Child of the Eighties

Tawin Srikaew, a compassionate individual committed to helping marginalized children access education

Sirinya Wattanasukchai, Jaime Gill
Adult Tawin Srikaew with schoolchildren.
Tawin Srikaew/2023
Adult Tawin Srikaew with schoolchildren.
18 December 2023

Tawin Srikaew was born in 1975 in Ban Non Khaen, a remote village in Surin province with no electricity or water. He remembers walking several kilometres daily to get water during dry season and looking forward to rainy season. He received a full set of vaccinations, a result of years of work from Thailand’s Ministry of Health, UNICEF and other partners.

From a young age, Tawin dreamt of being an educator, but faced many obstacles. Though his family owned a small rice paddy, it didn’t produce enough to survive on and so, during school breaks, the family travelled to Bangkok to work in construction. “As a young worker, I made around 90 bahts a day while the adults made 200,” he remembers. Although he pursued nonformal education after completing high school, he was unable to finish due to difficult economic circumstances.

For the next 20 years, Tawin tried to find his place in the world. He was a singer in a band at school and later ordained as a monk. Another fateful moment came when he met his wife, who was from the remote, mountainous province of Mae Hong Son. They raised a family there, but in order to earn a livelihood he had to move around the country for different jobs, including a return to construction and a spell as an ice cream seller in Bangkok. His life journey mirrors that of many other Thais, at a time when migrating for work became increasingly common.

A turning point came when a friend recommended him for a teaching position in Mae Hong Son. “This was a dream come true,” he says. During this period he began working with UNICEF, who provided educational support to children from ethnic minorities including the provision of a mobile library able to travel to remote schools.

Tawin loved teaching and became a passionate champion for education for hilltribe children, advocating for more classrooms and school dormitories to be built close to their villages and driving on his motorbike to ensure that children could travel safely to dormitories. He has now dedicated himself full time to this calling, leaving behind a salaried position and becoming a volunteer to dedicate his time to helping more children receive an education.

Looking back over nearly 50 eventful years, Tawin is proud of Thailand’s progress and his own achievements. “I’ve been through a lot. I’m grateful I was patient and kept learning. I’m happy I’ve helped dozens of disadvantaged children to get an education. My message to all children is ‘don’t stop studying and improving yourself’.”

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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