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Children of the Golden Triangle CGT Mission
The christians think these missions are ok and promote them because they don't mind, as WHITE people, taking away brown children. Course we think there is a special place in hell for people like this.
CGT is a mission run by David and Asa Stevenson. Asa is an Akha woman. Back a while, the mission was nothing but some small buildings in a sand trap, that was removing Akha children from their nearby mountain villages and families to follow the model of making money off these children.
David kept working and got Rotary to back his scam, and Rotary International picked up his project and did a video story about this mission, as well as placing it on their website. From a few kids, the mission shot to 560 children removed from Akha villages, a virtual money mill of donors, sponsors and hapless volunteers.
We questioned Rotary about their involvement when we saw the picture of a traditional Akha woman on the cover of their Rotarian magazine. The leader of the project at Rotary would not answer our emails. We told him that the project violated the rules of Rotary. But Rotary has continued to support this project that takes children away from their parents and villages and culture. We also stated that it was odd that they used the picture of a traditional Akha woman's headress as converted Akha were discouraged from wearing them. Ethnocide.
This picture appeared in the Rotarian a number of times, promoting this project, wihch we are told from witnesses now receives thousands of dollars, multiple sponsors for each child, while children sleep on floors without blankets, without trained staff assistance or supervision.
CGT Directions. You have to go south of Chiangrai towards Chiangmai. When you get to the cross road to Fang, turn west. Down this road a few kilometers at most there is a dusty or was a dusty road to the right, more like a driveway at the time, going back into the area to the mission which is in bottom land, hardly the view Akha kids are used to.
People from this mission have been trying to convert villages in the area as well. They have no regard for Akha culture or Identity.
You can contact your local Rotary people to ask them about this project and why Rotary is involved?
Additional reports being posted here soon.
CGT Missionaries Are Taking All the Akha Children
Thailand Jan. 2007 For years now missionaries from the west have been building great incomes for themselves and their families by taking Akha children away from their parents and claiming they are orphans in order to raise money for themselves.
The numbers are staggering. What used to be hundreds is now thousands. In a land known for pedophiles, missionaries without inspection can do what they want.
Paying off locals to help collect and persuade, it is a small task to remove so many children. And Thai government oversight is minimal while valuable mountain lands are stripped of their Akha populations.
Going from a small house with 30 Akha children whom the missionaries advertise to their churches back home, the missionaries can soon have a massive sprawling complex with more than 500 Akha children packed in, working day and night to continue the construction of the facility in modern child slavery for the church.
And it is not without large scale western backing. While most of the missionaries are American, working on the back of a drug war that vilifies the Akha, sees their fathers arrested on drug related suspicions, the missionaries swoop in to appear to be the saviors while greedily grabbing up hundreds of children from their families. They are just to eager to claim how little help the families can provide to the children.
Ethnocide would describe it, but it is too blithe. Genocide more aptly possibly, but its an overused word that is a little too common of a world event these days. So just how do you describe what these mostly white missionaries are doing?
Is it any different than what they did to the Aborigine or the American Indian? The Canadian Indian, Pacific Islanders? Not hardly. But its clear proof that you cant get the habit out of the missionary. Taking other peoples children is written in their creed.
How long are we asked to indulge the church?
CGT Children of the Golden Triangle is just one such mission. Run by Asa and David Stevenson from Australia, the small complex in a sand trap in northern Thailands Chiangrai Province used to have about 30 kids. Now it has over 500 with another 100 coming and hopes to soon enough have over 1000 children.
Children are made to get up early and build buidings, mix cement.
The mission is not poor and could pay for it, children having multiple sponsors, and the place being rife with complacent white kids who dont mind the children cooking their meals, washing their clothes, making their beds and building new buildings while they watch. Course they pay to watch and that is just all the more money David and Asa Stevenson can put in their pocket, well over $20,000 per month.
David and Asa couldnt get to where they are and be doing what they are doing without a little help from people like Rotary International from the US. We asked Rotary not to publicize the project, not to sponsor it, but they went ahead and did it anyway. Running a promotion on their website and in their Rotarian Magazine, where they exploited images of traditional Akha women to promote the practice of removing their kids.
The missionaries claim family values but only for themselves. If you need proof that the Christian church is as racist as it ever was, you need to look no further. STOP the ethnocide of the Akha people by western missionaries.
If you would like to join the "inside" group, contact us for directions and advice on how to enter this and other missions which take away Akha children and abuse them.
Witness Statements Regarding What They Witnessed at CGT Mission:
So here are some of the things we have. I don't even know where to start, so please ask questions on anything we say and we'll embelish, there is so much i'm sure we've forgotten some of it. We just kept notes in our journals as we heard or saw things.
There are currently over 500 kids in the program (most exact number we could get), with 100 in a preschool program run by the CTG and the rest in Thai school. The children in the preschool program range in age up to about 13 (something that the volunteers were unaware of until just a few days ago, even those who had been there almost two months). Mostly the kids are just taught rudimentary english and watch movies. This is supposed to somehow prepare them for going to Thai school, which is justification for the older kids being there, because 'they aren't ready for Thai school yet'.
