The first thing 24-year-old, Bajo, did with his ID card was to apply for university.
“There are many things I want to change,” said Bajo, who is studying law because he hopes to “become part of the change”.
The young adult who stays in Sangklaburi in the Kachanaburi province, has always keenly felt that undocumented people like himself were not “equal to” those with national IDs. “We are all humans, why don’t we have the same rights,” Bajo pointed out. He wants to understand the law so that he can help others like himself.
He came to the Children of the Forest Foundation (COF) when he was only 7 years old, accompanied by his mother and his three sisters. Circumstances had forced them to move: Bajo’s father passed away unexpectedly and his mum was unable to look after the family with her illness.
When he arrived, COF helped him to apply for a temporary “7-color” card which allowed him to study and complete high school with the Foundation’s support. But university applicants require a national ID, and without it, Bajo could not continue his education.
Bajo believes that education is the only way for people like him to have a better life. Children must learn how to read and write because that will allow them to keep learning even if they cannot receive higher education.
Bajo is one of the lucky ones, however. He successfully received his Thai ID five years after the Foundation first applied for it on his behalf.
Now, Bajo mainly works with the children who attend the school set up by the Foundation which was set up almost 13 years ago. The children attend school for free and Bajo conducts home visits to follow-up. When schools were shut during Covid-19, Bajo was part of a team that went house-to-house to help children keep up with homework so they could remember what they studied in school.
In his free time, Bajo reads widely to increase his knowledge. As an auditory learner, he sometimes records himself reading and listens to it over again.
“I just want to learn more, the more I know the more I will feel equal, and I can help others like me,” said the ambitious young man who aspires to become a judge one day.
With a Thai ID card, Bajo is also finally allowed to travel out of his province and he hopes to travel around Thailand in the near future with this newfound freedom.
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.