Somsak is 15 years old, in his third year of high school, and lives with his uncle and aunt in a small room in the guesthouse at which his uncle is working.
Somsak’s mother, Bee, was Thai Yai, and his father Burmese. Due to their different ethnicities both families were against their relationship from the start, so the couple ran away to marry, only to separate when Bee was 3 months pregnant with Somsak. At this point she came to Thailand, where Somsak was born, to stay with her sister, and had no further contact with his father. She stayed another 2 years before heading to the south of Thailand to work, leaving Somsak in the care of his aunt and uncle. She kept in touch with the family until December 2004. Since then they haven’t heard from her and think she may have perished in the tsunami, although nobody knows for sure. Somsak has no memory of her.
Somsak has been attending the BRP after-school tutoring program for several years. He is very intelligent, and as with many of our students he excels in school, obtaining top grades in every subject. His favourite subject is maths and although he loves going to school and learning he’s told us that some of his peers at school look down on him and tease him as he is not Thai. In his free time he likes reading cartoon books and playing football. When we asked him how far he wanted to continue to study he answered instantly that he wants to go to university and get a degree, and hopes one day to become a teacher.
Somsak’s uncle has two teenage daughters both of whom he is sending to colleges in nearby Mae Hong Son. This is already a financial stretch for a handyman at a guesthouse and he and his wife often scrimp on meals to save extra money. He has brought up Somsak like his own son but has been struggling to cover costs and was beginning to question whether he could continue to keep Somsak in school. They approached Kwah Dao and we agreed to help out by giving them $100 a term – seemingly such a small amount, but making all the difference to this struggling family.