The Isaiah 61 Project was birthed in 2004 when an educational sponsorship program was started for children at risk, in Fang District, Northern Thailand. This area is made up of a variety of ethnic groups. It is also a region with a high incidence of child prostitution, child labor abuse, and high incidence of HIV and AIDS. The average income for a farmer in this area is less than $500 CAD per year. Many children are at constant threat of abuse and exploitation by brothel agents who search in villages for vulnerable, poverty-stricken, families. Their families are deceived into thinking they are providing a better life for their children by releasing them into the care of these agents who have promised to put the children into school. In many cases, they never see their children again. The Isaiah 61 Project staff work closely with teachers, Christian pastors or workers, and village leaders to identify children most at risk. We are excited about the changes which are occurring already as indigenous workers build relationships with the families of the children and experience their delight in having their children receive an education. It is changing the cycle of poverty so prevalent in this area. An important goal for us is to provide a good communication link between our sponsored children and our sponsors in Canada and the U.S. With the help of video clips, pictures, annual trips to visit each family, profiles, and reports from the children and the schools they attend, this goal is being fulfilled. Our first 3 students have now completed their University studies as of April - 08
On our first visit to Northern Thailand in 2001, we met a group of girls who were close to finishing their Secondary requirements and were learning English with us. They had also become Christians that year and were to be baptized while we were there. Three of these girls really wanted to continue their education in Chiang Mai, but had no financial means, for continuing past High School.
One of the girls, named Fon, wanted to be a teacher. We visited her mom to discuss Fon's educational plans only to find that it would be an impossible dream for Fon to ever think of school beyond High School. Fon and her parents lived in a bamboo hut on stilts with sides and floors made of bamboo. It was very small and in need of repair. Fon's father was away for long periods of time and contributed very little to the needs of the family. Fon's mom earned her living by sorting gunny sacks filled with tea leaves. Her job was to sort the good tea leaves from the poor and gather the good leaves in another bag. She would then take these sorted tea leaves to an agent who would give her 20 baht (about 60 cents Canadian) for each Kilo of sorted tea leaves. Needless to say, this would not even come close to paying for her daughter to continue schooling. Fon is sponsored by the Isaiah 61 project and has completed her third year of University as of April-08. She wants to be a kindergarten teacher when she graduates in 2009 after meeting her practicum experience year of teaching.
It gives us great delight to report on two aspects of the work which have progressed really well during 2008. The first is that our children who have almost all accepted Jesus are going into the Hill tribes performing Christian skits and worshiping with the people, almost all of whom are Buddhist and Animist. Our hearts are overjoyed. The second is the beginning of many agricultural development projects which will assist our most needy children and families. At present, we have piglets, frogs, fish and a cow being raised and many garden plots started. These will help sustain our families insuring them adequate meat and vegetables in addition to rice.