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Celebrating the 450th SOS Children's Village


Children and their mother, SOS Children's Village Chiang Rai, Thailand

In December, SOS Children’s Villages celebrated another landmark in history with the official opening of the 450th SOS Children’s Village in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

The ceremony was presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali, which officially opened the 14 family houses which will provide a new family home to 140 needy children. A nursery school adjacent to the village will provide a basic education to 100 children, both from the village and the surrounding community. For poor families, especially for single mothers, the day care provided by the nursery is vital to enable them to earn a living and ensures that their children receive at least one hot meal every day.

During the ceremony, the Princess presented the President of SOS Children’s Villages International, the charity’s umbrella organisation, with Thailand’s highest civilian honour for a foreign national - "Knight Commander: The Most Admirable Order of the Direkgunabhorn" for the outstanding social work the charity has undertaken in Thailand.

Children at the SOS nursery school, Chiang Rai

The new village is located in Chiang Rai, capital of the northern province of the same name, in one of the poorest areas of Thailand. Local communities have traditionally cultivated poppies for the production of opium, which in addition to being illegal, causes drug-related problems as well as deforestation due to the slash and burn techniques used. The resulting ecological problems, such as flooding and landslides, simply add to the hardship for the people in the area.

Scores of children, driven by poverty and malnutrition, cross the Thai-Burmese border every day. Because of the lack of schools in their home country or fees their families cannot afford to pay, most of these migrant children have never attended school and are therefore forced to earn their living by any means they can find. Many of them do not speak the Thai language, and end up doing menial work in tea parlours, restaurants or hotels. Many youngsters move to the larger cities in the South, where they hope to find a better life.

The Thai government has launched a number of projects to help these children but there is still a great need for long-term family-based care. In response, SOS Children started a fundraising campaign locally, raising funds to buy a piece of land for a new SOS Children's Village, which will provide many of these children with hope for the future.

Two of the family homes at the village have been converted into a temporary social centre, where children who suffer from malnutrition are cared for and supported back to health. The programme will run until it is no longer necessary, when the two houses will once more be used as family homes.

Relevant Countries: Thailand.

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