One volunteer mentioned some sort of recent order from local officials or the state (i'm not sure) that said all children over 10 had to go to Thai school regardless, so some of the preschool children were going to go to regular school. The volunteer thought this was a good idea, since even she (as oblivious as she was) realized teaching kids crude english in no way prepared them to go to Thai school. Also, there is absolutely no continuity between volunteers working in the preschool. One had been teaching for seven weeks and said that she had only found out the day before that the kids were supposed to have a nap in the afternoon because they got up so early (she had been wondering why it was so hard to keep them awake). There is no established cirriculum for the volunteers to follow. So there is never any consistancy in the syle or content of what they learn. Most of the time is spent reading to the kids or showing them a picture of a pot and having them repeat "pot".
They are building new kitchens and dorms and a brand new office with air conditioning. There are plans to bring in 100 more kids in April, though David mentioned that they could bring in over 500 if they had enough staff.(Someone needs to set this guy straight.)
None of the volunteers were able to tell me how exactly the kids got there, or were 'chosen'. They admitted that no officials were involved, and just said stuff like, 'I guess the kids just come to them. Sometimes the parents, or the villages, who know they can't take care of the kids, bring them here.'
A few mentioned they wondered the same thing, but on a whole none were willing to speculate much on where the kids came from. Everyone assumed that the parents left the children there because they were unable to take care of them, or that the kids were taken away by some unnamed authority because their parents were drunks, abusive, and/or drug addicts.
"The kids never really go back to see their parents...sometimes parents will stop by, like for children's day or something. I don't know why they don't more. I guess they don't love them". "A few of the kids here are orphans, but most of them have parents." -volunteer, Telitha
Later, a woman acting as a nurse said 80% had parents. Her response to the question "Why are they here?" was "I am sure that most of there parents are drunks or in someway not able to care for them."
Volunteers work from about 8 am to four every day except sunday and most saturdays. The kids get up at five am, have mandatory christian devotionals (which are repeated before bed), and start working, cooking (and cleaning up) over 1000 meals before eight am, as well as working on construction on some of the buildings, even in the dark, before going to school. (Against Child Labor Laws) There is absolutely no adult supervision in the mornings (except for the two volunteers who wake up to wash the youngest, no one else is even awake), the older chidren wake up and direct the younger children. In fact, there are only a few staff members for all of the children, most of the duties for taking care of younger children fall on the older.
"It's a crazy time to get up, I know. They [volunteers] wash them in cold water and then they [the kids] all go running about carrying cement blocks and running over each other with wheel barrows" -Craig, volunteer
The children are responsible for all the cooking and cleaning at the place, even for the volunteers. They cook separate food for the volunteers, and serve it to them and then take the plates away and wash them.
The kids eat rice, broth, and cabbage, while the volunteers are fed fruit and meat. I asked why we ate different food, and one volunteer suggested:
He meant to imply they wouldn't want the toast and jam we had and we wouldn't want their spicy curries, but at the time he said this we were eating rice, stir fried vegetables, and curried pork (very thai) while the children were eating rice and cabbage (very bland).
At another point when we were getting pictures of food the lady volunteer wanted to make sure that peanut butter and jam were included so that "the children know what we mean when we ask for it at the dinner table" -Ann, volunteer.
Basically, the children wait on the volunteers. Daniel the volunteer admitted that it was strange for him at first, but then shrugged it off.
As mentioned earlier, the children start work early in the morning before school, including construction. They can be found scurrying around in the dark picking up trash, cooking food, doing laundry, carrying concrete blocks, grouting, stuccoing, pouring concrete, tiling, and grinding metal stands for making wicker chairs. This is way beyond basic childhood chores.
There is a workshop there that the older boys work in for making beautiful wicker chairs, which are then sold for profit.
One volunteer said that the oldest kids only go to school one day a week, and then work at the center for the rest of the time. Basically, by using the children as free labor, David is using them to expand his business so that he can bring in more children (larger kitchens, dorms) and make more money.
At one point in the past, he said he had 52 volunteers there. At about 75 USD per week, that is $3900 a week just from volunteers! He also mentioned that every child there was currently sponsered, at 30 USD a month, which means over $15,000 USD a month from the children's sponsers, and up to $3,900 a week from volunteers! Not to mention frequent bulk donations from organizations (they seem to be close with the Rotary Club along with a number of christian schools), and selling things that the kids make in the workshop. He keeps his overhead low by hiring very little staff and relying on volunteers and, mostly it seems, the kids themselves.
David mentioned that he had tried to adopt out a child once, because the child had bonded with a volunteer so much (he was an orphan) but that it didn't work out because the local magistrate had said he was using the kids to make money (at which point at the volunteers he was talking to awwed and sadly shook their heads at the misguided locals who misconstrues David's loving heart). We overheard one of the volunteers (Craig....and his family from Australia) talking about his time there trying to choose one of the children "not picking a favorite". There was talk about adoption but it may have been a side point.
