Jab is 25 years old and in her final year at Mae Fah Luang University studying Chinese and Business. She was born in Burma and came to Thailand when she was just a few years old.
Kwah Dao have been working with Jab for many years. Her family is incredibly poor which has made life for Jab very difficult. Her father is a farmer and has to borrow money every year to buy seeds, rent equipment and pay workers for the harvest. He is not allowed to borrow money in Thailand so has to resort to a moneylender, which means high interest and minimal profits at the end. Each year is a struggle to make ends meet, and her father cannot go into other types of work as his migrant card specifies he can only do farming. Her mother is in poor health and works menial jobs, for example cleaning in a guesthouse, or helps her father in the fields. They live in an abandoned guesthouse although have been told they may have to find a new home soon as the land will be used for development.
Because she is a girl, Jab’s parents did not think it was important for her to finish her education and she has had to fight to stay in school. Her older sister was never allowed to go to school and KD workers had to convince Jab’s parents that she should go in the first place. They secured her a place in a local school and for many years she received a small stipend to help with the monthly costs of school. When she finished Grade 9 her parents wanted to pull her out of school altogether to work and help support the family, however Jab had bigger dreams, of finishing high school and going to university. After prolonged talks between Jab, her parents, and KD workers, Jab was allowed to continue her education and was offered a KD scholarship.
In 2011 she moved to Chiang Mai to attend school. When living with her parents she had had to spend all her time out of school doing chores, helping in the fields or working. In Chiang Mai she had time to study and her grades jumped from average to outstanding. She graduated from high school in March 2014, and is currently in her first year studying Chinese and Business at university. Jab is quite shy and found university difficult at first, but is slowly getting used to things and settling in.
Her university is far from home – a full day’s travel – and Jab misses her parents a lot. She feels a strong sense of responsibility for their welfare and struggles with the fact that they have such a hard life and she is not there to help them. Just before she started university her father asked her not to go, or to wait a year and work to help them for a while. However she could not defer her place and decided to press ahead as she knows that long term, with a degree, she will be far better situated to build a life for herself and support them.