Salimah has been a volunteer in Baan Unrak for years, before opening her own metal workshop to teach her art to the children of Sangkhlaburi.
Read her story:
“For several years now, I have spent a few months each year in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand, a small town on a beautiful lake near the border with Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. This crossroads town became a refuge for many displaced children and families from various ethnic groups who had to flee ethnic civil wars and discrimination in Burma, but were never truly welcome in Thailand either. Stuck between a country from which they are fleeing oppression, violence and extreme poverty and another, where they are barely tolerated, the precariousness of their situation exposes them to all sorts of exploitation, including human traffic. They have few rights and live in a permanent insecurity. It goes without saying that it is difficult for these vulnerable people to envisage any future when the present is already so worrying. After much time as a volunteer at Baan Unrak Children’s Home, , one of Sangkhlaburi’s major charities that cares for displaced children and single mothers, and spending a lot of time with the children, my attention was drawn by the older children who were no longer in school, but neither in any professional training,because of lack of money, identity papers, or other limitations, and seemed to have nothing to do, so no possibility to picture a future for themselves. As a decorative painter, welder, and designer of metal light fixtures, I thought it would be interesting and usefull to transmit my skills to this group of slightly older children,to teach them to weld and to work the metal, and thus to be empowered by the knowledge that there was a new productive action they could take in their lives over the longer term, something concrete they could do. And so I decided to create a workshop. I thought new technical and artistic abilities will allow them to create sculptures, lamps, furnitures, or other items popular here, like side cars for exemple and to become self-employed craftmen, and/or to create a common atelier. I believe in the virtues of work, that one can choose, if one has such a chance, not the forced underpaid labor that one must accept or tolerate when there is no other choice to survive,which is unfortunately the usual situation here. The workshop is, therefore, for these young people to have access to a technical and enriching training towards more professional opportunities in a tense and hostile socio-economic context.”
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