Children's Water Safety Project
According to the Thai Ministry of Health, over 1,300 children drown each year in Thailand; and according to the WHO drowning is an even bigger problem in many other Southeast Asian countries, e.g., in Vietnam over 3,000 children drown each year.  Last year, the Chiang Mai International Rotary Club (CMIRC) decided to address this problem as one of its ongoing projects under the club’s principal service focus: “Protecting Children.”   The CMIRC Children’s Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Committee set the goal of developing a program to reduce children’s drowning deaths first in Chiang Mai and in the future all of Thailand.  To accomplish this goal, we set out to identify instructors, develop a curriculum, plan an ideal instructional schedule, locate the most appropriate participants, build partnerships with municipal officials working with poor children, and explore funding strategies. 
Over the course of the year CMIRC has invested 85,000 Baht in four pilot programs and based on our experiences teaching over 140 poor children water safety, we now feel ready to move forward with full implementation of the CMIRC Children’s Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Program in Chiang Mai beginning in August of 2016.   We plan to develop a prototype or model program that will protect children first in all of Chiang Mai, and, in the future, the entire country of Thailand using the Rotary network to spread the word and identify program locations and staff nationwide. 
Each of our pilot programs focused on teaching children basic survival skills in the water.   Our target audience was non-swimmers whose families did not have the means to pay for private swim lessons.   The Chiang Mai International Rotary Club provided all of the equipment that the children needed for these programs, including swimming suits, caps, towels, goggles, etc.  We also paid the swimming pool fees (greatly reduced for our program) and the swimming instructors’ fees (greatly reduced for our program).  We were very fortunate to identify a local, nationally known swim program: Kru Payu’s Swim.  Kru Payu has over ten-year’s experience teaching children with disabilities and children whose families do not have the means to pay for private swim instruction.  He has also studied and trained other instructors using an internationally recognized Australian drowning prevention program.   Over our pilot year, we experimented using differing schedules, locations, and age ranges for each of the pilot programs in attempt to learn the most efficient way to “drown-proof” children.
Here is what we learned in our pilot year and how we addressed the issues raised above:
Identify instructors:  Kru Payu Swim based in Chiang Mai has over 20 full and part-time instructors.  We identified five instructors who wanted to do work with poor children and who were very interested in our goal of reducing drowning deaths in Thailand.  Kru Payu worked with them to adapt water safety and drowning prevention techniques to best address the needs of our Thai children.
Develop a curriculum:  Over four programs we learned many lessons, but the basic curriculum in the international program worked well.   We did decide that our program sessions needed to be lengthened from 10, one-hour sessions to 10, 90-minute sessions, allowing time for 30 minutes of pool-side instruction before entering the water.  We also learned that 5 instructors for 35-40 children aged 8 to 12 was sufficient.
Ideal instructional schedule: after trying 4 different schedules, we decided that 90-minute sessions three times a week for three weeks and one 90-minute, final evaluation session in the fourth week was ideal.
Locate the most appropriate participants:  after much consideration we decided that public school 3rd graders (8-year old children) would be our target audience. 
Build partnerships with municipal officials working with poor children: we have had great success working with public school authorities and the Chiang Mai Mayor’s Office, so we will have access to the poorest students and the city will provide transportation to our pool.  Beginning in August we will offer every public school third-grade class in the eleven public schools the opportunity to participate in our program.
Explore funding needs and strategies: based on our pilot-year experiences, we know that we can offer our Children’s Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Program to an entire third-grade class for 18,000 Baht (around US$500).  The CMIRC has already committed to funding four of the eleven schools and we are actively seeking funds for the additional seven schools.  We are confident we will succeed for the coming year, but what we really need are on-going very long-term commitments so that after 4 years we can guarantee that for the foreseeable future every Chiang Mai public elementary school graduate has had water safety and drown proofing instruction.  The entire 11-school Chiang Mai program could be funded for 200,000 Baht per year (around US$ 5,500).
Future plans:
While we hope to greatly expand the local CMIRC water safety program and to work with many more children throughout the entire Chiang Mai Province, our committee’s long-term goal is to develop a model or models of instruction that can be taught to swim instructors in all regions of Thailand.  We hope to work with Rotary Clubs and other service clubs to identify and sponsor swim instructors and swim programs that could provide water safety instruction for poor children, teach the teacher programs.  We are planning to raise funds for the development of a course focused on “teaching children water safety and water survival.”  We would hope one day to offer this course here in Chiang Mai to those swim instructors nationwide, who have demonstrated their desire to help poor children and who have the support of their local Rotary Club or other recognized service organizations to develop programs such as ours in their communities.
To see the program in action please play the following promotional video:
Thank you for your supprt.
John k. Schorr, Ph.D.
Children’s Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Committee Chair:
 John k. Schorr, Ph.D.
Rotary Action Group Against Slavery
(The following letter describes a problem that David Black from the Rotary Club of Dunedin, NZ will address in November, when he discusses the "Starfish Program" with CMIRC)