Most of the volunteers are part of YWAM, Youth With a Mission, working out of a program from New Zealand, for eight week or four week installments. Most seem just a bit hesitant, but seem afraid to criticize. And they know almost nothing about how the children got there, when they got there, and what might happen to them when they leave. They are oblivious, but willfully so. They seem almost desperate to justify what is happening around them. When the children are working so hard, they are described as merely 'industrialized', in an almost respectful, admiring sort of way, like how great these kids are that they work so hard! Like gee, i wish my four year old got up at five in the morning to pick up trash in the dark and cook for other people... any work the children do, cooking/cleaning/sewing/building/making wicker chairs is described as job training, even though one said that since they don't have ID cards very few of them are likely to use their training. Others mentioned that they could use their training back in their villages when they were older.
What makes this easier, of course, is that the kids are truly amazing and fairly happy (for what one can see in 24 hours). They are very friendly, almost aggressive in their friendliness, probably because they are desperate for adult attention. But for every child working, there are two playing, and I think the volunteers just look at the smiling faces and assume that means that everything is okay. If children have problems, it is blamed on a bad past. One volunteer talked about what a miracle it was that one child, who hadn't talked since she had been there (but she didn't know how long the child had been at the center), but had finally said something the day before. Like, yes! look what good works (praise the lord) we have been doing. It didn't occur to her that maybe the child wasn't talking because she had been taken away from her family and village.
Most of the very brief comments on David himself said that he was difficult to work for, controlling, paranoid, and disorganized. The volunteers rarely knew what was going to happen day to day, just sort of waited for him to come out messiah like from his house and tell them what to do. Which he only did a few times.
We would like to write something about this, maybe for indymedia?
We have lots of pictures to get to you and they will take some time since the files are so large. I can shrink them down but then you won't be able to zoom in on them as well to get desired photos. We will be sending them over the next few days. I have some video but will have to get that to you some other way.
We have tons of information to go through right now, hundreds of pictures and captions, and so forth. I'm still writing down things i remember in my journal.
Everyone there is extrememly defensive, the questions we asked were often ignored or deflected, and even general ones raised hackles.
I understand why you want us to go back, the more information we can get the better, but I don't know if we can. we will continue to write stuff down and go through pictures and video as we head east, though we wont have computer access where we are going.
I want to help in this, and i'm going to try to find where the volunteers came from and write to those organizations.
p.s. The volunteers mentioned that there had been previous problems with pedophilia. A previous volunteer had shown up and 'acted suspicious' with the children, and since then the male volunteers are not allowed to teach in the preschool or be alone with the children. One volunteer said that David was pretty paranoid on the issue, which was hard on the male volunteers because they were kept away from the kids more. One of the older female volunteers also mentioned that there had been a problem with it in the past, so whatever the 'incident' was (no one really said), three different people mentioned it to us at different times.
This is an inventory of some of the more expensive things that we saw around the camp. we have pictures of many of these things, but i thought the list would help also:
-Toyota 4-door SUV, brand new
As mentioned there is no curriculum. The volunteers who were teaching that i talked to said they were just sort of thrown into the classroom with no idea of what to do, not even told that the kids usually had a nap in the afternoons, and not realizing that a number of the kids were much older than they thought. they weren't told, and as seemed to be the case so often there, they didn't ask! During nap time the children just curl up right there on the school floor, no blankets or pillows or anything (I have pictures).
The volunteers felt that there had been real improvement in the last 7 weeks that they had been there, that the kids had finally started to pick up on the english and were starting to make simple sentences. Mostly, the children were read to and taught numbers and colors. Granted, I was in the school room with the younger set of children (they separate the older set out in one group and the younger set out in another and teach the two separately) but if some of the kids have been going to the preschool to learn english for a number of years, even just a number of months, they knew very little. This is not that surprising considering there is no continuity between teachers, but it makes the whole pre-school set up seem like a bit of a joke, something to occupy the children's and volunteer's time.
I asked how long some of the children had been in the pre-school and at the camp in general, but, of course, no one knew. The impression I was given was that all the children were in the pre-school at the camp to be prepared for regular thai school, but as far as I knew none of the children had been 'graduated' in the time that any of the volunteers had been there.
One volunteer, Dustin, wanted to work as a teacher but had to do construction because of David's fears of sexual abuse of the children. His wife, Taletha, said he didn't like working with David directly because even though he (Dustin) knew more about construction, David was always telling him what to do, and was very controlling about the whole project and process. That he demanded everything be done his way, even if it wasn't the most reasonable way to do it. Taletha wanted to come back and work at the place again, but she said she might not because she would have trouble convincing her husband to come back, that he was frustrated with the work he had to do there.
Not all of the young people were entirely happy with the place, but didn't want to comment. We asked one, Ben, how long he had been at the place, and he replied '7 weeks'. We said: "that's a long time". Ben: "too long". But the dissent is very subtle, I think that being trained for a number of weeks and being told that you are going to do "good works" in Thailand prepares you to think very highly of the place and makes you slow to criticize it, because "good christian leaders" have sent you there.
The volunteers were generally kept in the dark about what was going to happen day to day, other than the basic routines. We were there for one saturday morning, and the volunteers just sort of sat around waiting to be told what to do. The older kids go to thai school for half a day on saturdays, and the pre-schoolers had school then about half of the saturdays. other saturdays they didn't, but none of the volunteers knew which saturdays were school days for the younger kids and which ones weren't going to be, it was entirely up to the whim of David.
