Although I have been to Thailand many times and I work with community groups who provide services to Burmese refugees, I have never been to one of the orphanages before.

It was for professional reasons. My work does involve any projects with orphanages, most of our work is with adults, not just on the Thai Burma Border but everywhere we work – our philosphy is that if you work with parents to improve their lives then they will be the ones looking after their own children. Our view on child sponsorship programs is that they are flawed and paternalistic. Our organisation works on principals of solidarity and empowerment. So I dont need to go for my work.

The other reason is personal. I was not sure how I would handle the visits and I always felt that these kids have enough problems, they dont need a silly white woman having an emotional breakdown in front of them!

Anyway, I did go this time. I felt it was time to go and I have some questions about the process. And I hope it is not too controversial to say what I am about to say but it really is concerning to me. It is based mostly on conversations I have had with people both here and in Thailand.

The long waiting times in Thailand have been put down to a few things, I have even had a social worker (in Australia) say ‘there is not enough children’ (!) to which a friend of mine whose mother volunteers at some Thai orphanage replied “there are more children going into these orphanages then coming out of them”.

I have also asked people who run orphanages for Burmese children in Thailand if they get any support from Thai authorities – they do not. And if you ask how children end up in the orphanage then it is the usual way, they are left there or found in the street, or somewhere else and brought to the orphanage. So how do you know if the children are Thai or Burmese? – You don’t. They just look after them all.

But it does mean that these children are not under the Thai Department of Social Welfare and therefore are not able to be adopted by anyone. Not by Burmese families (because the orphanages do not have the capacity to ensure that people would not be traficking the children), not to Thai families (because the department does not recognise them) and not by International families (because they are not in the system). So they will stay in the orphanage. Where they will be cared for as best they can, and educated etc. There are a lot of orphanages like this along the Thai Burma border, and all through Thailand.

Some lovely pictures from SAW Orphanage

Burmese refugee children and their lovely carers at SAW orphanage

cuttest ever!!

cute little fella had just had an operation and wanted to show me his scar... aaawww

more cuteness!

And at the H2O Orphanage it was bubble blowing time:

And she got him with the Bubbles! (more Burmese orphans)

good times

Bubbles = fun

lovely smiles

If you would like to donate to either orphanage:

Social Action for Women (SAW) – Saw Orphanage: www.sawburma.org

 H20 Orphanage – 73 MU 6, Soi Pa Latha Rd, Umphang Tak 63170 tel: 084-811-5504

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