Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Reaching for new heights

Tao and Arm just finished twelfth grade. For some people that may not seem like a huge achievement, but both girls have overcome great adversity to get to this point.

Both girls were born in Karen families in Thailand. Arm was granted Thai citizenship at the age of 13, but Tao has not been able to obtain citizenship despite numerous efforts over the years. At the start of her high school years Tao moved schools and went to live at her new school in the hope that being in the district where most of the Karen people live that her attempt to obtain citizenship would be successful. However, year after year her dreams were crushed and she remains stateless after six years of living away from her mother and father.


Arm may have Thai citizenship, but as the fourth of seven children she faced much opposition from her family when she wanted to pursue her studies past middle school. None of her three older siblings studied beyond seventh grade and it seemed like she was destined to follow the same path. She dreamt of more and thankfully with the help of some of her friends, a sponsor who helped to cover her school fees, and a pastor who helped to speak to her parents on her behalf, she managed to stay in school each year. 


How do you stand up and fight for your dreams when everything seems to be against you? Almost everyone that we have met that has overcome adversity of some kind says the same thing – you cannot fight alone. There is always someone who stands with you, someone who believes in you, who helps you not to give up on yourself.  Arm and Tao have each had a number of people like that, people who have stood beside them and encouraged them when it seemed impossible to keep going. Teachers, pastors, friends, sponsors – they are not the ones that reach the dream, but without them the dream is that much harder to reach.

When we meet people like Tao and Arm, we are encouraged because we know that their story is so much bigger than a twelfth grade certificate. It is about community – people standing together cheering on someone else to achieve their dreams, with no motive of anything for themselves in return. 

In our years of connecting sponsors with children who need sponsorships, we have met many selfless people along the way, people willing to be a part of someone’s story without any selfish motives. If that is you reading this, we salute you for your contribution to someone else’s dreams. Thank you, whoever you are, wherever you are – you have made a difference.
Arm and Tao are in fact not finished their journey with us, but rather just beginning a new chapter. They are our newest university students in our sponsorship program, now reaching towards their bachelor’s degrees starting this June.  Tao will be studying a humanities degree majoring in English and Arm will be studying an arts degree majoring in drama and dance. We know from experience that the journey will not be easy – Arm will still have to face the pressure from her family to drop out and contribute to the family finances, Tao must continue to pursue her struggle for citizenship, hopefully finding a way before she graduates. There will be many challenges along the way, but with a community of people standing with them, we believe that they can do it.

This year, with Tao and Arm we will have a total of six university students and around thirty high school students that we assist. We are always looking for new people to partner with us to help us to continue supporting those who receive sponsorships until they reach their dreams of completing their education.

 If you would like to be one of those standing in the wings cheering them on, we would love to hear from you.

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