Dear Rotary Friends:

Please check the link below to a one off edition of our Action Group’s Newsletter which provides useful information depicting the very real connection between modern slavery and RI’s six Areas of Focus. It is an especially important, useful and informative document for those Rotary Clubs and Districts which are about to embark upon the completion of an application for a Rotary Foundation Global Grant.

Our RAG exists  to raise awareness of the existence of slavery and to encourage rotary clubs to get involved with anti-slavery projects which help to protect children from slavery and its consequences.

Nowadays, clubs are encouraged  to join forces with other clubs to participate in larger, self sustaining projects, especially if grant funding is to be sought from Rotary Foundation.  But in order to be successful,  a club’s global grant application must, inter alia, “align with one of our areas of focus”. Rotary Foundation has listed six areas of focus. These are a) basic education and literacy, b) maternal and child health c) peace and conflict prevention/resolution, d( water and sanitation, e) economic and community development and f) disease prevention and control.

Most people will readily accept that the first two listed areas of focus will have a clear cut impact on or be affected by the numbers of enslaved victims.  On the education front, it is self evident that getting vulnerable children off the streets and into schools is one of the best methods of preventing  potential victims falling into the clutches of traffickers. As far as child health is concerned, today’s slaves are more likely to suffer from unattended health problems than their counterparts in previous centuries. This is because modern slavery, whilst existing in many different forms, shares two key characteristics that distinguish them from slavery in the past. Today slaves are “cheap and disposable”.

An average slave in the American South before the Civil War would have cost at today’s prices something like $40,000. Today you can buy a slave as cheaply as $40. Because there is a glut of potential slaves on the open market, they are not worth much. They are like the cheap pencils and pens that firms purchase for office use. No one really worries about the care and maintenance of these writing instruments or files title of ownership. Pens and pencils are disposable and so are many slaves. In other words slave holders operate on the principle that there is no real need to care for them if they are sick, because they can be easily replaced and at little cost.  Preventing or rescuing children from slavery will definitely have a beneficial impact on children’s health.

There is also a very real connection/relationship between modern slavery and the other four areas of focus. This will become clear by reading the attached document which has been masterminded by our Vice Chairman, Stephen Sypula.

Please will you ensure that this important document relating to RI’s Areas of Focus,  is made available to all those Rotary Clubs and Rotarians  who are about to submit or are in the throes of submitting a Global Grant application.

Yours in Rotary

Mark Little
Chairman & Founder
Rotarian Action Group against Slavery
Life in a Refugee Camp
Life in a Refugee Camp
The question Bill Mason asked stumped me. "Did you like it?" CMIRC's sergeant-at-arms asked of my experience volunteering as a teacher, both with the U.S. Peace Corps and in a Karen refugee camp. Does anyone like living without running water or electricity? Without TV or the internet? Without washing machines or refrigerators? Without family or friends? As with most subjective questions, the answer to Bill's query is, at least for me, "depends." Depends on how much reward you get from helping others. Depends on how much you like to challenge yourself. Depends on how well you can adapt to a "foreign" way of living, and for how long. 
But for the thousands of Karen who've fled Burma, the question of "like" is moot - they don't have much choice. Once they reach one of the many camps dotting the Thai/Burma border (pictured below), the "stateless people," as they're technically known, live in a kind of limbo. They have just enough housing, food and clothing to survive. The camps have schools to occupy children, but once they graduate, there's not much for them to do but wait. And some of them have been waiting for years.

