Mae Sot, a bustling frontier town nestled on the western Thai border with Burma, has an extremely diverse population. It is also a relatively new home to thousands of Karen refugees fleeing from their homes in Burma. Some of these families have just arrived in the past few months, while others have been living in one of the many officially recognized refugee camps on the Thai border for over a decade.
In addition to those with refugee status, there are many more without status of any kind. This group is comprised of migrant workers who cross the border in search off a safe home, or sometimes enough income for their children to prosper in the future. Without even legal refugee status, migrant workers and their families do not have access to basic health, education, or property rights. In many cases these people find work at large factories or plantations, where labor is intensive and pay is low.
Beginning in October, the UPlift Project is initiating a school garden initiative in and around the Mae Sot area, including the Mae La refugee camp, the Umphium refugee camp, and numerous boarding houses and schools for migrant children throughout the area. This school garden project will focus on providing food security to the students and youth of these areas. In addition, we will be testing inexpensive methods and devices for water storage and usage during the dry season here in Thailand.
We are excited to be collaborating with Room To Grow Foundation, an organization in Mae Sot that has helped us identify the need for food security in these informal schools. This year has witnessed a large amount of budget cuts by foreign donors due to the poor world economy at large and the neccessity to trim down operations by foreign aid and development organizations. However, we are enthusiastic to have this opportunity to find ways to improve the quality of life for those who don't possess the means to find opportunities for themselves.
Click here for more photos of UPlift's initial visit to Mae Sot