Mae’s Story

Mae (on the right in the photo) is a 10 year old Karen girl living on a rubber plantation inside the jungle between Sangkhlaburi and the Thai/Myanmar border. Mae lives with her Mum and Dad and two younger sisters all in a simple one room bamboo house. All the girls come to COF’s free school for stateless children. Mae’s parents make their living tapping rubber. Before the pandemic struck they could make around 4,000 Thb or 130 USD a month tapping rubber. This month, February 2021 it is more like 2,000 THB. When we visit Mae at her home it is immediately clear that Mae’s Mum and Dad love their children very much and that they want their 3 girls to grow up with an education. Neither parent had the opportunity to go to school. Every morning Mae wakes up around 4:30 or 5 and tidies the house. Then she cooks the families breakfast which is usually a pot of rice, steamed wild vegetables mixed with a chilli and dried fish paste. All the while Mae’s parents are away from the home working in the rubber plantation. They start tapping rubber around 11pm as the night air cools and finish up at first light which is about 6am now. The family have breakfast together and then Mae and her sisters set off to school. The first part of their journey is an hour long walk through jungle paths and rubber plantations till they reach the main road where COF’s truck picks up the girls. Mae is in COF’s Preparation class where she is in a special program to learn to read and write Thai well enough to integrate into Grade 1 of the Thai education system. She is very close to her teacher and enjoys coming to see her everyday. Her teacher is also Karen and Mae feels that this helps her to connect and trust her teacher. One of Mae’s favourite things to do at school is to spend time in the library. Especially if her friend is there with her. Mae says its hard to dream of her future as she does not know much about the world beyond the rubber plantation surrounded by jungle. “But”, she says, “I don’t want to have to start tapping rubber or go to a scary job in the city like other kids I know”. She looks up to her teacher so talks about one day being a Thai teacher like her.