That saturday, David came out and didn't say anything about school. He had some of us go make ponchos for the kids out of blankets to keep them warm. Two girls worked with me in a sewing room (four sewing machines) making the ponchos, and two volunteers came and helped me out later as well. I'm not sure what the other volunteers did, I only saw them sitting around that day. Maybe some of the guys worked on the building with the kids.
I really think that David gets away with this because he is so subtle about it. Or maybe not subtle, but because he does everything in a way that is open to justification. If he just blatantly made the children work in sweatshops for profit, it would be more obvious. But he just makes them work in the center itself mostly, so what they are doing is similar, though far more extreme, to family chores (laundry, cooking, cleaning), or can be seen as job training (carpentry). People in western societies are so used to complaining about how lazy children are these days, and look back at the good old days when children used to, say, help out on the family farm, that it is easy for them to look at the children working and think 'yeah, this seems like it's a bit excessive but isn't it nice that these children are actually working? How industrious they are! How i wish my kids worked at home like this a little more often!' Of course, unlike America 100 years ago, these children aren't working as part of family with adults and grandparents to help make money for everyone, and doing what they can to help out. They are doing ALL of the work, much of which is inappropriate for their age, not just for themselves but for 500 other children, without the assistance and guidance of adults. And the profit isn't going back to help them, it is largely going to David. David is getting huge amounts of money to raise these children, and he just has them raising themselves so that he can keep his overhead down and his profit up. I'm sure he feels totally justified to himself, that he is taking them away from a sick and destructive culture (traditional akha life, and he makes no attempt to pretend that he is trying to preserve their culture. traditional crafts, which can be sold to make money, are okay but anything else needs to be destroyed) and christianizing them, westernizing them. How can anyone begrudge him a profit when he is doing such great things, how nice is it to be able to do such wonderful things AND make a living?
I hope this helps, I know that some of it was mentioned before. This is a compilation. We're still categorizing and labeling the pictures, we'll let you know as they become available.
We sent the package out this morning from the Chiang Rai Post office. Sending it EMT was almost 30 USD, so we sent it priority instead (our budget it a bit tight, student loans and all that jazz). It should get there in two weeks. If anything happens to it along the way, we have backup with us as well as the pictures that are on the web.
We didn't find the house of the guy involved in the trafficking. People here don't seem to have quite the same emphasis on knowing street names as we do (probably navigate more like I do at home, with a general N, E, S, W idea of the layout of the town and getting where I need to from there. everyone gives me a hard time cause i don't know st names of places right by where i grew up), and speaking no Thai and not everyone being able to read our english address probably didn't help.
We were able to find the Camillion social center though. The sign in the picture is not on the main highway, it is the sign back by the center itself. the sign on the highway is somewhat small, and white. It can only be seen by coming in from the North, so we passed it the first time and went almost all the way up to Mae Sai on our motorbike looking for the sign, but we found in on our way back. There may be a sign for coming up from Chiang Rai, but we didn't see it, though we were focusing our attention on the east side of the road (see first paragraph for info on our navigational abilities....)they were very welcoming at the center, not suspicious of us at all, even though we just stopped in.
There are 183 children there, 60 of them in the boys seminary on site. The other 123 seem to be an even mix of boys and girls. They said that the ministry of labor comes out and checks the site often, and has limited them to 200 children. They are not looking on expanding that number, the nun indicated that more children would be too many. They said that the children come by application, and that they got over 200 (?-a lot, in any case) applications for the next school year starting in May, but only were bringing in another 20 or so. About as many as were leaving. They don't have children under 6 years there, and after completing standard school (6 years) the nun we talked to said most of them go on to secondary school or job training, but in any case they leave the center. She said it takes a long time, but that most or all of them have ID cards by the time they leave. Most of the money to run the place is from Italian taxes, which has a provision such that people can indicate they want a certain percentage of their tax money to go to specific things, such as third world charity.
It became pretty apparent from the start that this is a very different fish from the akha training center. It is based on the very same premise that so many of our charities are, that the best way to help sturggling cultures is to integrate their children into the mainstream through westernization/christianization. But here, at least, the children did not seem on the surface to be exploited in the same way. At least, they were treated much better. The facilities are three times the size of the CGT, for a fraction of the kids. They have 20 staff or so working there, where I was able to identify only 1 non-volunteer, non-child staff member at the CGT other than David and Asa.
The adults prepare and serve the food to the children, and eat pretty much the same thing (though they also had a salad and fried chicken/spring rolls). Underweight children came up to the table we were eating on and got fried chicken and spring rolls as well. The children were very clean, and well dressed. At the CGT, the children were practically in rags. At the Camillion center they come for school and go home during holidays. Ahe CGT they come before school age, stay even after they are actually going to school to work for the CGT, and never go home during their stay. And don't get ID cards. tellingly as well, they gave us tea and cookies, and fed us dinner for free. David tried to charge us 1000 baht each for staying only 24 hours, over two days of budget for us.
I asked about sexual abuse, but got only a sort of shocked response from the nun.
Basically, the people there were very nice and open with us. They told us pretty much everything we asked, didn't seem to behiding a whole lot. This doesn't mean that there aren't a lot of shady things going on behind scenes, but nothing we could see.
