Pai is 19 years old and in her first year at university studying pre-primary education.
Pai’s parents have been in Thailand for about 20 years, so she was born not long after they arrived. Her father works as a day labourer in the construction industry. She says that he is getting older, he’s not in good health and he drinks heavily, so is not in regular work. Her mother makes sweets and desserts to sell in local shops, and also babysits to bring in some extra money. She is also not in good health and has diabetes. Pai’s older brother is 23 and didn’t progress beyond primary school. He spent his teens working in the construction industry and now works in a local restaurant. Both parents worked hard for many years collecting rocks from the river and labouring to save up enough money to build their house. This used up all their money and now her father is working less there is only just enough to get by day to day. Pai’s parents were able to put her through high school but could not afford to support her education any further.
Pai gained exemplary marks at school with a GPA of 3.15. Throughout the last 3 years, each day as soon as school finished she would go to work until 10pm, earning just 60 cents an hour. This left her little time for anything other than school or work, but she was driven by her determination to continue her education. She managed to save enough money to pay for university applications and exams, however after paying for these and the necessary transport and accommodation, she had nothing left to pay for her course or support herself. She says that if she was Thai she might be able to apply for loans like some of her school friends have, but as she is stateless this is not an option for her.
Pai sees education as a gateway to a better life for herself and her family, and is very aware of how it has opened her mind and introduced her to new ways of thinking. Having witnessed her determined attitude and commitment to education regardless of the obstacles she faces, Kwah Dao decided to support her throughout her undergraduate degree. She was accepted into Rajabhat University in Chiang Mai to study pre-primary education, and we are secretly excited that this may set her up to take a job at the Banyan Center when she graduates in 2019. Her first few months in Chiang Mai were hard as she had never before been away from her mother and she was lonely, but she soon made new friends and is now happy and full of stories about her new life.