In Thailand's Northern Region
Geography & Climate
- Thailand is the geographical heart of southeastern Asia, occupying the western half of the Indochinese peninsula and the northern two-thirds of the Malay Peninsula.
- Its neighbors are Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.
- At 198,120 square miles, Thailand is roughly the size of France and slightly more than twice the size of Wyoming.
- Thailand contains six geographical regions, based on natural features, basic resources, as well as human cultural patterns.
- Thailand can be extremely hot and soggy, with high temperatures, high humidity and substantial rainfall.
- Its tropical climate is divided into three seasons: cool in November to February, hot in March to May and rainy in June to October.
- Nationwide, temperatures normally range from an average annual high of 100.4 degrees to a low of 66.2 degrees.
Thailand is the second-largest economy in southeastern Asia, after Indonesia.
Primary industries include automobile manufacturing, financial services, electronic appliances and tourism.
The country’s unemployment rate is very low (0.7 percent) due to a large proportion of population working in subsistence agriculture or in other vulnerable employment.
The population living below poverty is 13.2 percent.
The child labor (ages 5-14) rate is 8 percent.
Children at Home
Homes in Thailand’s northern villages are made of bamboo, with thatched or corrugated tin roofs.
These dwellings typically have one common room that serves as the living, sleeping and cooking area for a family of four or five members.
Unlike homes in remote villages, these often have access to electricity and a water supply.
Issues and Concerns
- The primary livelihood of people in the north is agriculture. Families grow rice, beans, cabbage and other items for their own consumption or to sell. Some families raise and sell pigs or chickens.
- This backbreaking work provides the equivalent of only $50 to $80 per month.
- Some adults find work on larger farms in the region, earning about $3 per day.
- A major problem for northern tribal people is the lack of recognized citizenship. Often, the birth of a child goes unrecorded.
- The children of refugees are considered noncitizens by the Thai government. The rights of noncitizens are severely restricted. They cannot, for instance, own property or travel out of their village without government permission.
- Few services, such as access to safe water and electricity, are available in the hill villages.
- Along the border, children face ongoing danger from armed conflict between the Myanmar government and rebelling tribes.
Local Needs and Challenges
In northern Thailand, Compassion ministers to children who live in city slums as well as to children living in remote mountain villages. Children in the slums suffer in deplorable conditions and are vulnerable to substance abuse, child labor and sexual exploitation.
In the mountain villages, children, typically from marginalized tribal groups, are not considered Thai citizens. They are treated like undesirables and are often denied access to school.
Schools and Education
- The school year in the northern region has two terms: May to October and November to March.
- Schools in the remote northern areas are poorly equipped, typically providing education only through the sixth grade.
- For children to continue their education, they must move to one of the northern cities, such as Chiang Mai. But since most poor families cannot afford this, children usually end up working in the fields with their parents instead of completing their education.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Church-based child development centers bridge the education gap for children in northern Thailand with Compassion’s targeted curriculum.
On days there is no teacher at the local government school, the center staff provides lessons. This way, children can enjoy learning without major schedule disruptions.
Some centers also provide hands-on skills training that can lead to future jobs. These programs teach children how to be electricians and mechanics, or how to weave traditional clothing that they can sell in the market.
To combat children’s lack of legal status, a special Compassion team works with related government agencies to help children obtain citizenship. To date, nearly 100 children have received full citizenship.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In partnership with local churches, Compassion is bringing help and hope to impoverished children in northern Thailand, providing them with:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- health and hygiene training
- access to special services like surgeries and disaster relief
- mentoring to help children discover their incredible value as God’s children