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How we started

musuem.jpgTWA grew out of the work of Ecole sans Frontiers (ESF), an NGO registered in France providing education to political refugees worldwide. Starting in 1983, ESF activities in Thailand involved local staff members who were later to form TWA. Initially working in three Lao refugee centres, ESF services covered support for pre-school children, for primary and adult education and for cross-cultural and occupational training. Funding was received from the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF), the European Union, Refugees International Japan and the Stichting Vluchtelling of the Netherlands.

The phasing out of the refugee programmes in the early 1990s led to an adjustment of ESF activities. Intensive assessments pointed to new directions. Basic education in Thailand was in desperate need of development and promotion, especially pre-schooling. ESF set itself the task of also educating parents on the benefits of ECD. It was observed that the problem received less attention in the North-East of Thailand, the country’s most deprived region. Family counselors were few and there were no ECD child-carers. The critical lack of trained personnel, equipment and facilities prompted ESF to focus on ECD including family development in both urban and rural areas. In 1994 ESF launched its programme in this region, covering different geographical and environmental conditions, represented by an urban slum, a rural poor community and remote hill tribe villages.

DSCF0026.jpgThe main thrust was to encourage beneficiary participation in education and to promote the right to comprehensive child development from birth to age eight. This aimed to achieve a proper understanding of child-rearing among parents and guardians; encourage communities to identify and analyse problems and seek the most appropriate solutions and to raise awareness among educators, public health personnel, monks and community leaders as well as policy-makers about the importance of focusing on children and the least privileged.

In 1995 ESF moved its base from Bangkok to Khon Kaen. Programmes were more closely adapted to individual situations. Strong local leadership was facilitated and project management handed over to community organisations. Resources shifted to supporting education programmes designed for demonstration and training, including a mobile centre for pre-schoolers. Around this time, the main ESF donor, BvLF, was moving towards a policy that would support the establishment of a local entity. This was prompted by the need for institutional sustainability and recognition of the enhanced capacity of the national staff. The transition from ESF to TWA was carried out in phases, leading to the official registration of TWA in May 1998. Seven former ESF staff together with six other persons also with the appropriate expertise formed the local core group for planning the handover arrangements and launching the new association.

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