What is Thai Freedom House?
Thai Freedom House is a non-government, not-for-profit, community language and arts learning center in Northern Thailand dedicated to assisting families and individuals who are refugees from Burma and Indigenous peoples of Thailand.
We not only provide education in Thai and English language and the arts but house a community resource center with information on where to find valuable resources for people in need. In addition we have an on-site clothing donation and distribution center which provides hygiene and household supplies to those in need when possible.
Thai Freedom House is located in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. It is Thailand’s second largest city and located relatively near the border with Burma. More specifically, we are located along the outside of the moat that surrounds the “old city” of Chiang Mai. We are along the North side which is also the home to the largest community of refugees living in Chiang Mai where their temples and cultural centers are.
The birth of Thai Freedom House
Thai Freedom House’s founder and director, Lisa Nesser moved to Thailand in 2004 with the intent to work with refugees from Burma who had escaped to Thailand. She had been working with Tibetan refugees for the previous 3 years off and on in Southern India and the USA. Her focus from the beginning was to work with refugees living outside of the camps provided by International NGO’s because they face even more challenges and dangers being unprotected.
She volunteered at an orphanage in Mae Hong Son called OPC- Opportunities for Poor Children, where she met her mentor Kham Cheun Khamai and then moved to a larger city, Chiang Mai to continue work with adult refugees. While in the city she noticed the large population of children working to help support their families. There were children everywhere as soon as the sun went down, walking the streets selling flowers to tourists in bars and restaurants in dangerous areas where they could easily be kidnapped and sold into a trafficking ring or subjected to various sorts of abuse. Being out that late at night made it impossible for the children to go to school as well. She soon found out that the children could not go to school anyway because of their lack of I.D. cards and monetary funds for school fees.
After finding that the students had no access to any kind of education and also surveying the local community to see who was already addressing the issue (there were not enough resources) she decided to start teaching the children from her neighborhood herself.
At first this took place in the back of a local bar where the children went to sell flowers every evening and then moved to her own house once the demand for the classes rose. She began Thai classes as well by hiring a local teacher and provided dinner every evening. That was in 2005, Thai Freedom House has grown a lot since then. They have moved 3 more times to the current location which is beautiful and bright and a wonderful, organized place to teach and learn.
At the moment, Thai Freedom House is funded by individual donations from the kind public and our founder. We have also opened a not-for-profit cafe on the site of the school in May of 2009. Free Bird Cafe is a wonderful interface with the local community, providing income for the school and involvement from the locals including foreigners and Thai’s. It serves as a community forum holding events to involve and increase communication between these very segregated sectors of society. The cafe also supplies jobs and training for our adult students.
As you can imagine, with all of our activities-on and off site, we are constantly in need of funding, the monthly donations and cafe profits never cover our expenses and we are in desperate need of regular, long term donors. If you are interested in making a regular, monthly donation you can help to keep our vital programs open and hopefully in the future allow us to expand and help even more people. For instance:
100USD a month will provide fresh soymilk, fruit and nuts to all of our young students everyday.
200USD a month will provide safe transportation to and from the learning center everyday for our students in a hired van.
200USD a month will support our monthly utilities costs including internet for use in the classroom and office.
250USD a month will provide basic school and office supplies for one 3 month term.
300USD a month will support our art and culture curriculum including occasional field trips and involvement in local/traditional art and culture activities.
500USD a month will cover our rent expenses.
As you can imagine, the running of a learning center requires a lot more than that but that is a sample of how you can help.
You can also make a one time donation or a donation as a special gift in someones name and of course in memory of a loved one.