CMIRC has pitched in to help the Karen Women's Organization fund preschools in the camps, including the Mae Ra Moe Luang Camp, where I lived for two months in 2005 and again in 2010 (camp layout below).  Our club also supports the Mae Tao Clinic, which has a presence in most camps in the form of dormitories for orphans, and these dorms could always use blankets, mosquito nets, kids clothing, and books & games. Our club is gearing up to help the Burma Children Health Fund House in Chiang Mai by donating similar items, so it seems that many of the CMIRC projects are dovetailing nicely.
The walk from section 1 down to section 8A follows Mae Ra Moe "stream" for about seven kilometers and takes about two hours.
The camp looks deceptively pleasant - almost resort like in its snug little valley, but looks are deceptive.  With recent drastic cutbacks in the monthly allotment of rice to adults (15 kgs to 7.5 kgs), many people are undernourished and must spend most of their waking hours scavenging for bamboo shoots, ant eggs, fingerling fish, and anything else they can find to assuage their hunger.
About 14,000 Karen now live in the Mae Ra Moe Luang camp in bamboo and thatch houses like the ones pictured above. No running water or regular electricity means no refrigeration - food must be found and cooked each day.
But despite the hardships, the Karen in the camps try to remain upbeat, hopeful, and dignified. They educate themselves and welcome westerners warmly, whether as English teachers, dance instructors, artists, or sports coaches. 
Once these students at the Personal Development Course School (where I taught) graduate, they'll join the thousands of adults in the camp who are waiting, waiting, waiting...
And of course, like kids everywhere, Karen children will find ways to have fun, regardless of the circumstances. It doesn't take much to help improve these children's quality of life, and I'm proud to be part of an organization that recognizes this simple truth and does its best to help.
Phil Thornton Puts Spotlight on Refufgee Concerns
Burmese migrant workers have few rights, either inside their country or out.
Australian journalist Phil Thornton gave a compelling presentation to the club Tuesday evening about the plight of Burmese refugees, both internally and here in Thailand. Thornton, the author of "Restless Souls: Rebels, Refugees, Medics and Misfits on the Thai-Burma Border," noted that three to four million Burmese workers come into Thailand each year, many without official approval. These workers often lose what little they have or earn to "agents" and others who take advantage of their dire situation. The reasons refugees flee Burma or remain in Thailand include military seizure of their land, indiscriminate placement of landmines, and the overwhelming drug trade, especially in the northwestern Shan State of Burma. To help refugees with severe medical problems, Thornton's wife Kanchana has sponsored the Burmese Children's Medical Fund, which supports a house here in Chiang Mai for patients awaiting treatment at local hospitals. Since the BCMF partners with the Mae Tao Clinic, and supporting child protection through Mae Tao is already a CMIRC project, our club plans to help out at the house in the future.
Club President Shana Kongmun thanks journalist Phil Thornton for sharing his experiences with CMIRC.
Mae Tao Clinic Visit a Hit
Our July trip was the first CMIRC visit with the new 2-day format, and it was a great success. On Thursday the 27th of July we spent the day with “Help without Frontiers.”  After a thorough briefing by HwF director Siraporn (Ann) Kaewsombat, we were treated to a tour of their Happy Tailor Project, which creates jobs and provides excellent products for sale (pictured below). They are currently making the school uniforms for migrant learning centers.
Following a delicious Burmese lunch at Mae Sot’s famous Wadee restaurant we toured two of the migrant learning centers supported by HwF. Both are seriously underfunded and need many kinds of support. On Friday the 28th we toured the Mae Tao Clinic.  The morning started out in the old clinic where we met Dr. Park, a Korean medical doctor who specializes in  acupuncture.  After a bit of confusion regarding our tour guide, none other than Dr Cynthia herself happened along and immediately found us a new guide.  The woman is everywhere!  
CMIRC members and friends toured Mae Tao Clinic Last week. From Left: the Happy Tailor gardener, David Haines, Raelene Haines, Glen Cermak, HwF director Ann Kaewsombat, Janet Greenleaf, Jerry Nelson, the Happy Tailor manager, Glen Ovens and Tom Alibrandi.
While the majority of the Mae Tao services have moved to the new campus, acupuncture and the prosthetics lab remain at the old campus.  Also, the old campus has been turned into a training facility.  The lease on the land at the old campus will expire in late 2017. Next we toured the Child Development Center (CDC) where our travellers learned about the needs, challenges and successes of this facility. There are currently over 800 children attending the center, and about 50 reside there. They are in the process of establishing a G.E.D. curriculum which will be offered to all the qualified migrant children in the area.
After lunch we toured the new campus and met with Mae Tao Staff.  Ongoing efforts include the establishment of a Mae Tao Wish list.  More about that will be announced at a later date.  The next tour has not yet been scheduled but it will likely be in September or October.
Thank you for supporting CMIRC!
Jerry Nelson
CMIRC, Foundations Chair
Bulletin Editor
Mike Lake
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