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Life on the sea’s edge: the Moken children of Thailand

The Moken people of Thailand are largely out of sight, but not out of mind. These tribes, that are approximately 1,000 year-old, reside among remote islands, just off the west coast of Thailand. Previously secluded from the influence of modern society, the destructive 2004 tsunami has forced them to move from their settlements.

Since then, the coastal villages have been exposed to an influx of tourism and rapid cultural changes, posing new stresses on the community. The Moken were stuck: unable to return to traditional life, yet lacking the skills and means necessary to cope with modern times.

“We feel very worried about the future,” said Moken local Sidith, “where will my children and grandchildren live?”

Watch Mai’s story to better understand how Plan efforts have benefitted her – helping her reconnect with her culture, adapt to current environments, and plan a brighter future for herself and her community.

Modern life, new challenges

In 2010, Plan recognized the Moken children as one of the most at-risk populations in Thailand, and began a 5 year program working with their community.

At that time, Naowanit, community leader of the Koh Lao Moken village, identified the main challenges threatening the community. “Our problem is a general lack of education. There is no school here now, only four of our villagers have finished secondary school,” said Naowanit, adding that “education is important when exposed to new ideas and habits.”

Since beginning the community project in 2010, Plan has addressed this concern by continuing to provide long-term, sustainable development initiatives in at least 36 communities in Thailand. Resources, such as safe boats, have been provided to enable Moken children, like Mai of the Koh Lao village, to attend school.

No matter how isolated their home, no child should be denied their right to education. Let a child, like Mai, know that they are not forgotten. Give a child the gift of education today, to empower communities for years to come.

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