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Well away from the sunset cocktail bars and five-star resorts of Phuket there are untold stories of families in struggle. When families are burdened by poverty, illness, addiction or abuse, it’s often the children who suffer the most. Life sometimes gets tough enough that the family home is no longer safe or secure for a child; in some cases, there is no home for them to go to. This is where the Phuket Sunshine Village (PSV) Foundation steps in to help.
As “a home for children without parents and a safe place for a better future”, PSV provides shelter and care to about 100 children aged three to 18.
The foundation was launched after the Asian tsunami of December 2004 when members of the Lions Club of Phuket Andaman Sea formulated a plan to use the generous outpouring of goodwill and funds after the disaster to build a long-term project to help those in need in the community.
With help from the French Red Cross and private donors from around the world, the village was officially opened in June 2007. PSV operates with the support of Child Watch Phuket, a child care and protection charity that has operated for some 20 years in Phuket.
Some of the children living at the village are orphans but most have come from a place of abuse or neglect, from homes blighted by drug or alcohol problems, or where single parents are unable to cope. The ultimate goal is to return the children to their home whenever possible if the family situation has stabilised.
The 12 houses of the village, modest bungalows arranged around a central playground and dining area, are each home to up to 10 children as well as one house "mother" who looks after them. Based on the concept of SOS Kinderdorf launched in Austria in 1949, there’s strong emphasis on family values and maintaining a loving environment.
Walking around the colourful village, one is struck by the joyful community atmosphere. The smiles and playfulness of the children here betray no hint of their difficult pasts.
Children are encouraged to take responsibility and learn new skills, pitch in to do the cooking and cleaning and help one another. Most of the kids attend a Thai government school located just down the road, and a full-time English teacher provides lessons at the village.
Often with the help of local businesses, the children are involved with a number of sports and other activities around the island. The Phuket Youth Sailing Club in Ao Yon has been particularly proactive in bringing Sunshine Village kids into the sport, with some children having developed into skilled sailors who compete in youth regattas in Phuket and beyond.
All aspects of the village operations including its 25 full-time staff are supported by private donations only – no government help is provided. They have also set up sponsorship packages where you can pay a fixed amount to sponsor the needs of one child for one to 10 years. The foundation is also seeking to raise funds for a sports complex it hopes to build on an adjacent land plot, which will give the children a covered facility to play a range of sports, hold events and put on performances.
Donors come from around the world, including some wanting to give back to the Phuket community after their own lives were touched by tragedy. One of PSV’s most generous sponsors is a donor from Europe who lost his entire family in the 2004 tsunami.
The foundation accepts volunteers by application under rather strict conditions. Volunteers must have a specific skill set that fits the needs of the organisation, be willing to stay for at least six months and organise and finance their own visas, transport and accommodation.
Cash donations are accepted online via PayPal or credit card, and by bank transfer.
Donations in kind are also accepted, and many local residents and visitors bring rice and other food, plus toiletries, toys and children’s clothing directly to the village.
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