Perhaps a reflection of the difficulties inherent in trying to help street children is the fact the internet lists a handful of organisations that opened with the intention of charitable exercise, that no longer exist. There are thought to be around 20, — 30, street children in Thailand, most in Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai. Aek, the founder of VCDF explains that almost all the kids have parents living here in the city slums. Only a few of the children have no parents and stay at the organisation, while other children are sent to a home out in Sankampaeng where they also study at a government school.
Aek seems distracted when first meeting us; he seems distant, looking at us with an air of suspicion.
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Street children have been targeted and will be targeted by paedophiles and traffickers, it is with great caution that volunteers working with street children deal with outsiders. When they are older some of them turn to sex work, especially the boys. The centre is in its thirteenth year now and Aek has seen some of these kids evolve from beggar to teacher. But just a handful of these kids, he says resignedly, will evade a bleak future. An ongoing and seemingly intractable issue is how the local authorities deal with kids and their families who have no Thai ID.
Children are often pulled off the streets by the police, only to be sent to a government shelter, where often, Aek explains, they escape. Two young boys at the foundation called Ae and Oh, nine and ten years old, have had to learn to live a life on the run after being thrown out of home by their stepdad. They managed to get to Chiang Mai through a guardian and now both attend a government school and study at the foundation. All items are made by the kids who receive payment while profits also go back into the foundation.
Granted these boys made an independent decision to sell their bodies, and will be remunerated relatively handsomely considering their realistic alternative employment options. Over the last decade new initiatives have attempted to arrest the preponderance of touristic and local paedophilic-based prostitution in Chiang Mai, though Aek explains that the legal system is still not competent enough and much more can be done. A Chulalongkorn University report gives a total of 2.
The child is often taken to a shelter while the parents are sent to jail. The child in every case will be allotted a social worker a statute of the Child Witness Law and questioned by the police. She explains that Thailand cannot just allow anyone to come across the border and work, immigration laws must be adhered to in spite of any sympathies a person or organisation may have towards the family. In some cases it is better for the child to remain in Thailand — trafficked children for instance — where it is possible by law for the child to receive a full Thai education.
The centre, along with NGOs and police are working to curtail the activity of the gangs that traffic the children for all manner of pecuniary motives. She explains that it is very difficult to work with NGOs and families on the Burmese side, and that a bilateral agreement with Burma on this matter is still not fully implemented. While NGOs, government offices, police, attempt to staunch the activities of the many exploiters and help to protect the lost children, the roots of the problem, mainly abject poverty and its stifling corollaries, seem irremovable.
VCDF is not supported by the government and is direly underfunded. Money is of course also needed. Volunteers who might teach in any capacity can contact the centre. Because of the nature of the job, you will need a police clearance from your country, credentials, references and teaching experience.
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Day 2: Kanchanaburi. Today you will travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River and explore the famous khlongs canals of Bangkok approximately 1 hour. Life along these canals seems a world away from the busy streets of the capital. After that you will pay a visit to Wat Pho, one of the six most important temples in the country. It's home to the country's largest reclining Buddha, which is a seriously impressive sight. This place is also the gatekeeper of the secrets of Thai medicine and massage. After exploring the site, you and the family will take a local bus to Kanchanaburi approximately 2 hours and check into your hotel.
The hotel is situated where the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai rivers converge.
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Kanchanaburi is home to the infamous 'Bridge on the River Kwai'. Day 3: Kanchanaburi. Travel to Erawan National Park in the morning approximately 1. Located in western Thailand in the Tenasserim Hills of Kanchanaburi Province, this national park boasts the incredible Erawan Falls, a famous seven-level waterfall of luminous turquoise pools and exotic tropical fish. It's a great place to explore or simply swim and relax. If you do some exploring of the lush surrounds, keep your eyes peeled for eagles, pheasants or leafbirds among many others who might be soaring above or perched in the treetops.
Transfer by minibus to the nearby city of Ayutthaya approximately 2. Once the capital of ancient Siam, Ayutthaya offers a great opportunity to stroll the World Heritage-listed ruins of this once magnificent city. There's time for a guided tour of the picturesque ruins and temples spread across the town. The ruins at Wat Phra Mahathat provide many photo opportunities and the Buddha head surrounded by Banyan tree roots is perhaps the most photographed site in Ayutthaya. You will have access to a day room at a local hotel in Ayutthaya to have a swim in the hotel pool and freshen up before the train.
Afterwards, board an overnight train to Chiang Mai approximately 11 hours. Day 5: Chiang Mai. Wake up in Chiang Mai, the most vibrant city of Northern Thailand. As well as amazing temples and an interesting old town, the city is known for its friendly, smiling locals.
Drive along a scenic, winding mountain road that ends at an impressive step Naga-guarded stairway approximately 45 minutes. The rewards will justify the climb, as one of Thailand's most stunning temples reveals itself. This is Doi Suthep. You'll be treated to panoramic views of the city from up here. You might also be able to listen to the evening chants of the resident Buddhist monks while you're here.
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You'll also visit Bor Sang today, a traditional umbrella factory. With free time in the evening, perhaps wander through the colourful night bazaar or visit one of the quality restaurants along the riverfront. In any case, don't miss out on the signature northern dish kao soy — yellow wheat noodles in a curry broth with chicken or beef.
Day 6: Village Homestay.
The drive is about 60 kilometres approximately 1. This unique project provides a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants. Greeted by an expert guide, learn about the problems these creatures face in South East Asia. You'll have the chance to see these amazing beasts from the viewing platform where you can give them their morning tea! Head off in the afternoon to the warm and welcoming village of Ban Hua Tung approximately 45 minutes.
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The community will invite you and your family into their village for the night for a truly unique experience. Be treated to a home-cooked dinner and a traditional Thai dancing performance. Day 7: Chiang Mai. Bid farewell to your village hosts and head into the forest at the base of Chiang Dao mountain. Local guides will show you around the forest which the local Hua Tung people manage together as part of a new community initiative. The biodiversity of the forest is protected by a sacred 'forest ordination' by Buddhist monks whereby trees are ordained as monks — the people nurture the forest, and the forest nurtures the people in return.
There's a yearly bamboo harvest which raises money for the village. The locals take great pride in showing you the development of their village and the many different herbal medicines and wild foods in the forest. Return to Chiang Mai and enjoy free time — perhaps a bicycle ride or cooking class.
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Day 8: Overnight Train. Today is free for you to explore Chiang Mai a little further until your overnight train journey. Perhaps join your leader on a walk through the old city or take up one of many optional activities. Alternatively, you might like to do some last-minute shopping or spend some time relaxing and recharging your batteries with a stroll among the blissfully calm surrounds. Join back with your group later this afternoon, at 4 pm your train departs Chiang Mai, headed for Bangkok.
Day 9: Hua Hin. Arrive into Bangkok around 6 am this morning. After some breakfast at a local hotel, make the journey south to the beach town of Hua Hin approximately 3 hours.