Visiting the Raks Thai Foundation in Bangkok

This week we have decided to visit a bigger NGO than last week. We have met with Prasong Lertpayub, the director of human resources of the Raks Thai Foundation.

Raks Thai is a Thai NGO, affiliated to Care International (Raks means “care” in Thai.) Mr Lertpayub admitted that the work in a big structure has advantages, but also disadvantages.

RTF

For example, Raks Thai had to adapt its logo to the one of Care International. Further, the work of Raks Thai is supervised by Care which means additional administrative work for Raks Thai. Mr Lertpayub has further compared the structure of Care International with the UN: The one contributing to most money, is the one making the most important decisions. In South East Asia these are mainly Care US and Care Australia.

But the work in a big organisation has advantages as well. Means and knowledge can be put together and used commonly, the NGO is more renown and cross-border projects can be financed.

We have further asked Mr Lertpayub if the military putsch has brought any consequences for the work of NGOs. He said there are no major differences for Raks Thai. He could, however, imagine that NGOs which work on political topics, or topics relevant to policy, could feel more pressure.

Raks Thai works on several projects in different area like victims of violence, addicts, HIV, education, agriculture, forestation and others.

bnn1301558048

Raks Thai also works with Burmese immigrants who want to settle in Thailand.

This is a subject we were very interested in, because Mr Lertpayub did not speak of “refugees,” but “work migrants.” There are currently thousands of Burmese refugees in Thai refugee camps which only wait for their repatriation. Many leave the camps in order to work in Thailand, for most of the time under illegal conditions. Without a work permit, most are exploited.

We have not insisted on the subject, because the topic is not one of Raks Thai’s main subjects. Raks Thai already makes an amazing work in different areas. Further, there a more specialised NGOs like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

Refugee camp Ei Tu Hta, IDP-Area bordering Thailand near Mae Sariang, Birma

At the end we have asked Mr Lertpayub how one can officially register their NGO in Thailand. This would be an interesting step for us, because we would benefit from the one-year visa “O” instead of extending our tourist visa every three months.

A registration is possible at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Labour. But according to Mr Lerpayub the proceedings are complicated, protracted and actually not doable without the help of an English speaking Thai person.

logo

Mr Lertpayub told us than many, especially small NGOs, work with tourist visa and cross the border every three months in order to extent the visa. We have decided to do the same for the moment.

The meeting with Mr Lertpayub was interesting for us in two regards: We now know that it is possible to work with Burmese refugees without risking an expulsion of the country and we have learned that we can work for Omakua using our tourist visa.

Mr Lerpayub has further connected us with the Raks Thai team in the North (Chiang Mai). We will be able to visit a project of a big NGO directly on the field.

Meeting “Friends For All Children Fondation” in Bangkok

Today we met with Saovanee Nilavongse from the Friends For All Children Foundation (FFAC) in Bangkok with two additional centers in Chiang Mai and Nong Kai. FFAC is a private, non-profit organisation which exists since 1977. FFAC’s nurseries provide residential care for children who may need temporary or permanent homes due to family difficulties. Some of the children can return to their parents or relatives, some remain under the care of FFAC until adoptive parents are found.

We have sent an email to Saovanee and she immediately responded to us and invited us to visit one of the nurseries. She is a lovely and very dedicated woman. We talked to her a lot and visited the centre. This kind of transparency is what we expect from a NGO. We have emailed a lot of NGOs, but only a few responded and invited us. This was a first big asset for FFAC! Thank you so much Saovanee for receiving us.

Saovanee told us about the importance of residential children’s care in Thailand. Certain children are abandoned by their parents due to several reasons. Poverty is one of the main reasons. Many parents cannot take care of their children and are forced to give them away. We were particular surprised to learn that in Thailand many children are abandoned due to physical malformation or mental handicap.

Saovanee explained that in the Buddhist religion – which believes in reincarnation – physical or mental handicaps can be often seen as a “punishment” for the previous life. Certain believe that handicapped persons have been “bad persons” previously; helping them could bring bad Karma for you.

Saovanee told us that she has been lucky in the past to receive donations for FFAC. Even though she explained, some times are harder than others (FFAC had, for example, move to a smaller house due to lacking funds for paying the renouset of the bigger h) she has received very generous donations, mainly from foreigners. If you want to contribute, you can make a donation of any amount.

FFAC’s centre in Bangkok currently counts 11 children. Most of them came after their birth and have never experienced anything else than the orphanage. Even though Saovanee and her team take really good care of the children, this will never substitute a family.

If the children cannot go back to their parents, they are giving to adoption after one year. The adoption progress, however, is very long and most children will have to wait two to three years before going with a family. Especially for handicapped children an adoption is difficult and in some cases FFAC takes care of them their whole life.

It was very inspiring meeting FFAC. Unfortunately we will not stay in Bangkok long enough to put together a project helping FFAC, but we will go to the centre in Chiang Mai, where we will stay longer and see if and how Omakua can contribute to FFAC’s amazing work.

We have learned much more about FFAC than displayed in this short article. If you have any further questions about FFAC you can email us or FFAC directly.

Say, what is a NGO?

Very interesting question! Maybe you know the meaning of these three words:

  • Non
  • Governmental
  • Organisation

 

But what does this term actually mean?

The word NGO was used for the first time in 1945 by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The initial aim was to differentiate governmental organisations from non governmental organisation.

The resolution 288 B (X) of the ECOSOC define an NGO as “every international organisation which is not based on a state treaty.”

What does a NGO exactly do?

A NGO must fit these criteria:

  • it must be private and non governmental
  • it must not be profit-orientated
  • it must be financially independent
  • it must be politically independent

There is yet no legal status of NGOs, most NGOs are legally associations or foundations.