And the conditions of the kids were, at least, much better than in the ATC.
It is still an issue about removing the Akha children.
Why hasn't the ministry of labor checked CGT out? If it caps the Camillion social center at 200 kids but lets David have soon to be over 600? What is going on?
Rregardless, we do have some pictures for you. and we got a reply on our travel blog from someone who worked at the CGT for a week, agreed that it was terrible, and wanted to help sort of sound the alarm. We'll keep in contact with her to see what she knows.
Sorry about the pictures again, we are having trouble finding another place that can handle the files. The big camera takes HUGE pictures, with lots of raw date encoded in each one, so it is harder than it should be. we found one place once, which is how we got the pictures on the blog, but we'll have to find another. This is the third in a row where we couldn't do it. We are heading up to Mae Sai soon.
At CGT Outside of Chiangrai
As some of you may be aware, we have been in contact with a human rights activist who has worked in Thailand with the indigenous Akha people. He asked us to check up on a place called CGT, a place that takes in Akha children as part of a child sponsorship program known as the Children of the Golden Triangle (CGT). One of those things you see on TV, 'for just 30 dollars a month, pennies a day, YOU can provide food, shelter and education for a poor child like Annie...act now". And like most of the ones you see on TV, this was done in the name of Christian charity.
I contacted the head of the CGT, David, and said that we were coming through the area and would be interested in volunteering for a day or two, just to check things out and hopefully set up some sponsorship of the kids with people back home from our church (ahem..). So after a bit of prevarication and delay on his part (suspicious) he said to stop on by and two days ago we did. We saw A LOT of crazy shit, so you'll have to bear with me on this, it may get long (though i'll try to hold down the ranting).
David had lunch brought to us when we first got there. Children served us the food. They had also cooked it, and they cleaned up after us when we were done. And when I say that the kids did all the work for the food, i mean all the work. There wasn't a single adult staff member or volunteer helping or directing. What we ate, as throughout our stay, was much much better than what the kids ate. The kids eat rice, broth, and cabbage, while the volunteers are fed fruit and meat. When I asked one of the volunteers about it, he said, 'yeah, it's sort of strange at first, but you get used to it.' and we eat different food 'mostly because they don't like the type of food we eat, and a lot of what they eat is too spicy for us.'
The kids do al the laundry (for everone) Many of the kids wet their beds every night.
He meant to imply they wouldn't want stuff like toast and jam and we wouldn't want their spicy curries, but at the time he said this we were eating rice, stir fried vegetables, and curried pork (very thai) while the children were eating rice and cabbage (very bland).
Essentially, as we were later to find out, the kids don't do just the kitchen work, they pretty much do all the work. They get up at 5 am, in the dark, have christian devotionals, and then start to work for a few hours before they go to school. Over 1000 meals are cooked and cleaned up before 8 am. There is absolutely no adult supervision in the mornings (except for the two volunteers who wake up to wash the youngest, no one else is even awake). The older chidren wake up and direct the younger children. They can be found scurrying around in the dark picking up trash, cooking food, doing laundry, carrying concrete blocks, grouting, stuccoing, pouring concrete, tiling, and grinding metal stands for making wicker chairs. It is absolutely bizaare to walk around in the dark bumping into 500 children carrying wheelbarrows full of dirt, or huddling together for warmth in the dark, or running around playing games without a single adult around. It appears as absolute chaos but amazing amounts of work gets done before any volunteer or staff is awake. This work they do is way beyond basic childhood chores. One volunteer even made a joke that the children work for a few hours in the morning on the building and do twice as much as the volunteers do all day. There is a workshop there that the older boys work in for making beautiful wicker chairs, which are then sold for profit. The oldest kids only go to school one day a week, and then work at the center for the rest of the time.
There are over 500 kids there (we never got an exact number), but none of the volunteers were able to tell me how exactly the kids got there in the first place. 80% of them still have parents, but never to rarely see them after coming to the place. Everyone assumed that the parents left the children there because they were unable to take care of them, or that the kids were taken away by some unnamed authority because their parents were drunks, abusive, and/or drug addicts. Matthew, the human rights activist who asked me to check the place out, suggested the kids are practically abducted.
Basically, by using the children as free labor, David is able to expand his business so that he can bring in more children (larger kitchens, dorms) and make more money. He keeps his overhead low by hiring very little staff and relying on volunteers and, mostly it seems, the kids themselves. At one point in the past, he said he had 52 volunteers there, all paying 'room and board'. At about $75 per volunteer per week, that is $3900 a week just from volunteers! Additionally, every child there was currently sponsored, at 30 USD a month. Which means over $15,000 a month from the children's sponsers, not to mention frequent bulk donations from organizations (they seem to be close with the rotary club along with a number of christian schools), and selling things that the kids make in the workshop. That is a lot of money, especially in Thailand. They definitely have a good deal of money, with new trucks and extremely expensive personal computer systems and flat screen TVs. Suspiciously, the first camp was shut down (couldn't find out why), and local magistrates testified that David was using the kids for profit when they tried to expand their services to include adoption.
