Thailand's capital, largest city, and main port, Bangkok is home to more than eight million people. Unsurprisingly, such a vast city is home to numerous problems, from pollution and traffic congestion, to housing shortages and widespread urban poverty.
People come to Bangkok from all over Thailand in search of a better life. Sadly, a large number of these migrants end up impoverished in one of Bangkok's 1,000 slums.
A difficult childhood
Bangkok attracts people not only from Thailand's poverty-stricken countryside, but also from poorer neighbouring countries such as Cambodia. Children often travel to Bangkok alone; without their families, believing the capital will being prosperity and a better life.
For most, Bangkok brings only more squalor. Many children live on the street or in the city's slums, and have to work hard to earn a living. Begging and street-peddling are common trades for poor children, and many work from the crack of dawn until late at night just to stay alive.
Even when they live with their families, work generally takes precedence over education. Many are not even registered with the authorities. Not only are such children not entitled to attend school, they do not even qualify for healthcare, leaving these already vulnerable children at risk from ill health and malnutrition.
Because so many of these children are unaccompanied, live on the streets, and work late hours, they are also vulnerable to exploitation. Some fall prey to traffickers and become victims of the commercial sex trade.
What is SOS Children doing to address this?
While on a visit to Europe, Queen Sirikit of Thailand learnt of SOS Children, and shortly after returning home, invited us to begin work in her country. In 1974, we opened our first Children's Village in Thailand, in Bangpoo, a suburb of the capital.
Helping families resist the strains of poverty
The pressures and strains of poverty have left many families in Bangkok on the verge of collapse. Much of our work is devoted to ensuring these families are able to stay together, and offer a proper upbringing to the children in their care. Our SOS nursery school provides parents with a haven where they can leave their children during the day while they earn a living for the family.
Giving children another chance
For many of Bangkok's children, family life simply isn't possible. We aim to give these children back their childhoods, and do everything we can to ensure as many of these children as possible have somewhere they can call home. Children from our Village grow up with an SOS family, while attending locals schools with children from the neighbourhood, enabling them to grow up as part of the community.
As they approach adulthood, we help them develop a skillset and a career path. A house at nearby Samutprakarn is set aside for young adults, and acts as a base while they attend higher education courses or enter vocational training. SOS staff provide support to help prepare them for the challenges of adult life, and we help them achieve independence with all the excitement such an important step deserves.
Bangkok is a hugely important Asian city. Yet deprivation is a daily reality for many people. SOS Children are there to ensure many people can survive amid such hardship, and to give children with no one the care they deserve.