Homeless & Housing,
Housing & Shelter,
International Migration & Refugee Issues,
Primary & Elementary Schools
Mission: The Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong sub-region (DEPDC/GMS) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation based in Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand. The community-based organisation has a diverse 28-year history and currently works primarily to prevent and to protect children and youth from being trafficked into exploitative labour conditions.
The organization’s projects provide crucial preventative measures of education, vocational and life-skills training, protection and accommodation, family and community outreach services, and leadership development to at-risk children and youth in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
The Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) is comprised of the six countries through which the Mekong River flows: Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces in Southern China. Human trafficking in Northern Thailand is prevalent due to numerous populations of minority ethnic groups, many of which lack Thai citizenship. Historically, these people have suffered extreme poverty, because they lack access to formal education and health care and they have little political power. As a result, many are marginalized and are compelled to seek financial alternatives in order to survive.
Many families therefore resort to selling their children into exploitative labour conditions, frequently with the promise that their children are going to work in a decent, safe workplace. Thailand is a country of origin, transit, and destination for trafficking victims, and with the near future opening of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community in 2015, the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) will inevitably remain a major hub for the trafficking of children.
Because the human trafficking process is far reaching and its causes are deep, our mission aims to help the most at-risk children, and their families and communities, in order to decrease the conditions and factors that make them vulnerable to trafficking. The organisation operates a range of projects which facilitate this mission at three distinct sites, strategically located within Thailand’s northern most province of Chiang Rai, in the districts of Mae Sai, Mae Chan, and Chiang Khong. Each project site functions differently, but all work toward the common goal of reducing the psycho-social risks and dangerous conditions which leave children and youth vulnerable to trafficking in the region.
Results: DEPDC has grown from a small grassroots organization to an internationally-acclaimed establishment. Founder Sompop Jantraka began DEPDC after conducting research in northern Thailand, only to find that he could best prevent the trafficking of vulnerable girls by offering them free education and housing. That year, he supported the education and livelihood of 19 girls.
Today, DEPDC/GMS has grown to support several programs that both protect victims of trafficking and take preventative steps to assuring the most vulnerable of Chiang Rai do not fall into the trafficking cycle. The Mae Sai Half Day school provides free education to at-risk students, as well as the implementation of life skills and free meals. Khun Sompop continues to protect vulnerable women by running a safe shelter for 16 women and children, and also runs a literacy training program for the ethnic minorities of northern Thailand. Most recently, DEPDC has opened its doors to 100 at-risk migrant youth from the neighboring Shan State in Myanmar to teach basic life-skills and provide the aspiring youth with support to begin forming their own grassroots organizations that prevent trafficking and unsafe migration in their own areas. This includes an intensive six-month training period, with guest speakers, internships, and advocacy training. From here, each child returns to their place of origin to set up their own projects with the support of DEPDC's many connections.
To date, the work of Khun Sompop and DEPDC/GMS has garnered international attention that has culminated into awards from UNESCO, UNICEF, several embassies including the United States and Canada, as well as two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, among many, many others. Recently, administrative director Somporn Khempetch was awarded BBC's 100 Women of 2017 for her dedication to combating trafficking. The Half Day School has successfully given over 7,000 children the opportunity for education, and programs in the past like SYSTERM have offered aspiring youth from over six countries to combat trafficking in their own places of origin.
Target demographics: Stateless children, youth, and women whom are at-risk of becoming victims of human-trafficking or other forms of exploitation
Direct beneficiaries per year: 47 students at the Half Day School, as well as 16 at the Safe Shelter, and numerous people at the Center for Literacy Training
Geographic areas served: Northern Thailand along the Thai-Myanmar border and within the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS)
Programs: safe housing, alternative and basic education, career and safety training, prevention strategies, and education sponsorship