Music Education for Old Tiger School

Students from Old Tiger School perform (March 2017)






Toys for Thailand (T4T) provided the Tribal students at Huay Sue Tao (Old Tiger) School with a music education program through a donation from Paul Marshall Nancy Marshall and friends. According to experts at the National Association for Music Education,

“Musical training helps develop language and reasoning. Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning.Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.

Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement. An enjoyable subject like music can keep children interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects. Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.”

Small World Festival Honors King of Thailand

Small World Maehongson Poster, in honor of the late King of Thailand

2016 Small World Maehongson Poster

The Small World Maehongson Festival was created by Toys for Thailand (2010) to inspire HOPE for children to express their tribal traditions and to be rewarded for their talents. The 2016 Small World Festival promotes a greater awareness of the rich cultural traditions of the Hill Tribe children while honoring his majesty the late King of Thailand.

This year over 50 Tribal schools will participate in the one day free cultural event. Each school is provided “seed money” to develop products to sell at the festival. Handicrafts include hand woven scarves, wood bowls and bamboo baskets, knitted hats and gloves, cards, paintings, and embroidery. Specialty items such as organically grown coffee, cabbage, mushrooms and ghost chili peppers will be sold.

The goal of the Small World Festival is to become a major tourist attraction in partnership with local resorts, and businesses and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Over the past six years the festival has grown and received support from local resorts and businesses in Maehongson.

Small World gives the hill tribe children a once in a lifetime opportunity to share their culture and talents with Thais, tourists and other members of hill tribes, as well as, meet fellow students from far-flung schools throughout Northern Thailand.

Milk and Cookies: Carter Bolt

Our youngest Toys for Thailand supporter nine year old Carter Bolt baked cookies to raise funds to buy a soy milk machine for the children of King’s School, Maehongson, Thailand. Carter is an amazing boy. He was born in Hefei, China and lived his early life in an orphanage. He was adopted when he was 2 years old by the Flocken-Bolt family in San Diego, California. Carter is smart, funny and a skillful skateboarder and gymnast…he also has a big heart for helping others.

Carter and his parents and 4 siblings will return to Thailand in Dec. 2016 to participate in the Small World Maehongson Festival and meet the Tribal children who live at the King’s School. The Flocken-Bolt family are T4T supporters and since 2006 they have been on three humanitarian trips to Northern Thailand with the group.

Carter Bolt - 2016

Carter Bolt – 2016

Carter is a talented skateboarder.

Carter is a talented skateboarder.

Sing Tao Group visits Maehongson


Children in Pai, Thailand met visitors from Sing Tao Buddhist Assn. USA


Archi delivers playground and sign to Ban Yapanae School in Pai, Thailand.

Three members of the Sing Tao Buddhist Association-USA visited Maehongson, Thailand (July 20-24, 2016) to see their Toys for Thailand donation in action. During their visit the group took roads trips to visit KhunYuam and Pai districts to meet the children and teachers at Buddhakaset, Wiang Nua and Ban YaPanae Schools.


Children at WiangNua meet with two members of the Sing Tao Buddhist Assn.

The Sing Tao group was hosted by Dr. Chadapon Chaiya, school director of the King’s School who served as their guide and translator. Khun Archi (Chairote Khomthiya) from the Maehongson Education Association made arrangements for the group and coordinated the school projects which included two schools playgrounds and a computer lab.

Young Chefs

Young tribal students at the Tahinsom School (Maehongson, Thailand) are creating wonderful treats while learning life skills in cooking. Toys for Thailand provided kitchen tools and instruction for the school to implement a cooking class. The T4T donation was funded by the Basil Box Restaurants in Toronto, Canada.
Toys for Thailand volunteers will visit the school in December 2016 and hopes to sample some of their delicious recipes.


Children create banana leaf treats in cooking class.


Basil Box Restaurants funded the cooking class through a 2016 donation to Toys for Thailand.


Beyond Photo Ops: T4T helps refugee school


T4T team visits PuKaeng School May-June 2016.

Huay PuKeang Long Neck Village is a popular tourist stop in Maehongson, Thailand where tourists stop for photos. Toys for Thailand (T4T) has funded several projects to help the 43 refugee children at Huay PuKaeng School  (preschool resources, telecommunications and solar power, playground).

