Hotpittayakom School is located approximately 90 km south of Chiang Mai city in the town of Hot which is a farming community made up of many villages. There are between 900 and 950 students and 55-60 teachers. The Director is Mr Manoon Potawan.
The students at Hotpittayakom School come from very poor families with 85% of them living in poverty. The families are farmers and they grow rice and Longans (a fruit similar to Lychees). Most of them work as general employees or labourers. The minimum daily wage is supposed to be 300 THB (£6.00) but in reality they get paid 100 to 200 THB (£2-£4) per day. This is for a 12-14 hour day working in the fields.
Many of the students who attend Hotpittayakom School come from Hill Tribe Villages, these people are minority groups who live in mountain villages and grow vegetables. All of these students and their families live in poverty. The students live in dormitories around the immediate school area and they only travel to see their families once or twice a year if they are lucky, They stay in dormitories where there are 16-20 students living in a single room, they must cook, clean and wash and iron for themselves as well as attend school, study and do homework. Some of these students walk for 30 minutes each way to get to school each day. Their families must pay for them to stay in the dormitories and buy their food and clothing and personal hygiene needs.
Mike and Jenny are volunteer as English teachers at Hotpittayakom School. This is the third year that they have returned to volunteer as English teachers.
In 2011 they personally started a sponsorship for one young woman who graduated from M6 (Grade 12) in March 2012 and started at Lampang Rajabhat University in May 2012 studying to be an English teacher. Her name is Jitsupa Haenghong, nickname Som, and she wants to be a teacher so she can go back to Hotpittayakom School and teach the kids there.
Sponsored students and the English Department
There are 43 sponsorships going and are working on some more, we ask the teachers at the school which students need help the most and they give us the names and details for the sponsors. The head of the English department and some of the teachers take us to visit some of the sponsored students’ homes on a regular basis. Most of them have no electricity, no running water, no toilet or shower and they sleep on a mat on the bare dirt floor. It is enough to break your heart, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Such poverty and yet they just continue to smile and get on with their lives, no self pity here!!!
Sponsorship is £5.00 per week, just a cup of coffee to most of us but to a student at our school it is a lot of money and can mean the difference between continuing to go to school or going to work in the rice fields or the Longan orchards to help their family to survive. In Thailand it is the law that students must attend school until the end of M3 (equivalent to grade 9 in Australia/ S4 in the UK) and many of them then leave school to work as labourers, general employees, selling produce in the local markets, dish washers or cleaners, anything that they can do to earn money to support their families.
Students use the sponsorship money to help with their education, school fees, stationery, food, Song Taew (bus) fares to get to school, personal hygiene items and clothing and this enables them to continue to study and relieves some of the burden placed on their families for their education expenses.
Sponsorship changes the life of a student, if we can help them to get an education then we have changed their lives in a very special way. It is amazing to see the look on their faces when we tell them that we have found a sponsor for them, they are so excited to think that someone cares enough to help them, it is a very humbling feeling indeed.
When we receive money into our sponsorship bank account in Australia or Thailand , we transfer as a lump sum into our Bangkok Bank account in Chiang Mai, which I established specifically for the sponsorships and the money is transfer by automatic direct debit from this account directly into the student’s bank account – definitely no fees or charges, they get the whole amount each month.
If you decide to sponsor a student you will be provided you with their story, which they write themselves, and photos and updates on their progress. Please understand that this is a long term commitment to help a student to finish secondary school. In order to receive the sponsorship the students must continue to attend Hotpittayakom school and the teachers monitor their attendance and behaviour for us and of course Mike and Jenny teach there, so they have personal contact with the kids.
If you are not sure about making a commitment for a sponsorship you can make a donation for what we refer to as “random acts of kindness”. Many of our students have been surprised by us turning up at their homes with gifts for them and their family. These are gifts of daily necessities for living, rice, eggs, long life milk, cooking oil, tinned fish, noodles, fish sauce, clothing, bedding and personal hygiene items. Some have been provided with prescription medicine which they could not afford to buy for themselves, while others have special needs such as one young boy who has kidney disease and must go to see the specialist in Chiang Mai Hospital every month. The mother of another of our students is dying from HIV, she is gravely ill and we regularly take her nourishing food, drinks and medical supplies as well as clothing and adult pampers.
The next project that we will undertake is to build a new home for one of our students who currently lives in a timber shack with holes in the walls and the roof, no toilet or shower, no electricity and no running water. Building the house is going to be so exciting, can't wait to start
Mike and Jenny who make it all possible