Some of our readers may recall us talking before about one of our students, Win, who wanted to pursue a law degree but didn’t have Thai citizenship, so he was uncertain about his ability to ever get a real degree or practice law. Well, we are thrilled to announce that after years of struggle and uncertainty, he got citizenship, and the degree, and now is on staff with The SOLD Project! We are so excited to have Win here with us. We’ve invited him to share a bit of himself here with you. I’ve interviewed him, through one of our staff translating, and here’s what he said (paraphrased for ease and clarity).
Can you tell us a bit about what your role here at SOLD will be?
Primarily, I will help conduct home visits, follow up with students, be a part of the mentorship program, and help P’Gade with the 3-3-5 prevention program. I also will try to help the students and others in the village navigate legal issues surrounding getting Thai citizenship. For example, we have one scholarship student who has no citizenship, only some documents allowing her to stay in Thailand. She wants to be a tour guide, but doesn’t know if she can get the tourist guide certification, so my role is to find out details about how to make this possible, give recommendations, and advise her.
Are there any specific goals you have in mind?
Because I focus on law, in working here, I really want to center my efforts on helping students & parents communicate with government officials about their citizenship rights and requirements. I want to try to find out who has citizenship and who doesn’t. And I want to get more training and study the law more deeply, especially around citizenship issues, to find ways to help them get citizenship.
How big is this problem?
On an individual level, it’s devastating. It really weighs you down, makes you feel sad, depressed, hopeless when you don’t have citizenship. You always think, “Why don’t I have opportunities like other people? What did I do that I don’t deserve an equal chance?” You just feel constrained and stuck because there’s so many things you cannot do. As an example, one scholarship student is a runner, and he’s studying at Rajabhat University. He wants to be a Physical Education teacher, but he doesn’t have citizenship, without which he cannot get a degree and cannot teach. He’s trying hard to get it. If you can’t get citizenship, you just feel like you don’t have a purpose in life. If you can’t pursue your dreams, it makes you want to quit. You feel like you have no hope, no confidence, no choices, and your worth is not equal to others. If you have none of these things, how can you focus on what you really want to be?
On a macro level, I estimate in Chiang Rai alone, there are more than 100,000 people in this situation.
How do you think your experience will serve you in this position?
I hope that the example of my own life can provide a good role model for the younger students and inspire others to fight to improve their lives. And I will try my best to help them as much as I can.
What do you think is the biggest challenge?
The hardest part about this job is that I’m the first one here to do it. I have no model to follow and no advisor to ask for help. Any time a new situation comes up, I just have to wing it, and make it up as I go. The other challenge comes when the students don’t do much to help themselves. If they don’t fight for themselves, there’s not much I can do to help them.
What do you do when things get difficult?
I just think to myself, “If we don’t do anything, nothing will change. If you don’t try, everything will be the same. But if you try to move even just a little bit, even if you don’t know the result, that means you are changing something.” That gives me hope that I can make things better.
What do you do to relax?
I like to drink coffee and read books. I also go check out my pineapple farm to see if it’s getting bigger. I get so happy about my pineapple farm–especially when I tried to sell my pineapples and I actually got money for them!
Thank you, Win! You truly are an amazing person and an inspiration for others!