The Dawn School and Relocation Center is an initiative of The Best Friend Library in Mae Sot, Thailand. The purpose of the relocation center is to provide families that previously lived on the nearby rubbish dump with a healthier, happier, safer place to live. In addition, adults have the option of working in the on‐site sewing factory where workers produce garments for a fair wage. Families and individuals meeting criteria (such as no use of drugs) are selected for transition from the rubbish dump to this location.
The site for this relocation center was chosen for its close proximity to the now-connected Dawn School, which provides free primary education for more than 70 children. All students and teachers are migrants from Burma—Burmese, Karen, and Mon. Now the children of parents who used to live and make their living from the rubbish dump can attend a clean school near their new homes, while also being fed at least two healthy meals a day.
Living community‐style, families share a large dormitory located next to the school. The
sewing factory is off to one side. There is a playground and large fields where the children can play safely, and the environment is much healthier and cleaner than that of the dump.
This was constructed in early 2010, and soon after the first seven families were moved away from the rubbish dump. There are plans to expand and move more families in 2011. Already, some families that have not yet been able to move away from the rubbish dump send their children to study at the school.
For most, this facility remains their lifeline and sole current opportunity for an education, clean water, food and worldly support. Some of these children have no parents. However, most of them are smiling because they are, happy and being taken care of (as we all should be).
I spent time at both the Dawn School and rubbish dump. The environmental energy comparison between these two scenarios is stark – with this school being a magnetic place filled with hope, and the rubbish dump being a gut-wrenching place of life holding on by a thread. This, in my opinion, illustrates that environment (in all respects and situations) makes a fundamental difference in the health of all living beings.