Covid-19 response story Ratchanee Paeseng

"At least someone sees that we are here": Ratchanee Paeseng

“The government should come to see what support the community is seeking, if they are too much for the government to provide. What we really need is a fund that allows each of us to start a livelihood. We can do the rest with our hands and strength. If it comes as the 50-50 co-payment scheme, it doesn’t last, better to put money in career support.”

Ratchanee Paeseng, a villager of the Sa Ton Pho community in Phuket Province, is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Previously, she was forcefully evicted from a land where she put up her house seven years prior.

Ratchanee moved to Phuket from Nakhon Si Thammarat Province seeking career opportunities. She was evicted from the land she settled along with many others, but later the group joined the Phuket Community Development Rights Network and participated in social activities. Supported by Chumchonthai Foundation, People's Movement for a Just Society (P-move) and ActionAid Thailand under the EU-funded Land is Life Project, the community’s the land right issues were raised to the state and eventually a new Sa Ton Pho community was created in an area next to the old place.

Before the pandemic, Ratchanee had worked in a spa in Phuket, earning about 800-900 Thai baht per day. With it, she could live with little difficulty. After the outbreak, the spa was shut down, and income dried up. She was struggling to buy food for survival. Investing in a new occupation was out of the question. And because Ratchanee was a non-registered person in Phuket, she could not receive any support from the provincial authority.

Fortunately, the community once again received emergency assistance from the Chumchonthai Foundation and ActionAid Thailand under the EU COVID-19 Response and Recovery Project. On top of distributing relief packages, the project hosted a meeting where everyone could exchange and share issues, to find solutions together in response to the current and future disasters in the community.

Ratchanee reflected that past hardships taught that one had to fight to get through, expressing gratitude for the help and moral support from the Community Development Rights Network and the EU COVID-19 Response and Recovery Project.

“The help from the project made me feel better and strong enough to fight on. At least someone sees that we are here and doesn’t leave us behind.”

"อย่างน้อยมีคนมองเห็นว่ามีเราอยู่": รัชนี แป๊ะเซ็ง ชุมชน สระต้นโพธิ์ จ.ภูเก็ต
รัชนี พร้อมชาวบ้านชุมชนสระต้นโพธิ์ / ภาพ: สุริยะ ผ่องพันธุ์งาม / แอ็คชั่นเอด ประเทศไทย

Food security: sustainable lessons for future crises

Sustainable lessons for future crises

Due to the surge of the pandemic, many vulnerable communities were struggling to survive. They could not afford enough food and necessary daily nutrients. Food security was one of the solutions that the EU COVID-19 Response and Recovery Project, led by ActionAid Thailand in cooperation with BioThai Foundation, implemented. The aim was to reduce food expenses, improve nutrition in target groups, promote chemical-free vegetable cultivation, encourage growing for family consumption and spreading the practice in the community, and improve target groups’ overall physical and mental health.

In 2020, BioThai Foundation held workshops on basic food cultivation, from soil preparation to food production, for 30 community leaders from Pho Rieang, Thai Kriang, Thai Noi, Amnat Charoen, Chumphon, Wat Sawat, Suan Luang, Wathai Ayutthaya, and Wathai Nonthaburi.

ชุมชน มั่นคงทางอาหาร เสริมสร้างความยืดหยุ่นในยุคโควิด
ภาพ: มูลนิธิชีววิถี

Phonnarong Punthong, a leader of a northeastern network from Amnat Charoen Province, said that during the pandemic, his community was severely affected. Earnings dropped precipitously. Yet, food supply was not a problem, because his network had been working with and assisted by the BioThai Foundation on organic farming. As a result, his community was able to cope with food shortage during the pandemic.

Phonnarong recognised the importance of food security and decided to take part in the training because he hoped to enhance his food security skill and knowledge to sustainably develop his community.

“Joining this training is very useful. It helps create skills in agriculture from scratch. Instead of the uninformed traditional approach, there was the methodical instruction on growing vegetables and proper storage.”

