 800 people are waiting for the chance to transform their lives with our help. Let's not let them down.

Special project located in border south of Thailand 2015-2016

A Kharma Family Project Run in cooperation with the Santisuk Special Force.

In order to reach our goals, we listened to what the problems are within the community and asked what is needed. We can then focus on these four main categories.

A: Construction: toilets, dorms, classrooms, kitchen etc. What comes first depends on what is needed most.
B: Collecting learning tools for schools: study materials, sporting equipment, book corner for kids, etc.
C: Essential items for kids: books, stationeries, underwear, bras, towels, pillows, toothbrush, detergent, soaps, etc.
D: Group activities: group construction of the site followed by a big cleaning day, a sports day and ongoing, career advice and training. How this process works depends on what is needed in each area.

A, B and C are clearly practical issues in which we need direct help and sponsors to provide materials. However, we think D and the activities are vital for winning hearts and minds.

But first we need volunteers who are willing to go into the community and work with the locals. We have to educate and demonstrate a better way of life for them. Without dedicated volunteers on site, this project will not be effective in the longer term.

Over the last two years (2014-2015) of this special project, we researched a total of 20 schools and six women's groups to better understand what, where, and how should we help.

2014: we helped four schools, which benefited directly more than 1,000 young learners and their families. The fantastic results of the project amazed everyone, including us.

2015: we are trying to help eight groups in total: four schools, one women's group and three groups of children from other schools. We are confident we will even surpass the great results we had last year. We have challenged ourselves and now we just need your help to meet this challenge.

2016
In cooperation with the Santisuk Special Task force, we will be building on the work of 2015 by helping build facilities for the Tadika school including partitions and windows in current buildings. We also plan to provide new facilities for classrooms and help in other nearby schools with educational games and activities.

Measuring the success of our 2014-2015 project

Following our project in the southern border regions of Thailand in 2014, we quickly noticed an improvement in the quality of life for people in the area. This was the result of the construction of four schools, one girl’s dorm, one boy’s dorm, one bathroom (with three toilets inside), one classroom and one playground. These buildings should last for at least the next 15 years and provide the necessary shelter, amenities and tools children need in order to improve academically as well as to live a better life. The new dorm has provided the children with clean, safe accommodations, and they now have proper toilets and a proper classroom for their studies.

We also provided the children with a reading corner filled with books and board games, so that they can play and learn together and foster positive relationships, and use their time wisely to learn. This has helped with their education and study. We found that by listening to what the children had to say we boosted their confidence and sense of self. This is an important part of supporting their growth as valued members of their community. A confident community is more likely to flourish.

Part of the 2014 project included the donation of several pieces of sporting equipment which proved to be very popular with all of the local children. They started games of volleyball and football immediately after receiving the sporting goods.

Our supplies of towels were also met with great enthusiasm which humbled many of the volunteers who were reminded that, in such areas of poverty and conflict, even a small amenity like a towel is considered a luxury; the children had previously been using simple sarongs to wipe themselves clean.

Looking back, we now know that the kids were scared of us, not knowing who we were or what our intentions were. For most children there, it was the first time they had ever met foreigners. But once we started introducing ourselves and participating in activities with them, it didn’t take long for all of us to bond. The kids were interested in who we were, and curious to find out how they too could help others as we were helping them. They asked us about what they should study, and told us that they wanted to learn English in order to be able to communicate with us better.

Villagers and military volunteers helped with the construction; working alongside such a motivated group of people was a meaningful experience for us all. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, we shared laughter and smiles. Everyone knew that we were all in this for the same purpose - to help enrich the quality of life of those who needed it most. Food was provided by our team of military volunteers, who joined forces with the ladies of the village. There was a language barrier to begin with but, once the women knew that our male volunteers didn’t mind helping with kitchen work, everybody started to work together and the women went from being scared of talking to our volunteers to asking for help. They loved getting the men to help carry heavy pots and cook vegetables, and what started as a quiet kitchen turned into a lively team cooking and laughing together.

Many kids and villagers told us that what they enjoyed the most about our visit was the fact that we spent time conversing and eating together. Most of the children have had to make their own lunch since they were 12 years old; their parents work in Malaysia and don’t have time to cook for them, let alone eat with them. This is also why so many kids live at school, because living at home would mean living alone. As simple as our lunch may have been, it brought the whole community together. We all know the joy that comes from eating with our loved ones, but we couldn’t have anticipated how much it meant to them. It made us realize how many things that we hold dear are in fact the things that these children have been deprived of.

