At present the Human Development Centre (HDC) has administered 18 programs to assist the needy. The programs are designed with the simple intention to give the residents of slums direction, determination, confidence and the opportunity to break their own cycle of subsistence. It’s all simply about hope.
Below are some of the programs run by the HDC:
The Slum Kindergarten Improvement Program
The Slum Kindergarten Improvement Program (SKIP) was first introduced in the 1970’s with the aim of providing slum children with a basic education, before other responsibilities forced them away from school. So far more than 55,000 children have been educated in SKIP’s 31 schools. The current enrollment has 3,600 children taught by 110 teachers. Students are taught basic literacy and self-awareness; proper nutrition and basic hygiene are also stressed and this is coupled with a program values, which entails good manners and respect, both for themselves and others.
SKIP is also aware that empty stomachs do not facilitate good learning therefore SKIP also provides all students with at least one square meal a day. However, before a child can begin school the Thai government requires fees, uniforms, and proper documentation. Consequently, any slum child who cannot meet these requirements is helped by SKIP in order to make sure they have a chance to attend school.
There is also a ‘Special Kids’ program for those who are exceptionally gifted which gives them a chance to pursue higher education up to and including University level and sometimes even an overseas education. SKIP has been highly successful program and in part this is due to its many supporters of the adopt a child basis whereby special thanks is given by all those at HDC to all the foster.
Kids need to play and the HDC gives them every opportunity to do so. Sports competitions in slum areas are organized and executed on a regular basis for many team sports such as football and volleyball. Few slums or ghettos provide playgrounds, swimming pools or other recreational facilities. Therefore, SKIP has used its contacts to provide them often at little or no cost due to the generosity of local corporate sponsors.
A football(soccer) league of slum teams has even been set up under the guidance of HDC and recently a school team from Singapore came to Bangkok to run training clinics for slum kids, and to participate in a football tournament sponsored by MILO. HDC’s sports program also links up with SKIP resulting in a SKIP Sports Day, which is very popular with all the students. Special thanks must go out to all the volunteers who have been run ragged by the numerous slum kids, who have come to regard this program as part of their life.
This unique Center run by HDC, contains two completely different programs. Firstly, Mercy Center’s Outreach Program allows it to act as a half-way house in which homeless slum children may find shelter, food, and most importantly – human warmth and affection. Special attention is given to children from commercial sex and drug backgrounds, as HDC attempts to keep them off the streets. However, Mercy Center is not a prison and its inhabitants are free to come and go as they please.
Secondly, Mercy Center has a Community Health Development Center(CHDC), which essentially acts as an HIV/AIDS hospice. This hospice attempts to provide those affected by the HIV/AIDS virus with a place in which they can rebuild their strength before returning to the community. In a country like Thailand where superstition often mars understanding of the disease, the hospice provides a haven for these individuals. At present, the hospice, which has 28 patients, is at full capacity. The turnover rate is high as one may expect but the number of patients is increasing. Occasionally, patients pass away during their stay at the CHDC, and in these cases, CHDC handles all postmortem procedures. That said, special thanks must go to Christiani and Neilson, who built the Mercy Centre building.
Two prison programs are offered by HDC, one for street kids and the other for the Immigration Prison. Approximately 12,000 teenagers are in detention centers around Bangkok who originated from the street. HDC works with the police, and lends support in court, where street kids are regarded as guilty before being proven innocent. This support entails everything from arranging lawyers to providing care and guidance for the kids as they face the confusing, harsh, and often schizophrenic justice system of Bangkok.
Possibly, the most important thing HDC does is responding to emergencies that arise within the slum community. Sometimes natural disasters or more likely man-made ones like the chemical fire in the Klong Toey area on 2 March 1991. Large tracts of land that have been destroyed in this way are often taking over by developers who proceed with great efficiency to make thousands of slum dwellers homeless by building on the site. HDC prevents this by initiating and supplying materials for the reconstruction of these destroyed slum areas. It was not long ago that an entire slum area was rebuilt in the space of a weekend in order to stave off developers. Often, to buy time, HDC would establish a school overnight on damaged site in order to serve the community. There is certainly no shortage of crises in Bangkok’s slum areas and the HDC will always offer a helping hand whenever possible.
Social Service Personnel
HDC employs six full time social workers whose basic job description is ‘anything and everything’. They are the HDC’s ‘eyes and ears’ in the slum communities and fill many important roles in those communities. Among the services performed include: Counseling; Health and Career Advice; Treatment of Drug Abuse; Organizing Community Committees and Elections and working closely with community leaders in the face of forced evictions. And, in doing so, all of HDC’s social service personnel act as role models for young slum dwellers in Bangkok, who often have difficulty finding someone worth emulating.