Child of the 2000s

Siribut Musikapodok, an woman who is embarking on a project to ensure that no child is left behind

Sirinya Wattanasukchai, Jaime Gill
Siribut Musikapodok as a toddler.
Siribut Musikapodok/2023
Siribut Musikapodok as a toddler.
18 December 2023

Siribut Musikapodok was born in 2002 in Mae Hong Son province. Although the country’s recovery from the 1997 financial crisis was well underway, her family was still struggling. Her single mother moved around a lot, following work as a manual labourer. Siribut only realized how financially precarious their life was when she “went to school and saw how fancy my friends’ lunchboxes were, while my box had only vegetables.”

But perhaps the biggest challenge was being born with Marfan syndrome, which can cause multiple physical impairments. Siribut had surgery at age 4, but found it difficult to attend medical appointments because the family had little money and lived far away from the city. Her eyesight was particularly affected. “I thought everybody had the same type of vision. I often bumped into things or fell, making people think that I was stupid. My mother only learned much later that I needed to attend a special school for the blind.” When she was seven, Siribut left her family to study and board with the Northern Region School for the Blind in Chiang Mai.

Though she has fond childhood memories, like swimming in the river with her friends, she frequently felt isolated. Her life changed when she attended a workshop by UNICEF designed to empower students of different abilities. “It made me realize that there are people who listen, appreciate you, and see your value. I’d been taught to accept my shortcomings and live with them. But the workshop taught us to dig deep to find the root cause of a problem and then find a solution.”

Since then, Siribut has achieved much, fuelled by improved self-esteem and self-confidence. She was proud to play an active role in “The Sound of Happiness”, a campaign organized by UNICEF and the Department of Mental Health to promote well-being among young people. She spoke alongside celebrities she admired and remembers how “I was there, representing youth, and shared my own feelings… I appreciate that I was given the space and there were people listening to me and my stories.”

Siribut is now studying Special Education at university and has begun teaching, while also working enthusiastically on her own projects.

“Last year, I launched a project which connected blind Thai students with American students to meet and do activities together. Blind children are known to often have lower English proficiency, so this helps them learn English through activities, such as going out or having meals together.” Asked what she most hopes for Thailand’s future, she says it is one “where no child is left behind.”

About “Child of the Decade” Blog Series

For each decade UNICEF has worked in Thailand, we will share the story of a child who grew up then. They were chosen to reflect Thailand’s diversity, rather than provide a case study of UNICEF’s work – although their lives have been shaped by the improved healthcare, education and opportunities we have worked towards.

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