Superheroes are not just in the imagination or movies. We all can become ones too, so can any youngsters. Children and youth can become the superheroes who make the society a better place. All it takes are a good heart, knowledge and a walk on the right path. Then, we can become superheroes, just like the story of this little group of students who have got united under the name ‘Pattaya Dolphin’, serving to protect children in Pattaya City, a Thailand’s famous seaside tourist destination well-known worldwide.
The origin of the ‘Pattaya Dolphin’
“The marvelous beach and the ocean accompanied by a variety of amenities have caused Pattaya Citiy’s rapid growth and recognition as a famous worldwide tourist attraction. What comes after is the migration of a huge population from different regions of Thailand and movement of labour from neighbouring countries to seek economic opportunity and fulfill workforce in Pattaya City’s tourism industry. According to the Population and Housing Census, it is found that there are as many as 400,000 – 500,000 unregistered population or migrants in Pattaya City while there are only around one hundred thousand Pattaya natives. The unregistered migrant population is composed of not only adults at the working age but also a number of their kids in early childhood and youth who have come along. What follows is that many children experience problems of child right violation or are not properly cared for and protected. This has become a major problem of Pattaya City,” the mayor of Pattaya City provided the data.
Because child protection and child right promotion is one of our key ministries, World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT) has carried out Community Child Protection System and Advocacy Established and Functioning in Pattaya since 2014 with the goal to campaign for the establishment of a target community in Pattaya City as a network to drive a sustainable child protection system.
“To protect children and promote the rights of the vulnerable children in Pattaya City, which is the key target of the project, WVFT has worked to support the establishment of a sustainable child protection network. This started from mapping of children in vulnerability and at risk to violation of child rights, carried out collaboratively with the community and school to survey baseline data regarding children, families and communities in Pattaya City, so that child care and child protection implementation plan would be carried out appropriately. And because child protection would not be successful through the work of any single organisation or person, WVFT has built child protection network in Pattaya City by partnering with more than 20 multi-disciplinary organisations from government agencies, civil society, educational institutes, communities, as well as NGO network, to join hands in driving the child protection promoting campaign and taking the problem solving seriously. Children in vulnerability and at risk to experience child right violation have been supported by the project based on their needs, especially on education and life skill development, to provide all children with education equity because knowledge will be their pass to a better opportunity. Along with the education support for the vulnerable children, the project has also conducted occupation promotion and development for their parents to enable family empowerment, self-reliance and the ability to sufficiently and properly provide for their children. Moreover, to ensure that the child protection mechanism will be carried out continuously, WVFT has prioritised the engagement in child protection from educational institutes and communities for the best child protection vigilance, through the support of knowledge and development to the child protection youth group, building their leadership skills and facilitating child protection awareness creation activities,” Dr Sarawut Rachasrimuang, National Director of World Vision Foundation of Thailand, shared the goal and the implementation approach of Community Child Protection System and Advocacy Established and Functioning in Pattaya.
“We’ve received knowledge from Community Child Protection System and Advocacy Established and Functioning in Pattaya. We’ve witnessed problems impacting children in our community, so we’ve got together to set up a group under the name Pattaya Dolphin. We have been inspired by the dolphin which is the animal of Pattaya City. The logo has been designed with an S on the dolphin adopted by Superman’s symbol to reflect on the superhero quality in us, as we help children who lack opportunity and need our help. The S symbol also represents ‘Supanimit’ (World Vision in Thai) because we want people to know that we’re a youth group supported by WVFT,” Sai, or Panitsara, the 12-grader Chairperson of Pattaya Dolphin Group explained the meaning of the group’s name and its origin. It started with the assembly of the 5 zealous, visionary student leaders who have first met at WVFT’s central region youth leader capacity building camp in early 2017. After the camp, from a handful of kids, a working group consisting students from 13 schools, i.e. Pattaya City 1-11 Schools, Banglamung School and Phothisamphanphitthayakhan School, has been set up. The activities have been continuously conducted by the 2nd generation so far.
‘Dolphins of Pattaya City’ – child protection superheroes
The power of thought of the Pattaya Dolphin group is not only limited in school but expanded to the broader community to help the society. The activities include providing knowledge to younger children, enhancing children to know how to protect themselves and building empowerment to members of the community, as well as promoting and improving community environment.
“We view child protection as a precaution. It’s not necessary that the problems happen to children first. The best precaution is to have children learn to protect themselves and be aware what their rights are. If someone does something which violates their rights, such as touching inappropriate parts of their body, taking them to improper places or persuading children to work for them, children must make a careful consideration by themselves if these are appropriate and what they should do. Another important thing is to educate children whom they can seek help from and how, should their rights are violated.” Sai went on to share more about child protection mission of the Pattaya Dolphin of Pattaya City:
“If any community would like our group to conduct activities with their children to let them spend time constructively, we’ll provide them. For example, we have a project called ‘This Knowledge is from Me to You’ in which we teach the younger children whatever subjects we are good at, such as English language and art. We’ve taught children to draw pictures around ending violence against children. Further, we’ve organised a mangrove reforestation youth camp. And most recently we’ve conducted a project called ‘Dolphin Volunteers Create Smiles’: we have repainted classrooms and bathrooms for Ban Phlai Khlong School, Ranong province,” Sai talked about the group’s activities in the previous year.
The next activity these teenage heroes, the Pattaya Dolphin group, are planning to do is a short film project to present the issue of ending violence against children. The project was crystallised after the youth have joined ‘End Violence Against Children’ (EVAC) training provided by WVFT. They will also continue the 2nd year of mangrove reforestation project and lead the group’s youth members to do activities to benefit the general public. Meanwhile, knowledge about child rights and leadership will be integrated into the activities to build preparedness for the next generation of the superheroes.
Although the group members are from different schools, this is not an obstacle in working together. Sai said: “Due to frequent activities, we have had opportunities to talk and make plans together, so our friendship has been growing. It feels like we are family. We share ideas and philosophy. We’re so proud of ourselves that we’ve developed ourselves to this point. We’ve overcome challenges and our fears. We’ve developed ability to speak up and express opinions to reflect on problems and talk about what we’d like to do to make things better. There are a number of children and youth who do not have opportunities and dare not to speak or take action because they are not aware of their own rights. We have received training and joined activities. These have shaped us to grow up productively and possess volunteer heart to do beneficial things for the public,” Sai said proudly.
Today, WVFT’s Community Child Protection System and Advocacy Established and Functioning in Pattaya reaches its end, but with the silver lining start of Pattaya City Child Protection Network which has the Pattaya Dolphin g as a seedling growing within. It is believed that they’ll definitely be able to protect themselves and others around them.
“Having the local youth group drive child protection themselves results in, firstly, self-esteem children and youth have developed from being part of doing good things to benefit their own community; and secondly, as children and youth in the community take action themselves, their parents and other local people will take pride in them, leading to the adult’s willingness to support and contribute to the activities to make them successful. Consequently, children in Pattaya City will be protected with collaboration from everyone in Pattaya. These will lead to sustainable solutions to problems,” said Dr Sarawut Rachasrimuang. Keep fighting, the Dolphins of Pattaya!