Koh Lao – Education & Health Care

Koh Lao, Ranong Province (Documentary video: here.)

A community of ethnic Mokans has lived for generations on Koh Lao, an island located thirty minutes by boat from Ranong Province. As sea nomads, the Mokan people have never owned land. Though most Mokan villagers were born on Thai soil, they still do not have full citizenship or rights to travel or work outside Ranong Province.

They have lived for decades without fresh water, electricity, toilets, or schools for their children.

The Children: Of the 120 children living in this village, almost all are malnourished and afflicted with intestinal worms. Only rarely have these children seen a manufactured toy. Their idea of a toy is a short nylon string tied to a piece of wood.

As their moms and dads are often away on fishing expeditions or busy collecting clams for the next meal, the older children in the village do much of the parenting. Big brothers and big sisters sharing food and hugs with their younger siblings are part of their natural day.

Scope of Project: The Human Development Foundation is working with the Koh Lao community in four core areas, which include:

  • Preschool Education/Day Care. We have opened and now operate the Koh Lao Mercy Preschool. We follow the national Thai curriculum and adapt it to the special needs of these Mokan children. Fifty children are currently enrolled.
  • Primary School Education. HDF provides uniforms and a 10-baht daily allowance for the Mokan children who attend government primary school across the island. 60 children are enrolled.
  • Drinking Water. HDF has provided each family with two 1,600-liter water jars to collect rain water. We have installed gutters on each home to catch the rain.
  • General Welfare and Housing.
    • Nutrition. Our school is providing a nutritious lunch daily plus milk and vitamin and protein snacks. All village children, young and old are provided lunch and snacks when not attending school during school holidays.
    • Health issues. All children receive immunizations and inoculations, and are administered de-worming medicine every 3-4 months. In cases of serious illness, the children are sent to hospitals on the mainland, where we coordinate with the Office of Public Health.
    • Mokan Youth & Children Camp.Mokan youth from Phang Nga province join together with the Koh Lao island children every year for a 7-day camp that celebrates friendship, education, and Mokan culture.
    • Networking. We are coordinating our efforts with the Ranong Governors’ office, the Provincial Office of Non-formal Education, and the Office of Public Health.

Related Article by Father Joe Maier: The Old Man and the Sea, and his Granddaughter

Related Video: Adrift in Time

Mokan Pioneer Education Initiative

Mokan  children

Following the 2005 tsunami, HDF served dozens of devastated communities – building and repairing homes, fixing potable water supplies, creating income-earning initiatives, and making sure every child was able to return to school. To this day, we continue to provide educational funding for poor Mokan (Sea Gypsy) children and Rubber Tappers’ children in Phang Na and Phuket provinces.

Mokan School Sponsorship Challenges: These children have no family history or culture of formal education. Coastal families raise their boys to be fishermen; those living inland expect their children to become rubber tappers. Almost all adults in these communities are illiterate and have never valued an education for their boys. The education of girls is even less valued. Hygiene is very poor. Most villages do not have toilets. Economic levels are below subsistence.

Total Number of Sponsored Mokan Children:
500 children.

Teacher-Student Network: HDF created a sponsorship network between twelve schools. Teachers receive training in child outreach and child protection.

Village Partnerships: We work together with the parents, teachers, and village leaders to improve hygiene (potable water sources, wells, and toilets), generate income (commercial vegetable gardens, fishing equipment, boat repairs, livestock maintenance), and help the Mokan community integrate into Thai society and culture.

Additional Sponsorship Activities:

  • Family outreach
  • Leadership youth training
  • Summer  Youth Camps
  • Cultural exchange with our sponsored children in Bangkok

Retention Rate: Since the program started in 2005, not one sponsored child has dropped out of school. Dozens have completed secondary school. Many are enrolled in vocational colleges.

Related Mercy Centre Education Programs:

Education Sponsorships

The Janusz Korczak School

Mercy Kindergartens