Holt Adoptee Camp Kicks Off in July! Register Now →
Boats in city harbor in Thailand in front of gray, cloudy sky

Sponsors Combat a Public Health Crisis Impacting Children in Thailand

In Thailand, Holt sponsors and donors are helping to combat one of the biggest public health issues impacting children and families — addiction to methamphetamine.

For Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s partner organization in Thailand, methamphetamine (meth) is among the biggest public health issues facing many of the communities they serve. Just as we see in pockets of the U.S., the pervasive effects of meth and its use impact many families, whether it’s the loss of a loved one or ongoing drug addiction within the family. In some places, a single tablet of meth costs as little as 10 cents, and is readily available everywhere, leaving vulnerable communities most at risk.

Unfortunately, it is often children who suffer the most.

During my recent visit to Thailand, many of the families we met were affected by drug addiction. These families live in poverty, and for many of them, meth is viewed as a tool like coffee — something to help them work harder and longer hours to help provide for their children. But quickly, the addiction takes over their lives and families become broken.

A woman is pictured giving her great-grandchild water from a bottle. Although well-intentioned, this is a dangerous practice for a 1-month-old baby. This was a great opportunity for Holt’s partner in Thailand to provide potentially lifesaving education as infants under 6 months old should only receive breastmilk or formula, never water alone. Water is a dangerous potential cause of diarrhea, takes up space that could be filled by nutritious formula and doesn’t meet a baby’s hydration needs.

HSF works to prevent family separation or abuse by providing families with support and frequent follow-up services. With the support of Holt sponsors and donors, many of the families receive food assistance, parenting education, resources, small business support to help them earn income, and daycare and preschool for children as young as 6 months old so parents can work during the day. Without this multifaceted support, some parents might resort to leaving their children in the care of relatives — or placing them in orphanage care. At the residential care center we visited in southern Thailand, HSF staff told us that almost all of the children were there because of the impact meth had on their families. We were told many of them had been left in care at such young ages, and it was extremely difficult to reunite them with their birth families while they were struggling themselves.

Another way our partner is working to fight meth addiction among young people in Thailand is through educational support. Holt sponsors help children at risk of abusing drugs to stay in school, graduate and even to go to college. For the many families who have not had any family members make it to secondary school, the value of completing their education and the opportunities higher education presents can be hard to see. But with the dedicated monthly support of sponsors, young children are less likely to be lured by the bright-colored tablets and ease of access within their communities to experiment with meth.

Holt sponsors help children at risk of abusing drugs to stay in school, graduate and even to go to college. For the many families who have not had any family members make it to secondary school, the value of completing their education and the opportunities higher education presents can be hard to see. But with the dedicated monthly support of sponsors, young children are less likely to be lured by the bright-colored tablets.

As meth abuse is such a multi-generational issue, many children in southern Thailand are being raised not by their grandparents — but by their great-grandparents. These family support systems are stretched to their maximum, leaving great-grandparents with many children to raise and little resources to help them. In the case of one sponsored family in southern Thailand, a great-grandmother is struggling to care for several of her great-grandchildren. Her own children and grandchildren have left her with many family members to care for, including a young baby who is only 6 weeks old.

As we reviewed the child’s health record, we saw that the baby was born substance-addicted and wasn’t on track developmentally. At the hospital, the 17-year-old mother of the baby, who had been using meth since she was 12, was referred to HSF for concerns about the child’s welfare and growth. It was found that these young parents were also the children of drug-addicted parents and lacked a consistent and safe family environment growing up. Once referred to HSF, a social worker was assigned to the family to support the parents with parenting education on essential caregiving skills that these young parents never had the opportunity to experience themselves. HSF also now provides the family with appropriate infant formula to help the baby grow and catch up in his development. In these communities, HSF often needs to provide formula for drug-impacted families as breastmilk from a mother using drugs could expose infants to meth. Providing infant formula also allows other family members to still feed the infant if the parents are absent.

For now, the baby is primarily living with his great-grandmother and receiving care as his teen parents struggle with addiction, new parenthood and trying to find work. HSF has stepped in to help — and hopefully, stop the vicous cycle of addiction, poverty and loss of dreams that has affected this family, like so many others. The teen parents, with the support of HSF, can start to imagine a different life for themselves and their new baby — whether that includes returning to school or maybe starting a small business.

With support from HSF — and Holt sponsors and donors — the future looks a little brighter.

Become a Child Sponsor

Connect with a child. Provide for their needs. Share your heart for $43 per month.

Stories Up Next

All Stories
children in classroom

Become someone’s hero. Sponsor a child in Thailand.

Find a child in need