พรณรง ปั้นทอง แกนนำเครือข่ายภาคอีสาน / ภาพ: สุริยะ ผ่องพันธุ์งาม / แอ็คชั่นเอด ประเทศไทย

Phonnarong added that the factor that changed his life after the training was the proper knowledge that was practical and highly beneficial to his family and his community. It led to his intention to pass on the knowledge from the training to other areas in his northeastern network in future.

Sukanya Kerdtim, from an Ayutthaya community network, said that before the spread of COVID-19, she had been a company employee in Bangkok. When the outbreak occurred, her working hours were reduced until she was finally dismissed. She did not have the income to support her family. Then there was the food shortage as it was very difficult to buy food during the crisis.

After joining a training about soil preparation and vegetable growing, Sukanya could better appreciate the importance of food security and would raise awareness on the issue, starting by growing greens at home and transferring this knowledge to friends in the community.

“I believe the vegetables that I grow will be shared with colleagues and friends. The sharing is not limited to vegetables, knowledge can be shared too.”

ขจร ฉูตรสูงเนิน จากชุมชนไทยเกรียง / ภาพ: สุริยะ ผ่องพันธุ์งาม / แอ็คชั่นเอด ประเทศไทย

Kajorn Chutsungnoen, from the Thai Kriang community network in Samut Prakan Province, was a repairman. During the pandemic, he struggled with food shortage. Sometimes his wife could not make her daily trip to the market. With his interest in food security and experience of growing vegetables at home, he was interested to join this training. He wanted to properly grow his own food and to set an example for his community.

“I have never known some of the information taught in the training, like in planting, I didn’t know that you have to clean it first. Coming to this training, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge, which is truly practical.”

After the training, Kajorn would be able to have his own vegetable garden, eat them every day, and share them with his neighbours. Importantly, he believed that this knowledge would help him survive this pandemic and any future crises to come.


จดหมายข่าว โครงการอียูรับมือโควิด ฉบับที่ 1

EU COVID-19 Response & Recovery Project Newsletter Issue 1

Since the emergence of COVID-19, Thailand's national economy and society have been affected on an unprecedented level. With the support of the European Union, the EU COVID-19 Response and Recovery Project marches forward to consistently launch activities for the benefit of vulnerable groups and communities, such as provision of survival bags and training, with no undue delay in several areas of Thailand. All activities have met with positive feedback from the target groups and associated organisations taking part in shaping them with an objective to ensure a sustainable triumph over the pandemic.

Read the first issue of the EU COVID-19 Response & Recovery Project Newsletter


สอนคิด คำนึงถึงความแตกต่าง: คุยกับครูบัว–บุณฑริก ซื่อสัตย์ โรงเรียนบ้านฮากฮาน จ.น่าน โรงเรียนสอนคิด เครื่องมือสอนคิด

Critical thinking, individual differences: what Khru Bua's small school fosters

After a successful recruitment procedure, Ms. Bua Buntharik Suesat or, as her students call her, Khru Bua (khru is Thai for teacher) had her first teaching job at Ban Si Wa Doe School in Sop Moei District, Mae Hong Son Province, teaching Karen children from remote communities four years before making her transfer to Nan.

Today Khru Bua is teaching sixth graders at Ban Hak Han School, located in Nan’s Wiang Sa District. The school is under the Nan Primary Educational Service Area Office 1 and, with it being a small school of only 57 students and much fewer teachers, Khru Bua has to teach every subject required by the curriculum.

What made Khru Bua who she is today traces back to her childhood: coming from a low-income family, she had received student aid over the years. Although her family faced financial challenges, her education wasn’t overlooked. At fifteen, Khru Bua had to make a choice between pursuing vocational training or a university education. Choosing to follow her childhood dream of becoming a teacher, she got a student loan and applied for various scholarships. Eventually, the then-high school senior Khru Bua secured her place in the Bachelor of Education Program in Elementary Education at Chiang Mai University.

