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Kwah Dao (formerly know as the Burmese Refugee Project) is a 501(c)3 organization seeking to build participatory models for education and community development in northern Thailand. We hope to empower disenfranchised stateless Shan Burmese communities with the skills, knowledge and education necessary to protect their often-abused fundamental human rights.
We run three core education programs to support children from early childhood to university.
The Banyan Center is our kindergarten program for children between 3 and 6 years old. Two thirds of the spaces are reserved for stateless youth attending for free, while one third is saved for tuition-paying Thai and expatriate students from the local community. By bringing together children and families from different social classes and ethnicities, we strive to break down barriers and promote respect in a bilingual and engaging learning environment. As the only bilingual school in the local area, we equip our student with the foundational skills, work ethic and love of learning necessary for future academic success.
The After-School English and Arts Program serves approximately 60 students. Led by our Executive Director with the assistance of volunteer interns, we organize English lessons supplemented with a creative arts component to encourage critical thinking and foster the language skills necessary to enhance our students' future job opportunities and poise them for success if they choose to pursue more competitive schooling or higher education.
Our final core program is the Scholarship Program, designed to allow exceptional youth attend more competitive high schools and universities throughout Thailand. The students we serve have limited educational opportunities in the local area. The schools are subpar and many of our students report facing discrimination. To truly gain an education that will contribute to a higher quality of life, our students must pursue education elsewhere. Through our Scholarship Program, those accepted receive funds to cover their school fees as well as a living stipend so they can focus on their studies and afford to live away from their families. We also provide personal support to these students as all of them are currently the first generation in their family to pursue higher education. The system is already difficult to navigate, much less for the stateless students we serve who live in such a unstable condition.
All of our students have expressed big dreams for the future despite their limited opportunities and the precarious legal limbo in which they find themselves. With a small and multi-tasking team, Kwah Dao has supported stateless youth to make great accomplishments. Two of our students are now the first in their communities to enroll in university. Six of our scholarship students will start university next year. Our After-School students continue to improve their school grades and secure higher paying jobs when outside of school. The Banyan Center, only in it second year, has graduated two stateless students who's current teachers report that they entered school far more prepared than their peers. Students as young as three years old, who's parents are not literate in Thai and speak no English are already reading and writing in both languages. Most importantly, though, is their love of learning and excitment about communicating, creating and thinking critically.
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