Most recently T4T funded a school garden and fish pond where the Pu Kaeng school children are learning to grow food and harvest fish to supplement their lunch program.

A T4T team visited PuKeng School (May-June 2016) to officially open the pond and garden, gift from Judy Eberhart and friends. T4T volunteers will return in Dec. 2016.









T4T Team visits Maehongson May 31-June, 2016

A Toys for Thailand (T4T) team of 4 including Director Maria Miller and Board Member Sean Cuadra were in Maehongson, Thailand May 31-June 6, 2016. The group was on the road 10 hours a day visiting Tribal Schools in remote areas where T4T has completed projects. During their trip the T4T team had meetings with the Governor of Maehongson and the 2016 Small World Festival Committee.

Schools visited were in three districts Maegonson:  King’s, Huay Pu Kaeng, Huay Orn, Huay Pooling, Pai District: WiangNua, MuangNoi and Khun Yuam District: Huay Mubuab, Wahno, Huay MailakaTai, Huay Mailaka Nua, and Buddhakaset. The visits were organized by Maehongson Education Development Association and coordinated by Dr. Chadapon Chaiya, school director of the King’s School. Transportation was provided by Maehongson Education Office, Area One.


T4T Board Member Sean Cuadra meets with Maehongson partners; Archi, Ohm and Surakan. June 2016


T4T team on the muddy and remote Huay Pooling with School Director Sombut Negree, Archi Chi, Chadapon Chaiya and soldiers from the Governor’s Office.



T4T director Maria Miller meets with Maehongson Governor and presents him with gift.



Maria Miller and Sean Cuadra visit Pooling School to see their soil cement training program, T4T gift from Querrey Simpson Family. (June 2016)


Song Tao Buddhist Assn. partners with T4T

T4T Board Members Sean and Maria receive donation from members of Sing Tao Buddhist Assn.

Toys for Thailand (T4T) Board Members Sean Cuadra and Maria Miller met with members of Sing Tao Buddhist Association on Thursday, April 28, 2016 and enjoyed a delicious vegetarian lunch at their Mira Mesa Temple. The Non Profit Organization granted T4T funding for “5” school projects: Buddhapraset School: Tools to start a weaving program and library resources, Wiang Nur School: IT equipment and a school playground and BanYapanae: a school playground. A special acknowledgment to Daranee Olson for introducing T4T to the group.

Kevin (Minh) Giang and Amy Sun, members of the Sing Tao Buddhist Association (Mira Mesa, CA) will visit Tribal schools in Maehongson Thailand (July 2016) to see the completed projects. The group will also visit China and Vietnam to complete humanitarian projects in those countries. 

Connectivity for Mubuab School


Mubuab Village, Khun Yuam

Mubuab Village, Khun Yuam

IMG_9304Toys for Thailand will fund satellite service for Huay Mubuab allowing the remote Karen school (Maehongson, Thailand) access to distance education and other services. The T4T team will visit Mubuab during their May 31-June 6th trip to Maehongson, Thailand. The team will include T4T board members Maria Miller and Sean Cuardra and volunteers Maureen Kelley and Diane Carey.

In 2015, Huab Mubuab received a school library and playground from T4T. T4T has funded telecommunications projects at other Hill Tribal Schools in Northern Thailand: Huay PuKaeng, Huay Pooling and Musser Nai (OmKoi). 

Lern: An unfinished tale


Lern and Maria (2010)


Lern and Maria (Dec. 2015)

Lern and so many other hill tribe children are the reason we do what we do. A 15-year-old Hill Tribe girl from Myanmar, Lern was born with a cleft lip and palate (CLP). Her father died from war-related torture and her mother and four siblings live in dire poverty in Myanmar, just across the Thai border. Unable to receive medical help, Lern was brought to Northern Thailand for cleft lip and palate surgery. I first became aware of her in December 2010 when a group of T4T volunteers visited the Romklaopangtong (King’s) School in Maehongson Province. T4T volunteer Lise Flocken noticed nine-year-old Lern and tried to draw her out, but she was shy and couldn’t speak. In the mountains of Thailand, proper care, support and rehabilitation (dental and speech therapy) is simply not available, especially for a child like Lern with no family to advocate for her, and money to pay for the treatment.

