“Baan Zion” Children Prison Ministries in Chiangrai.
As a full legal Thai Foundation, we with our Baan Zion staff team are serving girls who are either forced to live in prison with their mother and girls who after the detention of the mother are left without care in the village of origin.
By request of the detained mothers or the respective prison authorities, we do bring these girls out of prison or their village into our shelter homes.
Within our Baan Zion shelter homes, we do provide good housing within a loving family like surrounding, good food and healthcare and the so important good schooling for all of our children. The latter up to University level.
Next to their busy school weeks we for our children of course provide in as many leisure activities as possible. During the weekends and the holidays, we do have many activities like sports, swimming, music, dance, trips and camping. All being an important part of for our children so important educational and healthy development.
For the first group of girls living inside prison, this is a physically and mentally absolute unnatural and unhealthy environment. There in general is no proper and nutritious food that young children do need. There is no education, insufficient healthcare and nothing to play with. In short, one of the worst places for young children to grow up. For those girls left in the village of origin, life often is not much better and even worse. In these villages of origin when the mother is imprisoned, girls are often not taken care of by relatives since they are either too poor to feed an extra mouth or simply don’t care. Result is that a high percentage is not going to school, there a lot of mental and physical abuse, semi forced labor in and around the house and regular hard work in the rice fields.
And above all there is a high risk for these young girls of sexual abuse thus child prostitution, and human trafficking.
In general, the mothers are very young, not married, extremely poor and from that do make the wrong choices. Most of the time mothers are served with a very long prison term and without our help their child will live a life of hardship. During their time of detention, we do sustain the mothers of our children in prison by whatever they need. On release we, if the mother wants to take up the care for her child again, offer help and aid so they can set up a new life together.
Unfortunately, not all mothers make a choice for a new life with their child after being released from prison, but return to their old life style with new relationships and new children.
“One village at the time” project
As a Ministry we mainly do work with girls from the Hmong Hill Tribe, who originate from poor mountain villages near the Laos and Myanmar borders. Villages known for drug smuggling and human trafficking and where many even though living here for generations do not have the Thai nationality.
Polygamy is the normal here and men often have many wives so children and extra relationships on the side. Many girls already get pregnant at a very young age and often the father is not known. Poverty and a lack of education, combined with community and cultural pressure make that this continuous circle is very difficult to break free from. On a regular basis we do visit these villages for family visits or even for outreach activities and in general our contacts here are very good.
Building relationships and gaining trust in those communities led us to an extension of our Ministry towards helping girls in their own village communities.
Not all girls of whom the mother is in prison do need to come into our shelter homes. Sometimes the grandparents or extended family really want to take care if only having the means to do so. Lack of means unfortunately eventually often lead to child degrading and hazardous situations. For those girls of whom the mother is in prison but that could stay safely with family if there is some financial and personal support, we have started this one village at the time project. For this project we in consultation with the imprisoned mother and the family see in what way we can contribute to the girl and the family so the girl has a safe place to stay, sufficient nutritious food, needed health care and can go to school. This in order to offer her, under our guidance and financial support, the same future as the girls that do live in our shelter homes.
We at date after consulting the village elders have pilots running in two Hmong Hill Tribe villages at the border with Laos.
This project does contribute to the individual girl, her family and also does have impact in the local community as a whole.