When neglected children from around Thailand run away from home and head to Bangkok, it is in the hope that they will encounter a better future. Sadly, the reality usually is that they walk off the train at Hua Lamphong, the city’s main railway terminus, head out on to the street… and stay there.
Located just a short walk from the station, the Hub Saidek is a shelter offering support to these and other homeless and disadvantaged children. Founded in March 2011, currently the centre offers basic health and welfare services such as meals, clothing and medical checks. While they don’t provide overnight accommodation due to limited resources and space, they also offer recreational activities and something called the ‘Skills for Living’ programme: structured learning tailored to the needs of each child, the aim being to help reconnect them with the real world.
Runaway children arriving are classified into two groups. One is the child who has only recently abandoned their family, and so has more chance of being reunited with them. Typically in these cases the Hub Saidek will, with the child’s consent, try to contact the family for them. The second type has been on the streets for a long time and needs more than just advice – health checks, education, even counseling.
On a typical day, the children gather at the shelter for a morning meal. Later on volunteers supervise activities such as football, life skills, drama and English classes. The aim is to stimulate their mental, physical and social development and also introduce structure, a semblance of normalcy to their lives. Lunch and dinner are also provided. Children are not restricted to stay in the centre – in fact, they can come and go as they please – but the Hub Saidek does keep a record on each kid.
Nighttime is when things get harder. With no one to care for them, the children have to stick together and look out for each another when sleeping. According to the staff, this is very important, as there are gangsters who, if they spot the kids, chase and beat them. Why? Even though the children at Hub Saidek rarely cause trouble, the gangster sees them as being ‘not one of their own’. If they get caught, it has even been known for the gangsters to take the children and sexually abuse them.
How can we help these vulnerable children? The centre is open to corporate and individual donations of cash and equipment. Practical everyday items such as food, toiletries, toothbrushes, cleaning products and towels are all needed. Secondhand or used clothing, office and classroom furniture and classroom materials (books, games, toys, paints, colouring pens, etc) are also gratefully received. The centre is still in its infancy, so if you can tell your friends or arrange a charity event or presentation that helps get the word out there, they would appreciate that too.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, you can volunteer to help out at the centre. From assisting in tutorial sessions, to playing games, providing children’s entertainment and serving food, volunteering for as little as one hour a week has a big impact on both the services the organisation can provide and the lives of the children. Note: for child-safety purposes, all applicants must be willing to undergo a criminal history check and sign The Hub’s child safety code of conduct.
The Hub Saidek is a project run by Childline Thailand Foundation. They also operate Childline Thailand: a 24-hour emergency telephone service. Reached by simply dialing 1387, it links kids in need to important information and services, from advice on what to do if they are being abused to where they can find food and shelter in their area. Currently the centre answers around 150,000 calls a year.
The Hub Saidek
402-408 Maitri Chit Road, Pomprab District | 02-623-3814 | Sun-Thu 10am-6pm, Fri-Sat 10am-8pm | thehub.childlinethailand.org
Photo feature by Chanchai Wanantragul