Citylife Garden Fair funds helping to educate migrants

 | Wed 20 May 2020 11:44 ICT

Since 2005, Citylife Chiang Mai has been holding annual or biannual Citylife Garden Fairs, to raise money for mainly local charities and foundations. The one day event, traditionally held in November has raised countless millions of baht for various organisations and projects over the years. We checked in with

Partners Relief & Development’s SEED Migrant Training Center Project here in Chiang Mai who were one of the recipients of last year’s Citylife Garden Fai, receiving 67,643 baht, and couldn’t be happier to hear what they have been up to and what they have done with all the great money we all helped to raise.

SEED is a community learning centre offering various language classes, a computer class, and skills or educational workshops for migrants from Myanmar who are currently living in Chiang Mai city and are working in occupations such as restaurants, markets, construction sites, and farms. SEED also reaches migrants that live outside of the city working on construction sites. This group has been chosen as the target for this project because they lack resources and skills and also because they currently they do not have anyone else working with them. This group, say SEED, is particularly at risk of exploitation and dropping out of school early.

There are four staff members working at SEED. Their roles are to manage the centre and help teach English and Thai as well as translation. They visit the migrant communities to teach, provide community support, and run trainings. The aim of this programme is to help migrant workers get better jobs, have the opportunity to pursue further education, and to inspire future leaders.

The centre is open five days a week with the exception of public holidays. There are a total of six classes at the centre with 60 students studying in the different courses, some of them studying in multiple classes. They currently run three levels of English classes, one Thai class, one Burmese class and one computer class. They also go into the migrant communities on Tuesdays to Fridays evenings to teach English and Shan, as well as other trainings as needed. In the communities they teach 120 students.

Youth empowerment courses run for five months and are held Monday-Wednesday evenings from 6:30 pm – 9pm. They are concentrated mainly on conversational English and basic computer skills including Microsoft Word, Excel, using email, basic Photoshop, and social media. The computer class has eight students. In the English class, there are 17 students in the beginners’ class, 14 students in the elementary English class, and 23 students in the pre-intermediate English class.

The Burmese class is focused on conversation with four students and the Thai course has 12-15 students and is focused on reading, writing, and speaking. Learning Thai can help the students either in the workplace or in continuing further education in Thailand. These courses are held on Thursdays and Fridays.

To encourage the students to continue studying, SEED tests them and provides them with certificates for all levels. Since SEED was founded, 85% of the students have applied the knowledge and skills that they have learned at their workplace and 15% of them have continued onto further education by joining the GED programme or SSSNY (School for Shan State National Youth).

Due to COVID-19, SEED had to temporarily cancel classes in the middle of March until the government allows for the centre to reopen. The staff keeps in contact with those in the camps to assess their needs and continue supporting the communities from which the students are from. They have already provided masks and hand sanitizer for each migrant community they work in and are continuing to stay in contact with them as much as possible during this time.

Nam Fon’s story

Nam Fon is a student in the Elementary level class. She has a seven year-old son and works as a seamstress and clothing designer. She works all day to support her family and diligently attends English classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Sometimes she brings her son, whom she is teaching English in hopes that they can both be fluent when he is older. This is her second time taking the elementary class and she has improved greatly in her English ability. Always willing to lend a hand and help her classmates, Nam Fon is a leader and one of the top students in the class. She is grateful that SEED exists to help reach her goal to improve her English so that she can pass a secondary education exam, similar to the GED. Nam Fon is a motivated and inspiring student and a significant member of the SEED community.