SOS Children's Village Phuket was set up in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. At the time, SOS Children's Villages immediately provided emergency relief and took care of unaccompanied children. Children whose relatives could not take them in have now found a new home in one of the SOS families.

Tourism and its dark side

SOS mothers playing with their children (photo: SOS archives)Every year, thousands of tourists from all over the world spend their holidays in Phuket, one of the major tourist destinations of Asia. The tourism industry offers many jobs for local people, and so Phuket attracts a large number of internal migrants looking for work.

Unfortunately, not all of them find jobs in the formal sector. Many end up doing menial work in the informal sector or are lured into the sex industry by the promise of a higher income.

Sex-for-sale outlets often employ, and in some cases enslave, children, who are either sold to these businesses by their families or tricked into working there with false promises of jobs in restaurants or hotels. High-risk behaviour abets the spread of HIV; most new infections are happening among the young. Children from surrounding countries are trafficked to Thailand for commercial sexual exploitation.

Families also make children beg in the streets or sell small items such as flowers or sweets to tourists in order to raise the family income. Migrant workers employed in the construction industry need their children to help them on the building sites. Children working in the streets are exposed to many dangers such as car accidents and criminals. Those working in construction find themselves handling dangerous machinery, carrying heavy loads or working high up on a scaffold without any proper safety equipment. Usually, there is no protection from noise, dust or smoke. Children often have to work until late into the night and – if they are enrolled in school at all – often miss classes because their work takes precedence over their education.

The 2004 tsunami has changed many lives forever

On the morning of 26 December 2004, a tsunami struck coastal areas around the Indian Ocean. The sea surge was caused by an earthquake off the coast of Banda Aceh, Indonesia. It left more than 280,000 people dead. From the start, SOS Children's Villages ran emergency relief programmes. In Thailand, fishing boats and tools were provided to fishermen who had lost their only means of making a living. Private houses, a kindergarten and a school were reconstructed.

At the beginning, the focus was on providing medical care, food and shelter to the victims. The next step was trying to locate surviving relatives of unaccompanied children and finding out if they could take care of the children. Since some children's relatives could not be traced or were not in the position to take care of them, we decided to set up a new SOS Children's Village, where children who had no one to look after them could find a loving home.

What we do in Phuket

Children playing outside (photo: SOS archives)SOS Children’s Villages endeavours to strengthen local families by offering day-care for their children at the SOS Kindergarten. For poor families, especially for single parents, it is important to have a place where professionals look after their children. This enables parents to work and earn a living, without having to leave their children unattended.

Children whose families can no longer take care of them can find a new home in one of the twelve SOS families. The children from the SOS families attend local schools or the SOS Kindergarten together with local children, which helps them become part of the community. This is important for their integration into society when they grow up.

SOS Children's Villages offers special programmes for young adults. They can live together while they attend vocational training or higher education. With the support of qualified counsellors, the young people develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions