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On-the-job training for disadvantaged youth in Thailand

The Youth Career Development Programme has provided training for young people in Thailand since the mid-1990s. Now, you can follow the story of two of these girls on YouTube in reality series A Chance for Change.

© UNICEF Video
Watch ‘A Chance for Change’, a five-part reality series capturing the experiences of two girls who took part in a unique programme aimed at providing underprivileged young people with opportunities to improve their lives.


By Andy Brown

BANGKOK, Thailand, 11 April 2013 – In a university dormitory in Bangkok, 21 young people from disadvantaged communities line up to pull the name of a top hotel out of a bag. Behind them, teams of hotel staff in uniform are eager to meet their new apprentices.

For 20-year-old Daojai Saetor, a cabbage farmer from a Mon hill tribe village in Petchaburi province, it’s an exciting moment. She reaches in and pulls out a piece of paper saying ‘JW Marriott’, and her new life begins.

Employment for at-risk children

“This is only my second time to Bangkok,” says Daojai. “I arrived yesterday by bus with my friend. I’m very excited to be here. I wanted to go to university, but my parents couldn’t afford to send me. I’ll need to pay my own way. Working in a hotel will help me do that.”

The Youth Career Development Programme (YCDP) has been running since the mid-1990s. It was initially developed by UNICEF Thailand and the Pan Pacific Hotel Bangkok as an innovative way of tackling child trafficking and sexual exploitation by providing employment for at-risk children. The scheme was soon expanded to other hotels, a bank and a hospital.

Watch the new reality series A Chance for Change [YouTube playlist].

© UNICEF Thailand/2012/Jingjai
Daojai Saetor, 20, prepares dinner in the kitchen of JW Marriott hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. She is taking part in the Youth Career Development Programme, an innovative job-training programme carried out through a partnership between UNICEF and private companies since the mid-1990s.

“This is an excellent example of how private companies and an organization like UNICEF can work together to change the lives of children and young people,” says UNICEF Thailand Deputy Representative Andrew Morris. “Not only has it changed the lives of the young people who went through YCDP, but also the lives of their brothers, sisters and families because of the money they have sent back home for their education.”

In the early years, UNICEF provided full funding for the YCDP, including training, transport and accommodation costs. In 2008, UNICEF asked the hotels to take over these costs as part of their training budget and corporate social responsibility. “The programme is now entirely funded by the companies, themselves, which has allowed it to grow,” says Mr. Morris. “This is a much more sustainable model.”

Alongside a master

A few weeks later, Daojai is hard at work in the kitchen of the JW Marriott Hotel on Ploenchit Road in central Bangkok, a grand building with high ceilings and wood-panelled walls. She is wearing a starched white kitchen uniform and preparing food for dinner. Working alongside an experienced chef, she chops vegetables, mixes sauces and puts trays of food in an industrial-sized microwave. Afterwards, she cleans the surfaces and kitchen utensils.

“Daojai is a quiet girl, but she’s motivated and works hard,” says Main Kitchen Chef at the JW Marriott Hotel Tanai Jitmanowan. “I’ve seen her progress over the last month. She’s more fluid in preparing the food. If she wanted to, she could be a chef, herself, in five years’ time.”

© UNICEF Thailand/2012/Brown
Daojai with her mother in the cabbage fields in Petchaburi Province. "I wanted to go to university, but my parents couldn’t afford to send me," says the young woman. "I’ll need to pay my own way. Working in a hotel will help me do that."

Front Office Manager Rojana Pongpairoj agrees that Daojai is a promising student. “We’ve had lots of weddings at the hotel lately, so there have been many opportunities for Daojai to learn how to arrange flowers. I show her which colours suit different rooms and events, how to clean the vase and prepare the flowers. She’s active and a fast learner – I only have to show her how to do something once. Sometimes she stays behind after work to help out.”

Life outside work

After work, Daojai returns to the dormitory where she shares a room with two other Mon girls from her village, Duang and May. It’s a small, bare room with bunk beds and a single wardrobe. “The first week, I thought I’d made the wrong decision coming here,” Daojai says. “The trainers made me work very hard. Once, I had to unblock a toilet by putting my hand down it. But, after that, I thought ‘I have to fight for this’ and it’s got better since.”

Daojai works a six-day week at the hotel and spends most of her free time with Duang and May. “We do everything together,” she says. “We go shopping, eat dinner and gossip. We used to buy food at the street stalls, but now we go to Big C because it’s cheaper. My daily allowance is 120 Baht, but I try to spend just 50 to 100 Baht.”



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