The reason she wanted to be a primary school teacher stems from her own experience with a short-tempered teacher who tended to hit students. The disdain for this particular teacher made Khru Bua feign mild sickness many times in order to miss the teacher’s class. But skipping lessons took its toll when her own grades worsened. For future students to like their teacher and not be driven away from school, Khru Bua wanted to start with herself and become a teacher. “Primary school is too important,” she said. “Kids shouldn’t feel like fending off the very foundation of their education.”

Photo: Patchgorn Pattawipas/ActionAid

Before getting to know Thinking Tools, a set of innovative pedagogical tools that Ban Hak Han School has incorporated in their curriculum, Khru Bua was skeptical. But she took time to reflect, as a teacher, what resources could be leveraged to help students develop critical thinking skills. “I came around,” she said. “It would be useless if a teacher has their students repeat things after them. That's rote learning and it does very little to help them solve problems in real life.”

“It would be useless if a teacher has their students repeat things after them,
That's rote learning and it does very little to help them solve problems in real life.”

On classroom management, Khru Bua notes, “positive disciplinary behaviour development is crucial. The teacher has to provide understanding, guidance and warmth. There should be no punishment and violence. The classroom should be a safe, stress-free space where students can express themselves and their views, where they can also laugh and play. That’s the ideal classroom. Its size may be small and we may not be equipped with the latest technology – only old fans and worn wooden desks – but if the teacher and students understand each other, that’s what makes a happy classroom.”

“Personally, I think physical tools and resources are necessary, but no more so than a good teaching method and how the teacher is towards the students. Even though Ban Hak Han School is a small school with no abundance of resources, we will overcome any material challenges.”

Khru Bua’s ideal school is not different from what society expects: a sufficient number of adequate classrooms, structural durability, a bright and well-stocked library, a playground and other physical environments that enhance learning. However, there’s no denying that small schools, particularly those in remote areas or in the mountains such as Ban Hak Han, don’t have everything of the ideal. They still face limitations running on funding the central government has allocated.

In many ways, a public school teacher is a civil servant working according to their line of duty. On her specific line of duty, Khru Bua reflects, “Thailand’s education system is always changing. When the person at the top changes, the policy changes. The system never stays still, and teachers need to keep pace with it and be ready for change. At the same time, we teachers have to be firm in the goal of student development. Like bamboos bending with the wind, we’re firm on the ground, but we’re also malleable.”

"The Thai education system needs to do better in recognising individual differences.
Forcing a fish that swims well to compete with other animals at
climbing trees is impossible and of no use. It’s the same with students.
As long as we use the same set of academic standards to appraise them,
there will only be 'smart' and 'slow heads'.

Ban Hak Han School became a Thinking School after the teachers had taken a learning visit to Chiang Rai Provincial Administrative Organisation School (the first school in Thailand to adopt the Thinking School methodology). The trip was supported by ActionAid Thailand. "We learned from hands-on experience and came back inspired to put the Thinking Tools to practice," she called. "We met with positive results and were able to create a positive learning environment. We’ve been doing this for about three years now.”

“Implementing the ten Thinking Tools in class has led to significant changes. Firstly, there’s change within the teachers – we’re more proactive, always learning. We make use of technology and don’t just recite books like before. I also personally see changes in the students. They’re more focused, responsive, expressive, and understanding of other people’s views. They’re able to communicate their thoughts more coherently, explain their reasons, make comparisons, summarise information, and make their own decisions.”

Cause and Effect, Compare and Contrast, and Mind Mapping are some of the Thinking Tools used at this school. Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat/ActionAid

For Khru Bua, the Thai education system needs to do better in recognising individual differences. “Forcing a fish that swims well to compete with other animals at climbing trees is impossible and of no use. It’s the same with students. As long as we use the same set of academic standards to appraise them, there will only be 'smart' and 'slow heads'. The current system takes teachers away from students. It takes away the students’ humanity and encourages them to be more like a machine."

