Providing a lifeline

Childline Thailand Foundation offers a valuable service for those most at risk

MR Supinda Chakraband with kids.

MR Supinda Chakraband, founder of Childline Thailand Foundation and the Hub Saidek Youth Club, has become a lifeline for children in distress.

Enabling children to enjoy a life free of harm and abuse has become a lifelong goal she is determined to reach, along with the help of dedicated staff, volunteers and donors who share her vision.

While she has managed to make inroads in her attempts to support street children and ones with dysfunctional backgrounds, MR Supinda believes stringent laws still need to be passed to safeguard the interest of the child as they are the ones most vulnerable in society to be neglected or sexually, physically and emotionally abused. As an ardent advocate of children's rights, she believes that standing up for the voiceless requires endless networking.

In 2008, MR Supinda therefore set up Childline Thailand (Saidek hotline 1387) as a 24-hour telephone counselling helpline. She found the insurmountable suffering of children a social issue that no one could work fast and efficiently enough to eradicate.

"Many of these unfortunate youngsters live in despair without a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. In terms of statistics we still don't know the exact number of children and probably never will. These children come from all sectors of society, regardless of economic, religious, culture, race and nationality background," said MR Supinda, who is both a mother and grandmother.

She comments that while society acknowledges the reality that children might be suffering at the hands of their biological parents, guardians and/or perpetrators, our society finds it too overwhelming, emotionally and socially, to become involved. This is one of the main reasons people choose to turn a blind eye.

"This is unfortunate as our society would benefit from people having a more concerned approach towards the well-being of our youth. In doing so, we would be building a caring and safe society for our own children, as well as our future."

As a member of Child Helpline International, which has a membership of over 150 countries, Childline Thailand focuses on telephone counselling, which includes offering advice on a variety of issues a child and parent may be experiencing at home and school.

For example, counsellors are often asked by children to speak with their family members or sometimes a boyfriend or girlfriend about pressing issues such as an unexpected pregnancy or other related matters.

Other more complex issues involve co-ordinating with the relevant government agencies when it comes to addressing problems such as: physical or sexual abuse, violence in the family, bullying at schools, universal birthright citizenship and health.

MR Supinda goes on to say that the organisation has recently begun to observe progress in the sentencing of sexual and physical abuse cases. However, there is still a great need to understand the atrocity of such acts and that the punishment should fit the severity of the crime.

The most stressful areas of Childline's work are on unsolved cases of sexual or physical abuses committed by members of the child's own family or an influential person.

Having worked on numerous cases, MR Supinda gives the example of two cases that personally distressed her. The first was a 14-year-old girl who was gang raped by teenage boys. The rapist's parents paid compensation money to the victim's mother to keep her silent and the girl was sent to another village so she could not be questioned by the police and no case could be filed against the perpetrators. The girl never returned to her village.

The second case involved a nine-year-old girl who was brought to the doctor with heavy bleeding from a rape by an influential family friend. She was returned to her home and the little girl's parents took her across the Myanmar border to avoid her being interrogated by the Thai police. "We have not been able to trace this little girl. Many times we are helpless in protecting children due to professional negligence and corruption of officials," she said.

With it comes to children's rights, much effort is being made by various groups: state agencies, NGOs, corporate social responsibility projects and even private individuals who care about children. But there is still a long way to go to meet the UN standards of child protection. The Thai government, unlike many neighbouring countries, has been supportive and co-operative in working throughout Thailand with NGOs. As a result, in the last 10 years, there has been much progress in child protection. The newly formed Child and Youth Department of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry created this year clearly has the potential of raising the standard of child protection in Thailand. This, according to MR Supinda, is a positive step for securing the safety of our children.

"No child comes into the world holding a Child Rights manual," she commented. "That is why we have the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child as our guideline for all children. The extensive UN's charter is merely attempting to tell us to love our own children and all other children of the world as we love our own."

Visit www.childlinethailand.org.

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