Voice of the Future

Meet the youngest member of UNICEF’s Young People Advisory Board

Sirinya Wattanasukchai, Jaime Gill
Atichat Butchan, centre, with schoolfriends.
Atichat Butchan/2023
Atichat Butchan, centre, with schoolfriends.
12 December 2023

Atichat Butchan, 11, from Sakon Nakhon province, became the youngest ever member of UNICEF’s Young People Advisory Board in 2023. The Board advises UNICEF on its work in high priority areas including education, mental health and climate change. He shares his views on Thailand’s past, present and future.

“My Dad says Thailand has changed a lot. When he was young he had to wake at 5am to help his parents do housework and feed the animals on the farm, then walk all the way to school. Even listening to that routine exhausts me! I’m glad life isn’t so hard now. I only get up to go to school, meaning I can focus fully on my education. My parents had to drop out after primary school, and they want better for me. They dream of seeing me in a khrui graduation gown one day.

It’s going to be difficult to afford for me to go to university, but I’m already thinking of ways to make the money. I design mobile phone wallpapers for my friends in the evening, so I can be quite creative.

Education is very important in the 21st century. I want to be fluent in English and Mandarin so I can get a good job and travel. I got a chance to travel when I put my name forward for UNICEF’s Young People Advisory Board (YPAB). I’m really interested in education and environmental issues, and helped my teacher organize recycling at school. So she suggested I apply and I thought I should try, hoping I could gain knowledge and then bring it back home to improve my community. I was so excited when I was accepted and knew I would go to Bangkok for the first time that I couldn’t sleep the night before. I learned a lot from the camp and I’m going to apply again next year because I really want to do something about climate change. I first noticed the world was getting hotter when I was in kindergarten. I thought the heat was from the sky. As a little kid, I thought to myself ‘why can’t someone fly into the sky to switch off the heat for us?’ But I later learned that there’s no switch in the sky, it’s things like waste, forest fires, and car emissions that make it hot. I think we need to move to electric cars, we need to understand and use technology to help us solve problems. Technology is a very important part of our lives now and I think we can use it to make things better in the future.

My message to UNICEF and the people who help it is to say thank you for believing in us. Kids need support from adults and the whole society. I’m really lucky that my parents give me a lot of their time. I want to see a future where every kid in Thailand gets that kind of support and can go as far in education as they want. Children are the future, and if we get the right education we can achieve great things for Thailand.”

UNICEF Blog

The UNICEF Blog promotes children's rights and well-being, and ideas about ways to improve their lives and the lives of their families. We bring you insights and opinions from young people, our partners, child rights experts and accounts from UNICEF's staff on the ground in Thailand. The opinions expressed on the UNICEF Blog are those of the author(s) and may not necessarily reflect UNICEF's official position.

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