Do you have dreams for your children? Do you ever worry about their future? Everyone does, but not everyone has the same worries.
Have you ever had to worry about your children being unable to attend school because you didn't have the right paperwork? Or that they might not be able to find a job because your city councilman refused to sign a paper that gave them a social security card? This type of thing is a totally foreign concept for most people from Western countries, but for Thai people who grew up in mountain villages, it's an everyday concern. In addition to these worries, people without paperwork are at higher risks of trafficking, sexual exploitation, loan sharks and other issues. That is why we place such a high priority on our citizenship cases.
Help the dreams of these boys grow as tall as this tree: HERE
Yesterday we were exuberant to have 6 successful citizenship cases in Mae Fah Luang, a remote area of Thailand near the Burmese border. We have 3 children in the same family who have not gotten their social security cards yet, not because they were not born in Thailand, or because their mom isn't a citizen, but because the village chief refuses to sign the paperwork to release their card and put their names into the family ledger unless the family pays him $250 per child. The family has 6 children and makes about $8 a day doing manual labor.
Another family has 3 children, but because the mom never finished doing the paperwork to get her social security card, the children can't get theirs either. No one ever explained to her what she needed to do to get it, and when she asked for help from the village chief because her Thai is not very strong, he asked for $250 to accompany her and walk her through the process. They own a tiny rice field and make about $30 a week.
After a 10 hour drive round trip and 5 hours at the office, we got all the paperwork in order and got appointments for the children and the mom to come get their social security cards in May! Butsaba finally convinced the chiefs of the importance for the futures of the children and they agreed to come if we reimburse them for gas and food. Donate to this cause, even $5 will be doubled if you give from April 8-12!
Now, you may be wondering, "Why on earth would you need to go through a long process to get citizenship for the country both you and your parents were born in?"
This was a foreign concept to me too before I came to Thailand. Let me tell you the story of citizenship for one family:
1) Now, when your parents were young (in the early 80s), the government came to your mountain village and made family charts with everyone's name and photo on them. You better hope this paper has not been warped or destroyed by fire or flood, because it's the only copy that exists. Can't laminate it, or it's rendered invalid. They also gave every family a yellow book with the family members names in it, and everyone in the village got a pink residence card. Very few people could read or write Thai because they spoke the tribal language of their specific village. Ten years after your village got these books and cards, the adults were eligible for social security cards. The village chief distributed them all. If your family had moved away, bummer for you. Someone else would buy your parents' cards.
Then, it was up to your parents to go to the government office to get a blue book, have the names transferred and add your name to the book as well, so you could get a social security card too when you turned 15. If your parents had moved to the city and you stayed with your grandma, no citizenship for you. Oh, and PS nobody can read Thai, so your parents have no way of knowing whether they entered the names correctly or not.
2) Now, you're an adult, but you still have a resident card, not a social security card because nobody ever came to your village to teach your parents how to get you one, so they never did go to the government office after they got the blue family book.
You get married and have a baby. If you had the baby in the hospital, you better make sure they type your name exactly how it is on your resident card, or the baby may be denied citizenship. If you still can't read Thai, this will be impossible.
Now, you have 15 days to take the birth certificate and the baby to the government office. This is almost always miles from your home down a dirt road full of potholes and your only mode of transportation is likely on the back of an old dirt bike. When you get to the government office, you better make sure they spell your name and the baby's name exactly as it is on your resident card and the birth certificate, or the baby will be denied citizenship. Again, you can't read Thai so have no way of checking this.
3) If you had the baby at home, as many people who live in such remote regions do, you have 10 days to take the baby to the hospital to get a birth certificate, and then 15 days to take that to the government office. If you're late, there's a $35 fee. Your family usually makes about $10 a week farming rice.
4) OK, so now all the paperwork is done, you have to wait until the baby goes to school.
When they enter school, make sure you get a form certifying the child is attending that school and it has a current picture. No one tells you to do this, though, you are just supposed to know it. Oh, and also, the law was changed last year so now kids get their social security cards at 7 instead of 15, but no one has told you this either, so you wait.
5) Now your child is 15, you take them to the government office because you have heard this is important for them to do.
The government officer looks at your paperwork.
"Why didn't you bring this child when they were seven? They are so old now!"
"Why is your name spelled differently on the birth certificate and on the school document and on your card? Why do you still not have a social security card, but only a resident card?"
How do you answer this if you have never learned to read Thai because only citizens were allowed to go to school when you were growing up?
How do you answer this if no one has ever told you what the new process is?
And, now your child is 15. They don't look the same as when they were 7, so the government will finally give you a social security card, but they say you have to do a DNA test to prove your child is really your own. A DNA test costs $350. Your family has a rice farm and the price for rice has improved, but you still only make $30 a week. Where will you get the money for the DNA test?
6) The government officer gives you an appointment to come do your social security card. You need to bring 3 witnesses from your village to verify you are the same person on your family tree sheet from years ago. But, after you got married, you moved to your husband's village and now the village chief from your own village wants $250 from you to come and sign the paperwork to grant you a social security card. This is on top of the $350 you will have to pay for a DNA test for your child.
"Maybe we don't need citizenship after all," you think.
But without citizenship, your child won't be able to attend high school, own land, travel to other parts of the country, and definitely not OUT of the country, own a vehicle or have health insurance.
So what do you do?
This story is all too common and the reason why we provide citizenship assistance free of charge. This April 8-12, you can be a part of allowing families to dream for their children by donating to our citizenship fund. Every donation under $50 is matched by Global Giving! Starting at 6am on April 8 and ending at 9pm on April 12, every donation you make counts double. Our goal for this campaign is $1000 that will enable us to complete the citizenship process for 10 children this year.