Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Anna working for Thai deprived

An event held in Fallons at the weekend had a dual purpose: to raise both funds for, and awareness of deprivation among, specific groups of people in Thailand.


It was organised by Anna McCarthy (pictured on right above with her friend Linda Gray), daughter of local schoolteacher Annette, and the project she's coordinating is Cultural Canvas Thailand, based in Chang Mai.

"With another Irish girl and an American girl, we have partnered with a number of small non-governmental groups in Thailand who are working with the hill tribes, Burmese refugees and sex workers," Anna told the Diary. "The aim is to educate them, and help them get jobs and build better lives."

Her two friends, Sarah Latchaw from Florida and Zoe Lambe from Ireland, had been developing this idea for some time when Anna first met them about a year ago.

thaifund8112"We've now acquired a Volunteer House and compound where we can put up people who come out to help us, and we're using a new website to get such volunteers. Our artistic outreach programme will take people being helped by our partner groups and teach basics of arts and crafts. Our first project is a ceramics workshop, which is designed to give them a therapeutic way out of the hardship they live in."

The three girls are friends with a number of Thai artists, and that was the impetus for the initial arts-based project. "It was a case of utilising first the resources that we had. But we're not limiting ourselves to this. For instance, we have an Australian volunteer coming over next March who will provide courses in sexual health for the sex workers in our area."

thaifund8111CCT isn't looking for any specific skills from its volunteers. "We just want people willing to give their time in whatever way they can do best, teaching English, for instance. The people we're trying to help really need attention more than anything, because that's not available in their lives. We're also open to ideas from volunteers themselves, who can come up with projects that would suit the people we're dealing with."

Cultural Canvas Thailand has been nine months in the making, and doesn't so far receive any official funding. Anna has been teaching English part-time to cover her own costs in Thailand.

Her initial contact with the situation came simply from sitting in cafes and bars in normal social settings. "You'd see these kids coming in, selling flowers, for instance. The tourists think they're simply filling a tourist need, but they don't know the actual situations. When we looked into it, we realised the problems they face, including HIV/AIDs. So it branched out from seeing the kids on the street, and their parents, and talking to them about their lives. It just took off from there."

thaifund8108Anna and her friends are simply doing what they can to help local groups which are more or less overwhelmed by the problems they're trying to help solve.

"For instance, there's a man we know, a Burmese refugee; he got a scholarship to study in Britain, and now he's back in Chang Mai, helping other refugees by teaching them computer skills and other things. He works seven days a week, teaching all the time. We're just trying to help."

Further information is available from Anna or from the website set up by the project. Anna returns to Thailand in January.



Brian Byrne.