Staying hopeful in difficult times

Article from the Province of East Asia.
 

Since 2010, Good Shepherd Phuket Town (GSPT) has been a solitary beacon of hope for the poor in slum areas around the fishing port in Phuket, Thailand. Living in inhumane, unsanitary conditions in squalid encampments, many fall prey to unscrupulous employers in the construction industry or human trafficking. However, through love and education, the GSPT is able to break the cycle of extreme poverty and offer them hope for the future.
 

The GSPT primarily serves the community of migrant workers from Myanmar living in Phuket by offering a learning center for children, a healthcare program, and a vocation training and empowerment program.
 

In the last 18 months, this community has been hard-hit as many have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing numbers of children have had to remain in Thailand instead of returning to their homeland due to the unrest in Myanmar.
 

Learning Center
 

During this challenging time, the GSPT learning center kept its doors open to the children when allowed by the local government and in line with health and safety regulations. We have aspired to provide the children with a sense of normality despite these trying times. Our staff and volunteers continue to offer learning opportunities in a caring environment for over 200 students.
 


Some of the students who graduated from the Good Shepherd School in April.
 

In April, we celebrated the graduation of 18 students from the primary school, most of who are now in our youth group program. This program was created last year when we identified the need to provide a safe space for youths not yet ready to enter the workforce and unable to return to Myanmar to continue their education. However, in the absence of sufficient staff and resources, the youth group program entirely depends on over 20 volunteers who generously donate their time and talent to teach the children important life skills, such as English, Chinese, IT, mathematics, music, and art. 
 

Our students were extremely excited to return to school on June 14 after an extended summer break due to another wave of COVID-19. Thanks to many kind donors, we were able to provide those who could not afford them with textbooks, basic stationery, and uniforms. The school term started with every student making a pledge to give their best effort, a session on appropriate school behavior, and an update on health and safety practices at school, at home, and when traveling. 
 

Feeding those in need
 

Through the generous support and donations from many supporters, the GSPT has purchased basic food staples such as rice, noodles, and oil for families financially affected by COVID-19. With the help of our staff, our youth group students, and many kind volunteers, we packed and distributed 270 bags of supplies to families in need in the community. This monthly feeding program has continued for several months and has brought much-needed relief to many families.
 


Staff and volunteers distribute food supplies to families in need.
 

With Phuket opening up to international tourists this month, we are hopeful that the economic situation will slowly recover. In the meantime, our sisters, teachers, and staff remain in constant communication with the community to offer them every possible assistance and support in these difficult times.