With the guidance of a Holt-supported networking group in Thailand, one struggling family begins to make smart decisions for their future.
In a tiny beach community on the Gulf of Thailand, tucked into the palm trees, is a concrete block house where the Wattana* family rents a room. The peaceful, almost idyllic landscape provides little hint of the difficulties faced by many families in the area due to underemployment. The fishing industry employs nearly all of the local residents, but income is often sporadic and seasonal. For many families in the area, daily survival is a challenge.
The Wattana family was referred to Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s partner in Thailand, nearly three years ago. At that time, Mae and Farid Wattana were struggling to make ends meet with their combined income of about $300 per month. They were already supporting two of their parents and three children when Farid’s father developed cancer.
Then they found out Mae was pregnant with twins.
Concerned about the family’s financial situation, village leaders referred the Wattanas to HSF staff, who began making home visits to provide support and counseling. HSF paid a small fee for the children to attend preschool, and subsidized the cost of powdered milk for the twins — an expensive item in Thailand. They also enrolled Mae and Farid in one of HSF’s local support groups.
Here in this small fishing village of Nakhon Si Thammarat province, HSF has developed a variety of social support groups as a way to bring together children and parents facing the same challenges. Groups have catchy titles such as the “Fabric for Life Group” or the “Kids Love Plants Club,” in which participants learn to grow vegetable gardens to diversify their family’s diet with inexpensive, healthy food. Some of the groups help participating families to generate income. Members will teach a skill, or help others create a product to sell. When the “Trust Savings Group” formed last August, the 19 participants worked together to develop a group savings plan, with each member contributing 1THB – or 3 cents – per day. As the fund builds, the group may decide to lend the money to each other individually, or create a group income-generating plan.
The HSF social support groups also help foster valuable networking skills. Families become more engaged with their community — giving them a network to rely on if they need help with, for example, transportation or childcare. While participants support and encourage each other, they also feel a greater sense of responsibility to improve their own circumstances. When one family overcomes a challenge, they share the steps they took to achieve their goal with the rest of the group. In that way, when one family succeeds, every family succeeds!
Mae attends a social support group meeting twice each month, which has helped her to make good decisions and seek help when she needs it.
Mae recalls the day when she discovered she was pregnant again. At the time, her twins were less than one year old. It was a shock. With tears in her eyes, she says, “I was desperate. I thought about terminating my pregnancy, but HSF helped us to figure out a way to care for another child. HSF is the reason this family is together.”
Since Petch was born last year, HSF has continued to support the family. As Petch has had some ongoing health problems, HSF has helped the family access transportation and provided other assistance to help them care for his medical needs. The twins attend a preschool nearby, which HSF supports through teacher training and capacity-building activities. At the preschool, children participate in stimulating educational activities. This vital early learning opportunity also helps children develop valuable social interaction skills.
Holt child sponsors help support the children’s education as well, providing funding through HSF for school uniforms and supplies — and ensuring for families like the Wattanas that economic barriers don’t prevent their children from attending school.
While daily life can be a struggle, Mae is hopeful about the future. At the moment, Mae and Farid have $175 in savings — which is more money than they have ever been able to save before. “Without HSF, it would have been very hard to raise my children, but I believe my children reflect the love and care that Farid and I provide,” says Mae. “We have tried our best to keep the family together.”
Mae smiles as she says, “For the first time, we have dreams about our future.”
Jennifer Goette | Former Holt Team Member
* names changed