A number of the volunteers had come from a christian missions training camp before they got to the ATC, and were primed to think that they were going to do good works in the name of the lord, and were so BLIND to everything that was going on around them. They were obviously uncomfortable about a lot of it, but were unwiling to question anything and didn't know the answer to just about anything i asked about the kids. there is no excuse for such, albeit well-meaning, self-deluding stupidity. When the children are working so hard, they are described as merely 'industrialized', in an almost respectful, admiring sort of way, like how great these kids are that they work so hard! like gee, i wish my four year old got up at five in the morning to pick up trash in the dark and cook for other people...
The kids are truly amazing and fairly happy (for what one can see in 24 hours). They are very friendly, almost aggressive in their friendliness, probably because they are desperate for adult attention. It is true that the children are often very poor, but these children are taken away from their family and all that they know, deprived of real adult contact, only spoken to in English and Thai (which they probably don't speak at first), forcibly christianized, and made to work. Most of the work they do is done in name of job training, but since they are indigenous children without official Thai ID cards, they have practically no rights in the country and have trouble getting work or even moving away from their home village. David is convinced that the traditional Akha ways are the root of all their problems, not poverty or oppression from outside forces (no ID cards even for children born in the country, for example). He said that Akha ways were evil, and were killing the children. The only thing he feels is worth saving is traditional crafts, which can be sold to tourists for profit. He wants in no way to preserve their culture, only to destroy it and he is doing a good job. 100 more children come in the spring, and he says he could get 500 more if he had the room. i'm sure he feels totally justified to himself, that he is taking them away from a sick and destructive culture and christianizing them, westernizing them. how can anyone begrudge him a profit when he is doing such great things, how nice is it to be able to do such wonderful things AND make a living?
We left after only 24 hours, and even with some effort didn't remotely fit in with the other volunteers. I wouldn't doubt they were a bit suspicious, but we got a lot of pictures. Oliver was asked to help one of the volunteers with making an English-Thai-Akha picture book by taking pictures of things around the camp and got open access to everything, so hopefully in the hundreds of pictures we have something that can be used against the camp. We're also thinking of writing an article up on it, and maybe forwarding it to organisations that send volunteers to the place.
From another Volunteer at CGT
Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
I am writing to express my great concern and to report on my experiences during a visit to a Centre supported and funded by Rotary in the North of Thailand going by the name of The Children of the Golden Triangle (CGT), and which is run by two Australians, David and Asa Stevens. My visit lasted one week in total in early November 2006.
The website for the front of their organization can be found at: http://www.childrengoldentriangle.org/static/main.php?page=about.php&link=about
It is from here that people can read about the work they are reportedly doing with the children there, and from where the public can and do donate generous sums of money. Most donations total 35USD per month (per child), which should convert to more than enough money (in Bhat) to care for each child at a standard that would meet even the highest Western or developed countries achievements or goals in terms to child health and welfare.
However, in relation to the website, it would not take the most discerning or educated reader to become suspicious of their work, given the poorly worded text, the over the top and highly clichid religious sentiments and claims, and the lack of dates, times, and places for some the of the events they have claimed have occurred and which justify their current project: removing children from their families in the hilltribes; keeping them at the centre; photographing them and putting them on the website (please not all the stories are almost identical and strangely all the children have the same interest and hobbies, and all have fathers who are drunks and opium addicts; and collecting vast amounts of money per child.
CGT claim to be offering the children an education.
I would like to make the following claims, based on my own eye-witness accounts, and I urge you strongly to investigate this issue as I am going to the media in Australia with my story, and think it would be wise to investigate this Centre prior to an expose by the mainstream media. I am desperate to have this important human rights issue brought under the spotlight and exposed for the gross and cruel injustice it in fact is. I am concerned about the following facts:
The ratio of volunteers to children to be cared for averages 1:50 at a generous estimate.
This figure alone should indicate to you or to anyone who has ever had to care for children that this is insufficient and is more than likely to result in gross neglect, which in this case it does. I saw also that none of the volunteers are responsible for actual childcare, and that every single aspect of the work that is involved in caring for over 500 children in one place in an ongoing 24 hour sense is left to the children old enough to attempt to cope with this workload. The children are chronically overworked, exhausted, stressed, and deprived of individual love and attention.
I regularly saw four and five year old children with injuries or illnesses wandering around the Centre crying by themselves with nobody to tend to them.
The conditions in which the children sleep are filthy as the children cannot cope with the laundry loads each day and younger children frequently wet their beds and this goes uncleaned.
The clothes that the children we are also filthy and again, this is due to the impossible workload despite a constant effort by the older girls to keep up with the laundry. The children smell very badly and many have their heads shaved as the lice outbreaks are out of control.
The children are also aggressive and overly clingy to the few adults who are there and crave any kind of touch, eye contact, or affection they can get.
In the classroom, which is where I tried to teach for a few days, the very young children are completely lost and out of any environment they understand or can cope with and do not learn anything. Many are exhausted from being woken so very early in the morning to clean out rubbish and look after other children that they sleep under the chairs through the few hours they attend English lessons. The classrooms full of dirty children stink, are noisy, and very little if any learning is achieved. Many rock or sing traditional songs to themselves while I tried to teach.
The very young children are given no respite or rest during the day, even on very hot days, where they just fall asleep where they are.
