Pookay, a college graduate and a former CLF scholarship recipient, recalls the first time she met Plaar, her mentor and Creative Life Foundation’s Bangkok Scholarship Program leader.
“I’ve known Plaar for 14 years.”
Pookay was only 10-years-old when she first met Plaar —a pastor of a small church located south of Bangkok near the Chao Phraya River. The church would open its doors for children and youth from the neighborhood every Saturday to gather for an activity and a free meal. The English program was run by CLF staff and volunteers. That's where I first met Pookay too (Tim).
“I struggled to learn English. An older student from my school told my grandmother [who she was living with] that I should learn English at a church that teaches for free. That’s when I first met Plaar and began learning English with Teacher Tim.”
Like many Thai children, she grew up living with her grandparents. Pookay never met her mom and barely knew her dad.
Pookay’s dad dropped out of school after the 5th grade. With limited options, he struggled to provide for his family. Pookay remembers having to sell things at a young age or borrow money to pay for school expenses.
Shortly after accepting the invitation to learn English on Saturdays, Pookay was offered a scholarship from Creative Life Foundation. Pookay shared with us how the mentorship she received from Plaar gave her a “whole new life".
“From a child, I had nothing. No dad. No mom. And, I attempted to commit suicide 2-times. If I didn’t have Plaar in my life growing up, I don’t know what my life would be like today. There were many times that I would get confused and get off track, but Plaar always helped me return to my studies. Plaar and I are like family. She is my sister, a friend, a mother, teaching me many things, still today".
Since joining our program, Pookay no longer had to stress whether or not she would have money for her studies. She had a mentor and a role model during difficult times. With this, Pookay worked hard throughout school and continued attending activities on Saturday.
“I never thought I would graduate; I thought I would only stay in school until the 9th grade.”
In Thailand, compulsory education ends at the 9th grade. Children who do not receive a high school diploma grow up having little opportunity for success and are left more vulnerable to exploitation.
Pookay not only became the first in her family to graduate from high school, but she also became the first to receive a college degree. She studied business and is now working as a sales associate at a reputable eyewear company in Bangkok. She reports back to us that her job is challenging, but she is having fun and enjoys it.