Khru Bua is a notable example of a teacher who has adopted Thinking Tools. She has proven that an effective classroom doesn’t necessarily need to be equipped with abundant resources. This is because learning can take place in any circumstance, even in a Thai highlands community shared by various ethnic groups like Ban Hak Han. Today, Khru Bua remains committed to guiding and developing youth through innovative tools that not only teach them how to think, but how to exercise empathy – how to be human. She is an important player in the movement that’s bringing about change in the area and making an impact on many other schools in Nan and beyond.


EU สหภาพยุโรป สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอดและภาคประชาสังคม เปิดตัวโครงการรับมือ-ฟื้นฟูผลกระทบโควิด-19 / European Union

EU announces support for ActionAid and civil society, launches COVID-19 impact mitigation programme

As part of the Team Europe response to the coronavirus pandemic globally, the European Union yesterday launched two projects under the EU COVID-19 Response and Recovery in Thailand programme with a total funding of about €2.6 million, or around 90 million baht. The programme aims to increase the capacity and participation of Thai civil society organisations (CSOs) in mitigating the health, social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable populations of the country and will be implemented over the next two years by two CSO consortiums.

The EU COVID-19 Response and Recovery in Thailand programme has three key components: immediate relief for households impacted by the outbreak; a sustainable social and economic recovery through the improvement of the livelihood of affected communities; and building the communities’ resilience so that they can thrive and withstand future challenges.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will have profound consequences, in the short, medium and long terms. These range from immediate health and humanitarian challenges to more profound structural socio-economic change, which cannot yet even be fully understood”, said H.E. Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand. “It is clear that concerted efforts to deal with the fallout of the pandemic will be needed by all actors. As a long-standing development partner of the Kingdom of Thailand, the European Union is committed to supporting our CSO partners in their efforts to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, to ensure that no one is left behind. I am very pleased with our co-operating in ensuring effective implementation of a number of new projects, for the benefit of vulnerable communities all around the Kingdom.”

The programme’s nationwide project will be led by ActionAid Thailand in collaboration with the Chumchon Thai Foundation, the Foundation for Labour and Employment Promotion (HOMENET) and the BioThai Foundation. The intervention will cover almost 40 provinces in Thailand and work with affected sectors including migrant and informal workers, marginalised populations and children, about half of whom are women.

“We have come together to assist a range of communities in Thailand and respond to their specific needs, both during and after the crisis. This action is a multi-sector response that includes preparedness for the uncertainty of what’s to come, a socioeconomic recovery in the short-to-medium term, and resilience measures for the most vulnerable marginalised communities,” said Mr. Tauhid Ibne Farid, Country Director of ActionAid Thailand.

Save the Children in partnership with Prince of Songkla University and the Prince of Songkla University Alumni Association Volunteer will spearhead the intervention in the three southern border provinces, plus four districts in Songkhla. The project will work with the most vulnerable households, youth groups and migrant returnees with a focus on women.

“A lot of the poorest and most vulnerable families in Thailand are at risk and still struggling to get back on their feet,” added Mr. Prasert Tepanart, Save the Children’s National Director in Thailand. “We must ensure that these communities become resilient and that individuals are prepared and self-sufficient to withstand, mitigate and prevent the impact of future health, economic and social crises.”

About European Union

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of 27 Member States. Together, they have built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development whilst maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and individual freedom. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. The EU is the largest trade block in the world, as well as the world's largest source and destination of foreign direct investment. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are the largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA), providing more than half of ODA globally.

สหภาพยุโรป สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอดและภาคประชาสังคม เปิดตัวโครงการรับมือ-ฟื้นฟูผลกระทบโควิด-19 


จดหมายข่าว มูลนิธิแอ็คชั่นเอด ประเทศไทย (กรกฎาคม 2563) / ActionAid Thailand Newsletter (July 2020)

ActionAid Thailand Newsletter Issue 3/2020 (July 2020)

Stay connected to ActionAid Thailand through our latest e-newsletter!