Not only do the children do all the work in terms of looking after themselves, but they wait on the volunteers hand and foot, who receive better accommodation and food than they do. The volunteers tend to be people recovering from drug addictions and mental illnesses or who are deeply fundamentally religious and who are not in a position to make a reasonable assessment of the situation.
Many teenage boys are being kept there to do all the building, gardening and hard labour, and from the few questions I asked, there is little intention of helping these children once they are old enough to leave: they will either stay or be sent away with no proper care or integration into Thai society, in which they face prejudice and exclusion anyway.
The amount of sleep the children are allowed in inadequate in the extreme: they get to sleep after 9pm and are woken before 5:30am to begin work. The work is described as training and includes garbage removal, dish washing and removing head lice on other children.
Many young girls work full days in an office that is filled with very expensive Macs processing their own donations into David and Asas account. This is also called training.
I make the strong argument that none of these children should be living in such inhumane and brutal conditions away from their families, their homes, and their culture. We have a very similar history in Australia in terms of our Indigenous Australian Stolen Generation, and I cannot see how this is any different from this atrocity.
I include the following three websites, which I urge you to visit and read. One is just my experience and account of my trip to Thailand and is simply a personal website containing photos and accounts of what I saw. The other is a blog report with similar photos and a very similar story to the one I tell by two backpackers who sought to investigate the Centre when they were alerted to the situation by a concerned Human Rights Activist, Matthew McDaniel. The last one is the ongoing plight by Matthew to raise awareness about the plight of the Akha peoples, and their vulnerability to exploitation by Missionaries.
The story that I tell in my letter here is by no means comprehensive, but what is here is fact, and I urge you strongly to investigate what is going on between the Akha and these Missionaries in the North of Thailand.
I will also include in my package of evidence, some documents that contain excerpts from emails form other volunteers who worked there and left the place disgusted and traumatized.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Excerpts from emails between myself and other volunteers, both at CGT and at another Centre close by. Original sources and details available on request.
From a CGT volunteer to me 11/06:
I talked to Leanne about your offer and she reminded me (she had told me earlier) - that when she left the centre - on returning to Sydney - she revisisted her old work place which is a big company with relatively wealthy employees from what i gather. They had all been so touched by Leannes emails over her 3 month volunteer work that they all started donating money and started planning a fund raiser with the aim of $10,000 being donated quite quickly. Leanne emailed David and received no response. Once again she emailed because they wanted to let people know at the fund raiser just what particular aspect of the centre - the money would be donated to. No response -subsequently it never happened! Dont be surprised if David really doesnt give a "stuff" about people donating things - as Leanne said - they wont care because its for the kids - and not feathering their own nest! Hmmmm....
I recall working in the office and finding 2 large envelopes (unopened) - sent from overseas and addressed to 2 separate children - lovingly wrapped and the sender was the childrens sponsors. The date on the envelope was Thailand 2 months ago! I didnt know the children - but when i asked why the kids didnt have their parcels - the Akha staff just seem uncaring as they obviously have too much else to deal with!
From a CGT volunteer to myself and all her friends back in Australia 12/06:
We were mostly just 6 volunteers with occasional groups of 20 ish coming through Rotary or Churches for a week or two. Their sores were out of control - with just an older girl applying cream at the makeshift "clinic" each morning - a child needed to be up at 4.30am to be tended to rather than the usual 5.00am if they had sores.. and head lice was rampant and with the cost of shampoos and the time involved in proper care and combing was not possible - the preschoolers often had their heads shaved as a "cure"! The older girls were fortunately spared this. Alot of the younger children wet the bed - their linen is tended to by older children (older being between 8 and 15 yo generally) - their was always masses of laundry and it just never seemed to come clean with dirty water and sheets constantly blowing off the line as there were no pegs!
The pillows did not have removable cases.. so the covers NEVER got washed! Thankfully Ann has seen to this and has zipped up hundreds of removable pillowcases in the last few months. Theres just too many children.
A letter to Rotary
April 1st, 2008
Dear Mr. Riseley:
In March 2007 a five-person volunteer team from White Tara Productions in Rome, Italy visited a non-profit organization in northern Thailand with which Rotary is affiliated, Children of the Golden Triangle or CGT. Our group, which included a cameraperson, several photographers and one retired medical professional, came away with conflicting and at times disturbing impressions of this organization and its modus operandi which is why we feel it is essential that we share our concerns with you, and urge you to conduct an independent investigation.
At that time we were told that CGT hosted 450 children, some 400 of whom had sponsors abroad at a rate of $30 per month. We have since heard unsettling rumors that the number of children at CGT has now increased to 600.
The majority of the children are pre-adolescent. The selection process is not clear to us, since we did not have an opportunity to travel to remote villages with the organizations directors (David and Asa Stevenson) and see how they interact with the children's families. Sanitation-wise, in terms of the water and septic tank systems, our medical professional (an Italian workplace hygienist) says that CGT is well-equipped. We understand that this is largely thanks to the generosity of Rotary Clubs in various countries.