The capital of a NGO mainly comes from private donations (you, I, your neighbour etc.). This is  to guarantee its independence. But money can come as well as from official donors (France AFD, EuropeAid, UNO etc.).

The work of NGOs is versatile:

  • Human Rights
  • Fight against hunger
  • Fight against diseases
  • Child protection
  • Education
  • Economy
  • Environment protection
  • animal protection
  • etc..

How are NGOs controlled? How is made sure that their work and structure fit the criteria?

NGOs are private organisations and only subject to the regulations of their legal status (mainly association and foundation). But there are other ways of control:

  • Many NGOs publish annual reports about their structure and work
  • Big donors like the UNO or the EU demand account details and reports
  • There are several independent structures which evaluate the work of NGOs, for example the French Label IDEA

At last…

Most NGOs, like Omakua, are small structures compared to the top 10 NGOs. The work of these small NGOs is important and complementary to the work of big NGOs. Small and local NGOs often have a better knowledge of the culture and people on the field.

Our advise: If you want to support a small NGO, but you have questions about their work – just contact them! On the contrary of big NGOs, the communication with small structures is often easier and more personal.

 

Sources:

Quelques repères sur les associations en France aujourd’hui – Edith Archambault – Viviane Tchernonog – Centre d’Economie de la Sorbonne – CNRS – Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (mars 2012)

CCD, Coordination SUD et le ministère des Affaires étrangères

Where does the money go?

That is a really good question! After the tsunami in Asia in 2004, the French Court of Auditors has obliged French NGOs to show the exact repartition of the donation’s expenditure. This allows the donors to follow if their donations are used 100% for the projects or if parts of it go into the financing of the administration of the NGO.

In 2004, one week after the tsunami, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has shaken the humanitarian world when demanding a stop of donations for emergency help in Asia. At this time, MSF already had enough financial means for the emergency actions in the region. This was welcomed by the French Court of Auditors. Other NGOs spend more money than necessary in Asia and financed impertinent projects. Some NGOs also refunded donations.

A Sri Lankan Red Cross volunteer carries boxes of humanitarian aid brought for tsunami survivors ...

Certains NGOs redistributed the money to other projects without informing the donors, even though the French Court of Auditors had requested that donors must be informed if the destination of their donation is changed. The donors can also be refunded. MSF for example, has demanded the donors’ permission to employ the money for different projects. Only 1% of the donors has demanded refunding.

Furthermore, the French Court of Auditors has recommended that NGOs must display transparently how much money of the donations goes into the project and how much is used for the NGO’s administration. In Haiti, for example, many NGOs had received donations for specific actions, but used part of the money for they operating costs.

MSF for example has clearly stated on its website which part of the donations is used for the administration and operating (11.2%) :

Capture d’écran 2014-03-17 à 19.52.38

Unfortunately, most NGOs only realised the importance of transparency after scandals like Haiti and Thailand had popped up.

Concerning Omakua, 100% of your donation will be used for the projects. (We both continue working half-time in order to finance our living expenses.)

 

 

Sources:

 Page 19 de la synthèse du rapport de la cour des comptes
Scandale de l’ARC
Remboursement donateurs MSF

The Moken people in Thailand

After the Tsunami in Thailand in 2004, numerous NGOs started to implement reconstruction and development projects in order to come to the aid of the affected people.

Especially the South of Thailand has been hit by the catastrophe:

Figure_2 (reduced)

One of the most concerned population are the Moken. These people are traditionally fishermen who have been living at the seaboard which is why they have been particularly hit by the Tsunami. After the tsunami, the Moken became a NGO priority in the region.

Capture d’écran 2014-03-17 à 21.38.10

Photos © 

The Moken have been living in fisher villages at a 200km coastline between Phuket and Khura Burri. Their living space has changed drastically after the tsunami. Much territory which was populated by the Moken before has been bought by real-estate companies; entire fisher villages were rehoused.

IMG_0199

 

IMG_0254

What happened?

For many decades the Moken people have been living at the seaboard. They were perfectly accepted by the other locals and the royalty. They paid property tax, but as their ground was regulated by the right of use, there are no deeds of property.

moken12

After the tsunami the Thai government has made it clear that affected people of the coastline will be resettled. This decision was also influenced by the real-estate and tourism sector.

To implement reconstruction projects, the NGOs needed these deeds of property. As there were no deeds of property, it was easier to simply rehouse entire villages than to deal with the Thai legislation. Like this the populations which have been living at the coastline were resettled from one day to the next and lost their access to the sea. The NGOs did not consider this. Reconstruction was evaluated more important – wherever it was possible.

The Moken had the choice: Staying at the coastline without anything or leaving the coast with the prospect of a new house and compensations.

51278455

Four years after the tsunami, the village of Kokhloi for example, is crowded with hotels. The fishermen are not allowed any more to put in their boats at the beaches, because they are private property now.

Furthermore, the NGOs’ work included the supply with boats at fishing equipment for the Moken. The NGOs have chosen small boats and fishing nets. For the fishermen who are used to fish offshore, the 5 meter boats were not adapted to their way of fishing. Many of the fishermen were forced to change their activity; others ran into debt because they had to buy new fishing nets and put expensive petrol into their boats.

Reconstruction without considering the needs of the local people has thus created a state of instability which has not existed before 2004.

d58d22c93d731db5cb3a325a37c7a855

With Omakua, we want to do things differently.

We want to help people with small projects which are adapted to their way of life. Our main point is the communication with the local population. This will take time, but we are convinced that this is the way to achieve development while respecting the local traditions and ways of life.