Where can the undocumented or unregistered go for medical attention? For those living in Sangklaburi, Thailand, it’s not a matter of where, but whom. 42-year-old Dalaitow is a nurse at the Children of the Forest Foundation but she’s more commonly known as the “poor people’s doctor”. She’s the one the local community calls when they need medical help, especially those who do not have proper documentation or ID cards.
After all, who better to help this vulnerable group than someone who has been in their shoes?
Dalaitow is a Burmese national who crossed the border into Thailand 15 years ago in search of work. She does not have a Thai ID, only a 0-card that gives her access to free healthcare, but does not permit her to leave the province without official consent.
She had been working unofficially as a kindergarten teacher before moving on to provide medical aid to refugee camps near the Thai-Burmese border. But throughout her four-year stint, her work was done on a volunteer basis, meaning she did not draw a salary but was instead compensated in food and accommodation. Then, when the organizing body Medicins Sans Frontier (MSF) shut down their operations, Dalaitow was forced to embark on a job hunt once more.
The decision to cross over into Thailand was not an easy one. Three times she attempted to make the journey, but each time, she turned back in fear. It was on the fourth attempt that she finally made it across, where she met Children of the Forest Foundation founder, Daniel. Soon after, he offered Dalaitow a nursing role at the Foundation’s clinic for 3,000 THB a month.
Since then, Dalaitow has seen her share of challenging cases. She once treated a mother who was hemorrhaging after delivery, and her newborn was neither breathing nor crying. Thankfully, with her help, both mother and child survived. Another time, she had to revive an 11-month-old, malnourished baby. Fortunately, she was able to successfully locate the baby’s veins to administer glucose.
Suffice to say, Dalaitow has made a name for herself. She shared that whenever her phone rings, it’s usually bad news. “No one ever calls to say they miss me,” she jokes.
But while she has played an integral part in many individual lives, she hopes to make a bigger, longer-lasting impact in the region: to help the next generation of Sangklaburi attain their ID cards and education so they have access to their rights and proper healthcare.
And this all begins from birth, which coincidentally, is the part of the job Dalaitow loves most—delivering babies. She has delivered around 50 babies, applying for their birth certificates (whenever possible) so that they can break the cycle of unregistered births in their families.
She also works with the Foundation to buy health insurance at the hospital so they can obtain affordable medical care; without which, unregistered persons would have no access at all.
One might imagine this job being both physically and emotionally strenuous on a person. But if it were, Dalaitow seems to show no signs of it slowing her down. “I am so happy that I can help so many people now. This is the best job I have.”
AEF supports the Children of the Forest Foundation in their efforts to improve access to healthcare, education, and the protection of undocumented mothers and children amongst the vulnerable communities in Sangklaburi.