The kitchen area is clean, orderly and well-lit, with equipment that looks quite new. In CGT's dormitories, however, the children sleep 2 or 3 to a bed in bunk beds, despite the potential health hazards (lice, easy spreading of the flu and/or other diseases) that could arise from these conditions.
There is no constant adult supervision in the dormitories along the lines of "dorm parents" or the House Mothers who are present at other similar organizations - such as S.O.S. Children's Villages, one of which Catherine from WTP has visited and where she has sponsored children.
CGT has no built-in healthcare structure not even a resident nurse. We were told that if a child becomes ill or is otherwise in need of medical attention, he or she must be taken to a Thai hospital or doctor. Circumstances such as these are not covered by monthly donations from sponsors, and so additional fundraising would be necessary.
We were told that the children eat meat every day, but over a five-day period we only saw them eating gruel, rice and watery cabbage soup. One of our photographers did say that he saw tiny pieces of meat in the cabbage soup, but we are not qualified to judge whether or not this would be an adequate ration of meat for growing children.
Nor can we speak to the living conditions these children would face if they had remained in their villages... There, however, they would at least have had the emotional support of their families and communities. At CGT the emotional neediness of the children is painfully apparent. From the moment we arrived until the moment we left, we literally had children hanging all over us, dying for attention.
They were constantly bringing us flowers, drawings (often of their home villages, they said) with "I love you" written on them and other little tokens of affection. We all felt horrible when we left, watching their faces fall as they said, "You go?"
Many of the children, including some of the ones we interviewed, come from traumatic backgrounds: the loss of one or both parents, violence between government forces and drug lords in their home villages and so forth. We asked whether these children are ever seen by a child psychologist, but never received an answer.
Another issue that left us perplexed is the children's work routine - quite heavy labor in some cases, like brick-laying, welding and working with cement mixers. Our workplace hygienist found the conditions for these activities to be very unsafe - especially since we saw no supervision whatsoever on the part of adults who are construction professionals.
If these tasks are intended as vocational training, then how is the children's progress evaluated and by whom? CGT never answered these questions.
After leaving CGT we paid a visit to the International Labor Organization in Chiang Rai, where we met with a National Project Officer. While acknowledging that it is admirable for any two individuals - in this case, CGT's director and his wife - even to try to accommodate and care for 450 children, the ILO Project Officer shared a number of our concerns - in particular, the total lack of adult supervision.
We are deeply concerned about what the future holds for these Akha children ! Enclosed you will find a DVD copy of our documentary presentation, The Akha: At a Crossroads, which outlines our experiences at CGT and shows first-hand what the conditions there are like.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter, and we look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience.
A comment below on the Haugland Starfish Children's Home:
In trying to educate myself about hilltribe children I happened on Matthew's website. Just like Matthew says, "our" kids here are called orphans when they are not. The parents are promised a first-rate education for their children and splendid care. They receive neither. The man running things has a lot of money, so that's not what's motivating him. He loves the little girls (we have 20 girls and 3 boys, and one boy is going back to his mother--our doing, but he only "escaped" because he's a boy, and he's Thai) and wants to be a big sugar-daddy grandpa to them as they grow. As I said, he is a very strange man and has no business interfering in these children's lives. I have become the de facto "child development person" as no one taking care of the kids has any training or qualifications whatsoever. I do what I can, and the Thai staff is sympathetic to these children's plight as well. Thechildren aren't what I would call abused, (except for being struck by one young female who we have demanded be fired.another sad story, because she's hilltribe herself)but are definately neglected. There is not enough staff to give them the attention every child needs. As a mother, it breaks my heart to see these little angels wandering around basically unsupervised and receiving little individual attention.
I'm about 27 kilometers noth of Chiang Mai, where are you? Perhaps we could meet sometime? Thanks for writing!
From a volunteer in a neighbouring centre, whom I never met, but who was put into contact with me by Matthew McDaniels 01/07:
A few weeks ago we had a field trip to the flower festival in Chiang Mai. It was not a developmentally suitable venue for the younger kids (ages 3-8) but the staff seemed oblivious to this. Also, when we take the kids out like this they are treated like a circus acts--strangers take pictures endlessly, talk to them, and on one occasion gave them money! We farangs explained to the Thai teachers and mai khru that we should not teach the children to accept such familiarity with strangers, but they seemed mystified by our concerns. That's just one example,and not the most eggregious, of what these kids go through. On Halloween they frightened the children practically comatose. At first Dick just laughed when he appeared to a roomful of crying, petrified kids. I told him very harshly that this was child abuse and his responsibility to insure it never happened again. He stomped off in a huff but when I brought the subject up again weeks later he stopped me and asserted it wouldn't happen again, albeit in a grouchy and reluctant way.
Of course all this simply feeds into the larger issue of the children being taken from their homes and the parents are told that they are going to receive a first-rate education. In fact, out of 23 kids Dick only expects about 8 or so to get this education. He sends the children he doesn't think are academically gifted(and he's in no position to judge--he never even comes into my classroom or the elementary class) to the site in Chiang Mai where they languish in a hideous facility until they are sent to Thai local schools. I'm in the process of getting the children's biographies translated from Thai. The Hmong woman who is Dick's liason with the villages is sympathetic, as is all of the Thai staff.
More email correspondence and details available on request.
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