Over the past six years (2010-2016) I’ve been monitoring Lern’s progress. At first, she wouldn’t look at me and didn’t speak. During this same time I became the Godmother to Carter, a boy from China, who was also born with a cleft palate. The adopted child of Lise and her family, Carter’s CLP has required the coordinated care of various providers including otolaryngology, dentistry, speech pathology, audiology, and genetics. His treatment is challenging, lengthy, and costly, requiring multiple surgeries, speech therapy, and an individual education plan.


Lern at King’s School Christmas Party with Maria (Dec 2013)

During my biannual trips to Maehongson, I brought Lern gifts (usually clothes and a personal item, like a necklace, hair pins). When I asked her to give me a list of items she needed, she asked for shampoo, a wash cloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, skin lotion, powder, soap, a bowl for washing clothes, a basket, and hangers.

About four years after we first met, Lern started to change. The school director thought it was because she became active with the school’s aerobic dance team and is a talented athlete The King’s School’s aerobic dance team won 4th place award in a National Thailand Competition in 2013. Lern has also been involved with the school’s agricultural program working with BonChui (Boon-Chew), an autistic man who manages the livestock and garden. She enjoys digging in the garden and working with animals, is a good cook, and helps out with food preparation in the school’s kitchen. Eventually, during my visits, I would walk hand in hand with Lern and get a tour of the school garden and T4T donated pig pens. Lern always had a smile when she showed me the new piglets.


Lern with Joe Evans (Santa) Dec. 2014

Recently Lern has started to speak and is able to communicate with her classmates and teachers. I am told Lern’s verbal communication is difficult to understand but she has a good vocabulary and is able to follow complex directions. Living in the remote Romklaopangtong School with almost 150 children from various Hill Tribal groups, 80% undocumented from Myanmar, Lern has found a place to learn, develop skills, and form friendships. The teachers and staff enjoy Lern’s sweet presence and her sincere interest in being of service to her community. I’m told Lern is one of the first students to volunteer for school clean up projects and to help in the garden.

After six years living at the King’s School, learning Thai language, customs and culture, Lern’s mother is requesting that her daughter return “home” to Myanmar to earn money for the family. Lern is in essence being “recalled” to help care for her siblings and earn money for the family.


Lern with School Director Dr. Chadapon Chaiya, T4T volunteers Maria and Janine (Dec. 2014)

Dr. Chadapon Chaiya, School Director of the Romklaopangtong School has visited Lern’s village and says the living conditions are appalling–the school has no books or pencils, and the community has little safe drinking water and poor health care. Chadapon is advocating for Lern to stay at the King’s School for another year, until she is 16 when she’ll finish her primary education.

At this writing, I don’t know what Lern will do. Like other undocumented children from Myanmar she feels a strong obligation to help her family. If she returns to Myanmar she will be a child laborer. If she is one of the lucky ones, Lern will work picking potatoes and earn around $3 for a full day of back-breaking work in the hot sun. But for Lern, a disadvantaged girl with limited language skills, the risk of falling into drug running or prostitution are very real.

Over the past decade working with Hill Tribal schools in Maehongson, I have met hundreds of children, shared special meals, and celebrated cultural exchange at the Small World Festivals. Through translators I have interviewed a handful of scholarship students and gotten a glimpse into their life stories and dreams for the future. I am hopeful that some of the children from the mountains will learn to navigate their way into mainstream Thai society and make a better life for themselves then their illiterate and impoverished parents.


Lern at the King’s School Pig Farm Dec. 2015

But I am tormented about what will happen to Lern and what intervention on my part would be appropriate. My friend Dr. Chaiya notes that just giving money to Lern’s family would not be a solution. I ask about the possibility of Lern working in Thailand and sending money home to Myanmar…this option comes with the complications of work permits and citizenship issues.

During April, schools in Thailand are on break and regular classes are not in session. Children who cannot return to their families stay at the school, participate in chores and games…and wait for school to resume in mid-May. My next planned trip to Maehongson is May 31-June 7th and I plan to visit the King’s School and my sincere hope is that I will see Lern there, ask her what is on her “needs” list, hold her hand as we walk through the King’s school gardens and pig stalls, and smile at the new born piglets.

In Thailand, there is a need for more speech pathologists and audiologists. According to Transforming Faces “There are 279 professional involved in communication disorders for a population of 67 million.”

2016 article about migrant children in Thailand in Bangkok Post:

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