Nongkhai is the capital of the northernmost of Nong Khai's north-eastern provinces. Located on the Mekong River, it is just a few miles downriver of the Laotian capital, Vientiane.
During the 1990s, the joint-funded Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge brought a boost to the economies of both cities. The Asian financial crisis of 1997, which began in Thailand, brought an end to this shortlived boom period, affecting the lives of many families.
A mixed picture
Today, the region around Nongkhai is poor and education and health services are wanting. Nevertheless, it is a popular tourist destination, and many people make a living from this industry.
Its proximity to Laos means trade with Thailand's neighbour plays a big part in the Nongkhai economy. It also promotes illegal activities, and people trafficking has a devastating effect; particularly on children.
The horrors of child trafficking
Children trafficked from neighbouring countries often find themselves in Thailand. On reaching their destination, these children meet with a range of tragic fates. The worst of these is commercial sexual exploitation and the many associated dangers it exposes them to, from debilitating disease and lifelong trauma to violence, sexual or otherwise.
Others are forced to beg or sell on the streets for the commercial gain of others, while some children end up in wealthier households, working as domestic servants. Though the government has legislated to crackdown on trafficking, enforcing such laws can be virtually impossible.
How do we help?
Though we are based in Nongkhai city, SOS Children is committed to helping people throughout the province. We are strategically located in the government district of the capital, where markets, schools and hospitals are all within easy reach.
Giving children the childhood they deserve
Many children work or beg because their families cannot survive without this additional income stream. Nevertheless, it is unacceptable that any child should have to spend long hours in the paddy fields, or days in the heat of the city, begging on the street from dawn till dusk.
That's why we provide families with the help they need to support children without having to resort to such extreme measures. Our nursery provides a free introduction to education for infants, while also giving them the opportunity to play with other children; all while their parents go to work, happy that their children are being cared for. Other forms of family support help parents improve their awareness of children's needs, and help them establish a sustainable income on which they can support a whole family.
Looking after lone children
Some children can no longer live with their families, and these we care for at the Children's Village itself. Here, they can find a home with an SOS mother and their SOS brothers and sisters, while benefiting from an exceptional education which will stand them in good stead for life.
By supporting families facing extreme hardship and offering a loving home to children with no one else to look after them, SOS Children are a life-changing force across the province of Nongkhai.