Updated: Apr 29, 2020
If school is free, why doesn't everyone go? Well, for the rural poor free isn’t really “free”.
Our families are farmers. Every hand on the field means more work gets done earning the family the much needed income to meet pressing everyday needs. Uniforms and school supplies are expensive. Travel to and from school is expensive. Free is not free. Sending one’s child to school is a long term investment for parents who are living hand to mouth. It will take a generation for these sacrificing parents to see a better life for their children.
A better life is exactly what our scholarship students are dreaming of. Our project leader, Yadfon Boonlab, calls her northern Thailand program, Phalang Jai, which means “Strong Heart” in the Thai language. It’s her passion to see her students pursue their dreams. She shares with us what a few of our recent grads are dreaming of, how COVID-19 has affected their next steps, and what she is hopeful for in this uncertain time.
J is a young woman from a small village that is home to about 20 families. She and her younger sister are the first in their family to go to school. J dreams of being a teacher or doing ministry in her home village or one like it. She just graduated highschool and is making plans to enroll in university. Yadfon writes,
“[J] struggles to make a decision about which school she would like to enroll in. One uni is near her home and one is in downtown Chiang Mai. She has sent her application to both universities already. She will have to wait until the schools are open to accept her application on time. Hopefully in July or August, if the situation of the COVID 19 ends. We never know yet. So pray for her. “
K is a young man from a remote village up in the mountains. His family of farmers has worked hard to make sure their children go to school. It’s traditional for children to help out in the work but his folks have shielded him from farm responsibilities. They do not want him to worry about the work. It’s a sacrifice for them, but they believe in investing in their son’s future. Like all teenagers, K has had his struggles. He stumbled and dropped out of school for a time. With the support of his family and CLF, he came back to the program and received a scholarship. He worked hard and graduated last year! Yadfon has seen a lot of growth in K. He used to be quiet and reserved but when Yadfon saw him last he was open and communicative sharing about his plans for the future. She writes,
“[K], is working at his 2 year vocational school to become a mechanical engineer. After his program he will apply to a company for a 1 year internship. He looks forward to talking with the companies when they reopen.
While both students are proud of their accomplishments and are looking forward to their next steps , the COVID 19 crisis has, understandably, dampened some of their excitement. Yadfon shares how the pandemic is making our vulnerable students more vulnerable. She’s witnessed:
Confusion about enrollment,
loss of momentum and motivation in learning,
fear of funding drops due to the economy in the US,
readiness for the next step,
fear of getting sick,
distraction from goals due to fear,
waiting and not knowing..
It is in times like these our scholarship program is living up to its name- Phalang Jai, “Strong Heart”. Yadfon has seen an increase in communication with her mentees. They are reaching out more than ever which is a testament to their relationship with her and the trust that has been developed. She encourages them to “just keep fighting. You have to fight for your future”. We are amazed by the resilience of the students in our scholarship program. Though we are all distressed by the waiting and the uncertainty, we are not alone. Let’s heed Yadfon’s advice and “just keep fighting”.
Thanks to all who make our valuable work possible!
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