Since 2014, none of the schools we’ve built have been attacked and, more importantly, none of the children or teachers in the community have been threatened by insurgents. There has also been more dialogue with the military, allowing for a stronger relationship to be forged. Previously, women and children were afraid to talk to soldiers because of anti-military propaganda, likely produced by terrorists. The villagers told us that they had never imagined outsiders would care so much about their wellbeing, and that they were very thankful to the soldiers for taking us there. They said they could see their community becoming stronger and their children doing better in school.

During one of our research trips in mid-May 2015, we went back to check on one of the schools we had helped, since there had been more than 30 bomb attacks in the area during the previous weeks. However our school had not been targeted and the children were thriving.

The success of our project came from hard work and forward planning, but even then we faced many obstacles along the way, including things beyond our control. For this project, we spent a year researching the villagers, their living conditions and how we could help them, two months gathering the funds needed to make everything happen, two more months constructing schools, and another week arranging activities in the village in order to create a positive impact for everyone.

There were a range of cultural problems we faced while trying to reach our goals. We had several issues with the head of the private religious school. Initially we were assured that the religious teachers had no problem with the children doing activities and playing sports with us, as long as the boys and girls didn’t touch each other. He also agreed that military volunteers could enter the women’s area, in order to carry out repairs in the girls’ dorm. We agreed that the boys and girls would sit separately and that, even during activities, we would make sure that the boys and girls didn’t have any physical contact. However once the games had started, teachers from the school sent word that activities such as singing and dancing had to stop and that the children were only allowed to sit, and had to do so without smiling. The children were worried about being punished after we had left so we had to curtail our activities.

There were also problems when it came to construction, with many local men refusing to help out while being willing to take handouts and donations. We had to get across the message that this was a community project, so we needed the full help of the local people to work towards bettering the lives of local children. Most of the local women and children appreciated we were there to help but unless we are able to involve more local men in the future, we will face problems meeting our goals and engaging communities. Without the men’s help, we’ll be reliant on the military to bring in donated goods and help with the construction projects.

It was clear to us that the people in this region are in desperate need of our help. This is exactly why we would like to continue to work even harder in the region, in order to reach more people. We want to let them know that they’re not alone in their struggles and that we will help them as best as we can. The results of our efforts will also play a huge part in helping us determine which projects are best for us to support in 2016.

We can’t stress enough the importance of being aware that the South Thailand Insurgency is an ongoing conflict. The situation has worsened greatly with outbreaks of terrorism carried out by various groups. Bombings have intensified and innocent lives have been lost. People live in dilapidated houses without proper clothing, food and other amenities that everyone should have access to. What’s more, the fact that many of the charities and agencies have scaled back their activities for the safety of their staff means that few outsiders know what is happening in the region. Everyday, people face violence and chaos that crushes their spirit and sinks the regional economy even further. If we don’t help them, then who will?

We interviewed four girls in the village to see what they had to say about our schemes:

Fahmesabela Torloh: I know we are no longer the most needy school, but I really dream about Kharma Family coming back to see us again. Please come back. I’m studying hard and I want to get a good education and go to university. I know we’ll meet again someday.

Nawal Yeekaseng: I really enjoyed the activities we’ve done together. There has never been a thing like this before. What I like the most is the fact that we all could sleep better. But we girls can’t help but feel a bit jealous of the great boys’ dormitory that you built. But every time we feel jealous, we remind ourselves that we’re lucky to be sleeping on the comfy mattresses. We’re so thankful.

Mariyam Daleng: I would love for you to come visit us often. Most of all, I enjoyed all the activities we did together. We love all the stuff you have given us, especially the study materials, but we loved the activities even more! We never could have imagined that there was someone out there who really cares about us.

Sitifatimih Leunartae: I love the study materials and volleyballs. When we played volleyball together, it felt amazing. I remember you also gave us badminton racquets - but the girls never got a chance to play with them, as I’m pretty sure the boys broke them. Next year we will also have a badminton class, and we all have to have our own racquet. It would be great if you can come again so that we can all play badminton together.