Tell us a little about DEPDC and your role at the company.
Hannah: DEPDC is a non-profit NGO registered in Thailand, based in Mai Sai, the most northern point of Thailand on the border with Burma. We work mainly in the prevention of human trafficking by providing education, academic, vocational, life skills, human rights, human trafficking and children’s rights to at-risk children and young people. Some of our work also involves working with people who have experience neglect, abuse, abandonment or trafficking.
We work in the North of Thailand because ethnic minority groups and stateless individuals reside in this part of Thailand. As a group they are at risk to being trafficked for labour and sexual purposes because they experience the combination of poverty, discrimination and lack of citizenship (Thai or Burmese) that denies them education, health care and access to other rights, services and protection from governments. Making them prey for traffickers.
I am DEPDC’s International Volunteer Co-ordinator. I recruit, manage, and look after volunteers who come to DEPDC, our minimum time commitment is 6 months. I handle our English language correspondence, translate and help write grant reports and proposals, welcome and show around visitors we get at the centre, host the Fun English Radio show on our radio station 1-2 times a week, send out thank you letter for donations we get and other various tasks. The work is quite varied so it keeps things interesting.
How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?
Hannah: I graduated with a B.A. in Politics and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies in 2011. Since starting university I have been interested in working in the NGO sector and working on the issue of Human Trafficking. I am originally from Thailand, where this is a major issue. Thailand is a source, transit and destination country. I had never thought to work on the prevention side of this issue until I heard about DEPDC. I later found out that they were looking for an International Volunteer Co-ordinator and so I applied.
What makes DEPDC unique?
Hannah: Working on the prevention side of trafficking is just as important as working with victims of human trafficking. It is better for individuals to be prevented from entering exploitive situations in the first place because then they have not gone through such a terrible ordeal. It makes a lot of sense to do prevention work as well as rescue and rehabilitation.
DEPDC is unique because we work in prevention. I’m sure we are not the only organization to do so. All the staff that work here are amazing, many if not most of them were at risk individuals who have been in our programs and are now talented individuals working in prevention. Our directors and project leaders are incredibly dedicated; they have a lot of fight and a lot of heart.
I suppose with any organization the goal at hand often feels impossible to achieve, until it is done. Here are DEPDC they have done a lot of great work and have indeed prevented many children and young people from being trafficked and exploited. Here we want students to learn about everything and to be inspired. DEPDC is also very welcoming of visitors, and volunteers, long term and short term.
In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?
Hannah: Someone who is open minded, brave, positive in outlook, willing to work hard, is curious, takes initiative, willing to learn, willing to make mistakes, and willing to say ‘you know what, I can do this.’ Maybe most importantly is someone who wants to be here, someone who wants to help and someone that can acknowledge that although you are here to help others, these very people you meet are amazing in their own right and that there is so much you can learn from them. I think it should be a mutually rewarding and giving experience.
How do you ensure your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?
Hannah: By providing those in our program with opportunities for education, life skills and personal development, each project offers early intervention of those most at-risk for human trafficking with a wide range of risk factors including poverty, domestic instability, history of abuse and statelessness. Benefactors also benefit from a wide range of alternative educational programmes and vocational trainings to further reduce their likelihood of entering exploitative situations.
DEPDC also increases the awareness of human trafficking, child rights protection, and the importance of education, in both its target group and within its networks and in the community at large. DEPDC also works diligently to actively engage members of the community through outreach and networking so that teachers, village leaders, family and community members, and the government itself also works to combat the social problems plaguing the region.
It is worthy to note that the empowerment and prevention-based projects can impact families and communities of the participants in indirect ways. Already, many participants have indicated a willingness to share their experience and anti-human trafficking knowledge with their siblings, friends and communities. DEPDC and M-CRP believe projects supporting youth hold the greatest long-term potential to build strong communities that are active in protecting, educating, and caring for their children. The youth in these communities are empowered to work for change, and they will form the next generation of activists and social workers who will tackle this issue for a truly sustainable intervention.
Volunteers are supported by their Volunteer Co-ordinator who is here to supervise their work as well as look after their well being whilst they are here. Volunteers are given a wide range of tasks to do. Volunteers are also able to initiate small to larger scale projects or initiatives that they are interested in pursuing, given that our daily task can be covered. Volunteers are also welcomed by all staff, there may be a language barrier at first but the more you learn Thai the more you can benefit from this experience. We also include volunteers in many if not all of our events as well as monthly meetings, our half year and end of year meeting.