The centre was set up by Sister Lakana to provide a safe haven for the children living in the area, and to offer the chance of a better future via education and the learning of employable skills. Incredibly the centre and its dedicated staff and supporters manage to provide a place of learning for 247 registered students between the ages of five to 16.
The centre has three clear humanitarian objectives: To provide a chance in life for the poor or destitute; To create a place for learning, as every child should have the right to education; To be open to anyone who is in need.
From the early experiences and charitable efforts of Sister Lakana in the work slums at Rassada Pier, that ‘need’ focused heavily on the Myanmar destitute. In particular the children, who are refused official recognition from the Thai authorities, and as unregistered, stateless individuals are at risk from labour and sexual exploitation.
The history of the centre began in 2010 when Sister Lakana placed herself in the fishing village near the pier, where the Myanmar people work for a minimal wage and make a home from whatever they can find. The Sister’s first objective was simply to provide care and protection to the growing homeless.
There was an evident need to provide the means of an educational environment to the children in the camp, so Sister Lakana made a space using corrugated iron and chicken wire, which housed a blackboard and one committed teacher. Within a few months the tiny school had over 100 children attending, and the parents knew it was a safe and nurturing base for their young children.
Over the next three years, Sister Lakana and a growing number of supporters raised funds and were given a significant donation to build a more permanent educational setting.
Since 2013 the new centre, built just a few miles away, provides a free and critical centre in order to teach the children English, Myanmarese and Thai to help them integrate into the Thai workforce and become productive, educated members of society.
It caters to children from just five years old at the kindergarten through to 16 years of age. The centre has eight teachers from Thailand and Myanmar. The Myanmar curriculum is upheld so that if the children ever return they can integrate back into their cultural system, and Thai is taught in the hope that the children also have the opportunity to enter local schools.
As a charitable organisation the centre relies on the support of volunteers to teach English as well as local expats to drive awareness and donations. As example, there are currently three international teachers from Denmark at the centre. With Sister Lakana for guidance and inspiration, these dedicated volunteers and the staff selflessly provide both their time and skills to the welfare of the children, who are in desperate need of both care and the encouragement to believe in a better future.
The work does not stop in the classroom. As well as transporting the children to and from the centre, the Good Shepherd centre also provides home visits, health clinic days and distribution of donated food to the community. Such work is essential to the welfare of these vulnerable people, who themselves give back to the centre, despite their desperate position, wherever possible.
The great work of Sister Lakana and the team is sadly under threat. The day-to-day running costs for the provision of community services from the centre has to date been generously funded by a charitable organisation. But this support is coming to an end. The volunteer group are urgently finding ways to fundraise and promote awareness to their worthy cause.
Whilst giving their service so selflessly, the Good Shepherd Centre must also rely on the kind hearts of our island community to support their work with teaching and administrative volunteers, and monetary donations to cover the cost of running such a critical life-line to the most needy on our island.
The first step to all kindness is positive action. In the words of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
The centre will be holding a number of fun community events in the coming months to raise funds, starting on Sunday, Nov 4 with an "Inter Schools Quiz Challenge”.
Good Shepherd Centre, Phuket Town.
Tel: +66(0) 085 908 6560.