Some of you may not know…
Why are we called Thai Freedom House?
I get asked all the time why I chose to name our learning center here in Thailand, Thai Freedom House, besides the obvious connection of education to freedom I would like to share the original inspiration. I heard about a school started by a Pastor Meachum in St. Louis, MO, USA when I was in High School and looked it up again when I was in college. I always found it an inspirational story. Such a simple way to get around but still within the confines of the law to get done what needed being done… starting a school on a body of water where the land law prohibited it, ingenious! [Story below].
What we are doing here in Thailand, educating refugees that are denied access to basic education and human rights elsewhere, follows in the same vain and Thai Freedom House is a way to get around those restrictions while still getting done what needs doing by providing education and training in skilled trades. I chose to call us a “house” rather than a “school” because we are a family and I want to encourage the feeling of togetherness, interdependence and trust that you have with your family. Many of our students have left their extended families behind to journey to a new land and don’t have the traditional support systems that the rest of us enjoy. Thai Freedom House is a place for them to feel at home.
“In 1818, the First African Baptist Church became the first black church in St. Louis. The church was run by Pastor John Berry Meachum, an architect of the St. Louis Underground Railroad. A slave himself, Meachum was able to buy his freedom and subsequently the freedom of his family, but he didn’t stop there. As a savvy businessman, he accumulated wealth and purchased slaves, then taught them a trade and freed them. Later in his career, he opened a clandestine school in the basement of his church to teach blacks to read and write. In 1847, a more strict law was passed which prohibited the teaching of blacks, so Meachum’s solution to build a steamboat and anchor it in the middle of the Mississippi River. Called the Freedom School, his school was allowed to remain because the river was under Federal jurisdiction rather than state. Many black students were educated here during the 1840s and 1850s. Drive down Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd., St. Louis’ old Wharf Street, to see the majestic river where Meachum’s school was anchored.”