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Australian Rotaractors Bring Hope to Children in Thailand

Twelve young volunteers from Sydney have recently returned from Thailand where they have been volunteering at a refuge for the stateless children of the Akha hilltribe.veryone has the right to a nationality, according to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but more than half of the Akha people are stateless. They are denied equal access to education, medical care and other basic needs and have difficulty finding work.

Twelve young volunteers from Sydney have recently returned from Thailand where they have been volunteering at a refuge for the stateless children of the Akha hilltribe.

Children in Indonesia

Everyone has the right to a nationality, according to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but more than half of the Akha people are stateless. They are denied equal access to education, medical care and other basic needs and have difficulty finding work. Without proper documents, they cannot travel, even within Thailand, and they are vulnerable to arrest and deportation to countries they have never even seen.

As part of their trip, the volunteer group travelled high into the mountains bordering Cambodia and Laos to a small village the home of four of the girls from the refuge. There they surveyed sites to grow up to 1200 rubber trees and coffee plants to provide long-term employment and income for the children and their local community.

Back at the refuge outside of Chiang Rai, while some members of the group did general repairs, others assisted in classes at the refuge's pre-school. "The children are at a great disadvantage in Thailand," explains Danielle Fogarty, the organiser of the trip. "When they come to the refuge they cannot speak Thai or English - they only speak Akha. However, to attend school they must learn Thai, which is where the pre-school comes in." Education is seen as the best way to reduce the extremely high rate of discrimination, forced relocation, forced labour and sexual exploitation faced by the Akha people.

Most of the volunteers were members of Sydney Rotaract clubs. They were also joined by two Rotaractors from Victoria and Tasmania and five from New Zealand. The adventure was organised by Danielle Fogarty from Chatswood. "Rotaract has allowed me to achieve so much," said Ms Fogarty. "In my local community my Rotaract club has organized projects and events, many organizations and charities. Internationally, we have volunteered in Vanuatu, Indonesia, and now Thailand."





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