In the past quarter, ActionAid Thailand directed its efforts to respond to the multidimensional impact of COVID-19. Our emergency appeal was able to provide food and non-food items for the most small school children. We also launched a civil society consortium project that will increase preparedness and resilience of vulnerable groups such as migrant workers and marginalised communities to mitigate the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic. In response to the surge of domestic violence in Thailand during lockdown, the Safe Cities for Women Network introduced #TeamPueakNeighborhood, an online campaign encouraging people to look out for each other despite the barrier of physical distancing. Also highlighted in this newsletter is how Thailand's indegineous networks in the north and south mobilised their resources to tackle food insecurity under the Rice for Fish exchange scheme.

Download the July 2020 issue of the newsletter


คุยกับ ผอ. ปรียานุช วงษ์แก้ว ผู้นำภารกิจส่งต่อน้ำใจถึงเด็กกลุ่มเปราะบางช่วง โควิด

Meet the school leader at the frontline of our COVID-19 efforts

As school director, Preeyanut Wongkaew acted as the main coordinator with ActionAid Thailand, working over the prolonged school break to identify how her students were impacted by the pandemic and who were in urgent need of support. We talked to Ms. Preeyanut, or Director Ying, on the day she and Ban Hak Han School (Wiang Sa District, Nan) teachers led a distribution of food and sanitation packages to their community’s most vulnerable families.

What is the general mood in the communities where you’re working during this pandemic? How are people feeling?

Everything has changed dramatically since the pandemic started. There is more social distance and much fewer interactions between people in our community. They’re doing everything at home and trying their best to protect themselves and take care of others.

How is the pandemic affecting your school and the children specifically?

It has a significant impact on our learning which asks a lot of our students. The process of learning is changed. The time of learning as well. Normally, the school’s already open by 16 May, but now the new school year begins on 1 July. This means that prior to July, we’re using online learning to prepare students for the new term. The first challenge is accessibility. In order to learn through Distance Learning Television (DLTV) students need to have access to a working television. What we’re seeing here is some families can’t get good reception, or their television doesn’t support the new digital top box. Some households don’t have access to electricity and some don’t own a television. 

While you have been doing this work, have you met any children who made a strong impression on you? Please tell us about them and their situation.

Dow is a Mlabri girl who has been coming to Ban Hak Han School after her mother moved here to work for an employer in the community. Her house is quite far from the school, almost on the edge of this village. There are three people in the family and they don’t have access to electricity. Now they’re suffering a severe food shortage due to the mother’s lack of income. Dow can’t access online learning because there isn’t any device at home. Besides the worry that Dow won’t be able to keep up with her classmates, her mother fears she won’t be able to financially support her daughter’s education after the pandemic. This is what the teachers and I remember vividly after visiting them at home. We had to check on each student in order to tailor “lockdown learning” to their respective needs. When visiting Dow, it wasn’t an easy journey. We may be in the same village but we’re separated by small hills and brooks. We witnessed the very difficult situation Dow’s family and her three neighbours were in and sought urgent support for them.

Photo: ActionAid Thailand

What do you find most challenging about this work?

To tell the truth, all of our students are facing the impact of the virus and we want every one of them to receive support. We don’t want to leave anyone behind. But due limited resources, we have to help those in most critical need of help first. This in itself is a challenge for us. We want all children to get support.

What is your biggest fear at the moment?

Since we don’t know when the pandemic will finally be over, items such as face masks, face shields and sanitiser gel will be essential items for a long while. The school has been fortunate to acquire them but only in a limited number. They’re even limited in the market. So we don’t think we’ll have enough for the whole school as time goes on. We’ve been given some cloth masks thanks to a local hospital, but the children’s family may not be able to help wash them properly every day so they’ll collect germs instead of reducing risks. Disposable masks may be a better choice for parents in this community so we’re trying to find support from different groups and state agencies in order to find enough masks for the children.

Meet the school leader at the frontline of our COVID-19 efforts
Photo: ActionAid Thailand

As of the date of this interview, we still need support in order to reach as many vulnerable small schools children as we can. Please consider donating today - 31 July 2020 via our website (click "donate once") or bank transfer to: 

ActionAid International (Thailand)
Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) / Phaholyothin branch
Account number 014 306145 2