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Skills training improves Thai village life

BANGKOK, Thailand (BP)–Hundreds of disadvantaged villagers among the hill tribes of Thailand have an opportunity to escape the vicious cycle of poverty, thanks to a “community transformation project” funded by Southern Baptists.

In northern Thailand, villagers are heavily dependent on farming for nearly all their primary income. Unfortunately, years of poor farming practices have led to soil erosion, which now threatens the livelihood of several tribal groups.

Able to grow only a minimal amount of food for their needs, many families cannot generate enough income to provide for other essentials. Most villagers can expect to make only about $245 a year.

The result is that adults migrate to cities to find work, tearing families apart and often leaving young children to be raised by the extended family. The poverty cycle hits hardest among the hill tribes. Most adults cannot read or write and children often drop out of school to help with family farming.

Health care also is a challenge for villagers in remote areas who have limited access to government hospitals and public health offices and struggle with language barriers.

Through Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization, Southern Baptists are working with a coalition of Christian organizations and experienced national staff to address needs identified by local officials in 14 villages. The initiative will promote an improved quality of life among the Hmong, Mien and Lua people groups in northern Thailand by providing vocational skills training and education in the areas of health, literacy and English.

The training will vary according to specific needs in each village but includes agriculture, health education, literacy, care for the dying, English, motorcycle repair, business skills, electrical skills and student ministries, the project director reported. The project is being funded with $53,447 from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and General Relief Fund.

The project director asks believers to pray for their staff’s continued acceptance in the villages and success with the ongoing training. The continuing formation of an effective team and the growth and development of the workers also is a main concern.

“We hope to see villages that have learned how to problem solve and manage needs with minimal outside influence,” the director said. “Success will be seen when our villages are able to meet their own needs through successful agriculture and work projects and have adequate knowledge of health-related issues.”

The fact that Southern Baptist gifts have given these families the opportunity to improve every dimension of their lives should be a source of great satisfaction, said Ben Wolf, who directs Baptist Global Response work in the Asia Rim.

“Southern Baptists can find great joy in the fact that their gifts to the World Hunger Fund and General Relief Fund are making such a fundamental difference in these people’s lives,” Wolf said. “Their heart for the poor and suffering allows people to personally experience God’s love and have the opportunity to experience a full and meaningful life.”
Kate Taylor is a collegiate correspondent with Baptist Global Response, on the Internet at gobgr.org.

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