Child of the Seventies

Lakkana Timjiem, a resilient individual driven by a desire to open up opportunities for children in Klong Toey community

Sirinya Wattanasukchai, Jaime Gill
Lakkana Timjiem as a small child.
Lakkana Timjiem/2023
Lakkana Timjiem as a small child.
18 December 2023

Lakkana Timjiem was born in 1965 in Klong Toey, one of Bangkok’s most deprived areas. Though her family were better off than many who lived there, thanks to her policeman father, there were still many challenges involved in growing up in an urban poor environment. Her neighbourhood was flooded daily by tidal changes in the Chao Phraya River, so she would often have to navigate waterlogged paths to get to school. Another problem that developed during the 1970s was drug abuse, with an increasing number of local children recruited as “runners” for the drugs trade.

A major turning point in Lakkana’s life came when her father retired, with the family still in debt. Until that day, she had enjoyed her childhood, but when he could no longer work she dropped out of school to help her mother at the family food stall. “I told myself I’d go back to school someday, but never had a chance,” she remembers sadly. She works on a food stall to this day. Though her own dreams were dashed, her sacrifice and hard work meant her younger brother went to university, and she has worked hard to support her own two children’s education. She is proud they both completed higher education and have found good jobs.

In the last decade, Lakkana has found fulfilment in becoming increasingly active in her community. She works with local NGO Klong Toey Dee Jung to create spaces for children to learn and play. “Children in Klong Toey can’t afford to go to cram schools or pay for any extracurricular activities, such as sports or music. They don’t have as many opportunities to learn and see things as other children in the capital. We try to change that.”

Lakkana played a key role when Klong Toey became the epicentre of Thailand’s first COVID-19 outbreak, volunteering at a community kitchen. “Sometimes I prepared more than 1,000 meals a day for families who were infected and quarantined.” She worked alongside UNICEF during this time, as it provided support with COVID-19 prevention, such as hygiene equipment and face masks, while also working to provide emergency healthcare equipment such as oxygen concentrators.

Lakkana is proud of being able to step up and support her community through this dark period. Lakkana is pleased that children now have better access to education than when she was young, but wants to see schools continue to improve so that no children drop out early. “If we can design classes to be creative, fun and relevant, every student will want to remain in school,” she says. “Education improves people’s quality of life so much and it’s essential to keeping up in a fastpaced world.”

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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