Global Relief Association for Crises & Emergencies, Inc. (GRACE) serves marginalized families and children of Thailand. GRACE exists to foster social change through strengthening families and eradicating the vulnerabilities of human trafficking and exploitation. The identified vulnerabilities, including poverty and illiteracy, place many people at risk of various forms of exploitation.
In an effort to overcome the challenges of poverty in rural areas, families move to the major cities seeking better employment opportunities. Pattaya provides transient employment opportunities for many Thai people merging from all regions of the country. Unfortunately, many of the adults seeking employment arrive with little or no educational and vocational skills. Their hopes for better lives are often shattered as the elevated tourist prices infiltrate their costs of living and reduces the net gain necessary to support family. Seeking affordable shelter and food for the family often results in substandard living conditions, malnourishment, and poor health. These are the people groups often enslaved, coerced, forced or victimized through human trafficking and exploitation.
GRACE reduces the vulnerabilities of poverty and illiteracy through the provision of educational, nutritional, and wellness support. GRACE provides services through Family Resource Centers and established a formal after school program, day camp, adult enrichment classes, and research services. The safe environment provides parents and guardians with peace-of-mind as children are shuttled from school directly to the secure center. Participants in the program are eligible to qualify for educational scholarships to help offset the costs of attending school. The scholarships reimburse tuition, book deposits, uniforms, backpacks, and school supplies. Additionally, the children are enrolled in the programs provided at the family resource center. The after school program is staffed to provide homework assistance, tutoring, Thai and English language classes, and activities that promote development and self-esteem. During summer and fall school breaks, the children attend day camp at the center. Day camp provides ongoing educational classes including reading, writing, mathematics, languages, and art. Games, movies, recreational activities, and free time to play encourage communal and individual development. Beyond the children, GRACE provides educational enrichment classes for parents and guardians; topics include financial management, parenting skills, marriage enrichment, health and wellness, internet safety, human trafficking awareness, and more.
Nutritionally, the children receive snacks and meals at the center during after school and day camp sessions. The families receive allotments of jasmine rice, cooking oil, and sauces throughout the year. Wellness provisions include dental, hygiene, and first aid supplies, vision care, and scholarships as needed to help offset the costs of medical care. The center distributes donated clothing to those in need.
Dr. Jon and Angie Sullivan, co-founders of GRACE, witnessed various forms of exploitation throughout the world during their travels. A visit to Thailand in early 2013 revealed vast numbers of school-aged children not attending school. Children were begging and collecting recyclable items. They didn’t stop with observing a problem. Their research led them to identify the realistic challenges of many families at risk of exploitation. Acknowledging a life purpose, they expanded GRACE to serve marginalized families and children of Thailand. Within two months, a child sponsorship program was implemented to ensure twenty-six identified children were enrolled in school. Through word of mouth, the community of GRACE in Thailand grew to more than seventy children within three years. Jon and Angie relocated to Thailand in April of 2016 to support the work and help establish GRACE as a Thai foundation. Today, GRACE International operates two Family Resource Centers and have served more than 200 families.
How effective are the programs? Reporting internal statistical data helps ensure best practices are implemented in equipping the children for a successful education. Data reveals improvement in comprehensive test scores, and change in motivation to learn with attitudes of “I can’t” transformed into “I can”. How can these families afford to enroll their children in the programs? The children are enrolled in a child sponsorship program funded by sponsors throughout the world.
Ultimately, the goal of GRACE is to prevent children from being exploited or trafficked. In the process, GRACE ensures they receive an opportunity to dream, and equips them with a realistic hope in breaking the multigenerational chain of poverty and illiteracy.
For more information about the organization, visit their website at https://www.globalreliefassociation.com.