Life training: teaching orphans to make air purifiers and other life skills

On April 28th when the air quality in Doi Saket was in the purple very unhealthy zone, 10 teenage boys sat on mats spread on the floor at the House of Hope Orphanage and watched intensely as Sippawut ‘Knot’ Chaengsri, sitting on the opposite side of a low table, assembled an air purifier from locally purchased components. Knot began this training by explaining the dangers of PM 2.5 to their lungs and showed them how an air quality monitor measured the amount of PM 2.5 in the room in which they were sitting. Knot had laid on the table each of the components (a plastic mesh laundry basket, round filter, fan) and the tools (edge cutter, cutting board, plastic tape) required to assemble them into a finished product, explained their purpose and then showed the boys how the different parts went together.

Then Knot led them to their dormitory carrying the newly assembled air purifier and the air quality monitor. When they were all in the dormitory, Knot put the air quality monitor on a table and the boys were shocked to watch it quickly turn red as the PM 2.5 measurement registered 105. Knot plugged in the air purifier and said, “Let’s leave it on while we eat our lunch.”  After lunch the boys were eager to get back to the dormitory to see the reading on the air quality monitor and all cheered when they saw it was no longer in the red zone; the measurement was 40.

I’ve never seen them so focused and attentive. Something was clicking.  When they saw the PM2.5 monitor had dropped from 105 to 40 after the DIY air purifier was turned on for just one hour, it was science in action. “This is for real.” “So cool.”  They rushed back to the room where they had watched Knot assemble the first unit and with his guidance carefully assembled a unit themselves. These kids who grew up in abusive, violent, opium-addicted homes were having a new experience. They felt confident, excited, and worthy.

Knot and I explained how they could create a business out of their ability to make air purifiers because it is a product villagers know about and want to have, but never thought they could afford.  The boys already have two orders and are learning some basics about business: collecting deposits to buy components, committing to a delivery schedule, how to stay in touch to provide customer service, asking for potential customer referrals and what other products they may be able to provide. This is real-life training.

LIFE TRAINING is the first organised effort to teach orphan children how to learn a vocation, which will lead them to a decent job. Educating Autistics Chiang Mai (EACM), was founded as a non-profit foundation, four years ago, to offer neurofeedback training to marginalised children who have learning disabilities including ADHD, autism, and behaviour problems. EACM provides neurofeedback training to poor children in orphanages and public schools.

In addition to the air purifier project, EACM started an internship programme.

Noon was born in an opium cultivating village. His father was in jail, his mother tried to raise him with the money she earns as a prostitute, so Noon had to stay away from the house while she worked. He was spending his days roaming around the village hungry and dirty when he was brought to House of Hope. He is now 10 and a fourth-grader.  He often broke the rules at school as well as at the orphanage and wanted to run away but had no place to go.

The foundation asked a Chinese noodle shop owner in Doi Saket if he would take Noon in as an intern during a school break. For the first time in his life, Noon was treated with respect by the other adult employees.  Instead of “how can I get into trouble?” he began to think, “what can I do to be useful?” He was always busy, wiping tables, cleaning dishes, bringing change to customers, helping whenever he could. He earned spending money every day. He was transformed.

There are many orphanages in Chiang Mai who can benefit from LIFE TRINGING.  If you have some skills, ideas,  you can share with these kids, or have access to people who might want to help these children, or have other product ideas girls and boys can make, Please go to Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Thaiautisticcommunity and leave you email address.  A zoom meeting is planned for community minded people and Citylife readers will be inited. For more information about EACM please visit our website, www.autisticchiangmai.org