Last year, the UN reported more than 110,000 refugees living in Thailand. Escaping from ethnic conflict, many of them fled for Bangkok but most of them have settled along the Thai-Burmese border to the north.
Legal means of staying in the country are dependent on employment but working conditions are poor – sometimes long days for less money than the Thai wage which is 300 baht ($10) a day. It means many of them are forced to live in self-built sheds, camps, or village settlements where electricity or water is scarce just to make ends meet. Add to that, limited skills and education rights – Thai government refuses to recognize education acquired in Burma.
In Chiang Mai there are NGOs helping to alleviate these challenges like Thai Freedom House, a non-profit organization that provides language, some daily needs, and skills for refugee communities and minority groups.
No one is free while others are oppressed.
I had a chance to visit Thai Freedom House at Free Bird Café – they run a cute little café and sit-down brunch spot just outside the moat of the “old city”. I had heard about the good work Thai Freedom House was doing so I wanted to find a way to support.
Shop or Give
There is a “pre-loved charity shop” in the café where you can buy handcrafted bracelets and necklaces. You can also drop off unwanted clothing, shoes, toys, or household items. They would be redistributed to communities that need it most or re-sold to buy emergency items like mosquito nets or beds.
Stay for Brunch
Purchase breakfast or lunch! The café serves up the most delicious chocolate pancakes, fresh eggs, organic vegetarian dishes, and Burmese recipes. Funds raised go right back into the refugee programs – I love how something as simple as tourism can support refugee communities.
Share a skill. Skills help refugees find work, support their families, and feel empowered. Volunteers can teach English, plan a workshop, run an arts activity, or help in the café.
Where: 116 Maneenopparat Road, Chiang Mai