Bangkok sees a steady stream of travelers drawn in by its legendary hedonistic pleasures, ancient temples and chockablock markets. There are, of course, daily glimpses into Bangkok’s less-glamorous side; the beggar asleep in the doorway, the used needle in the kerb, the child begging. For too many, this is merely an annoyance, another hassle to wave away. And, for too many, Bangkok is a place to flee to, escaping rural poverty, chasing impossible dreams, running from abusive homes or hiding from personal tragedies. The children come from all corners of Thailand and scrape by on the streets.
It is a merciless existence. Children, as young as five, sleep in makeshift shelters as the trains rumble by. They find food however they can, but too often not often enough. Many find there are no role models, no access to education, and no chance to escape. Others fall prey to drugs and alcohol abuse, crime and prostitution. Children are trafficked, enduring unimaginable horrors. And others find The Hub.
An incentive of Thai and Australian charities, The Hub provides a safe and welcoming environment for Bangkok’s street and underprivileged children. Here the children receive more than the welcome “grub and scrub,” they receive a chance at a new life. Here, their most basic necessities are met with a smile: a safe place to sleep, a soothing shower, a warm meal and clean clothes. Life skills programmes, assistance with education and enrichment opportunities keep the centre filled with the sounds of happy children. From the streets of Bangkok, broken families and stolen childhood, comes a new chosen family. A place to grow, love and nurture.
The Hub’s life skills programmes empower children to take control of their health and safety. From sexual health awareness to road safety, the Hub’s children learn, day by day, a healthy and enjoyable way to develop as individuals. They are exposed to more dangers than any child should be subjected, and they meet these challenges with an unnerving grace, carefully stored wisdom and a heartbreakingly gap-toothed smile. Doctors visit, and hairdressers come, and the therapists guide, all working together to return these children to the happiness and security they deserve. Recognizing education as a priority in poverty alleviation, The Hub provides the encouragement to return to school, monetary assistance needed and tutoring to succeed. For those uninterested in education, vocational training is provided, giving the teenage participants a chance of economic security.
The Hub recognizes the right and need of every child to express themselves creatively. Afternoon comes and the centre is turned into a whirl of activity. Graceful Thai dancers lean over the stairwell to the B-boys turning impossible stunts below. Local school children visit and conduct an art workshop. The place is decorated with the children’s artwork, books cover the walls and computers offer a glimpse into the wider world. The running club provides a healthy outlet for the children, who burn off seemingly impossible amounts of energy after a night sleeping rough. Guest teachers come, offering everything from circus to music. The children are alive with it. The dedication displayed by the dancers is awe-inspiring. Every day, without fail, they come and practice for hours, sweat pouring off them in the steamy Bangkok heat. Some nights they head to a nearby park, transforming the street into a stage. The camaraderie is heart-warming; as older children become the role models they never had for their younger friends. Click here to see the kids in action!
The Hub provides its children more than a safe haven; it offers them a new chance at life. It provides the children the vital opportunity to achieve academically, professionally and personally. It is a lifeline that helps them to escape a life of exploitation and fear, while offering them the support to thrive and grow. To say The Hub is a miracle is not a lapse into hyperbole. Everyday, The Hub is giving children the most precious gift: the fortune to be a child today and the future of a confident, able adult.
To learn more about The Hub, enquire about volunteer opportunities or to donate, please visit their website at http://thehub.childlinethailand.org/
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