The Slaughterhouse School, Bangkok

INTO Giving funds teachers salaries, school meals and classroom materials at this preschool for children from the Khlong Toey slum in Bangkok

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Behind a high chain link fence is an open-aired and almost wall-less building beneath a dirty fibreglass roof, where early each morning 100 or more three-to-six-year-olds arrive to learn Thai, how to count, personal hygiene, and animal, fruit and vegetable names in English, and more.

This is the Mercy Centre Preschool, in the Poonsab, the oldest quarter of Bangkok's oldest and sprawling slum. INTO Giving is supporting the Mercy Centre with £17,000 (US $22,000) between 2014-2018.

The preschool is known as 'The Slaughterhouse School', given the pig slaughterhouse – an open-aired building beneath a low fibreglass roof at the mirror end of the wide alley that runs between the two buildings – is the structural twin of the preschool.

Most of the preschool children’s parents work at the slaughterhouse, or at the nearby port authority, or as cleaners in the wealthy high rises in the near distance. Or in the sex trade. Teenage pregnancy and drug abuse is common among the parents; and many of the preschool children are looked after by their grandparents.

The girls and boys at the school are as cheeky and noisy (and, equally, attentive when the teachers call them to lesson or activity), beaming, bright-eyed and scarpering about as any other children. They each have self-appointed nicknames like Peanut, Pizza and Seven-Eleven. 

One in five children arrive at the school malnourished. All of them are given rice, milk, fruit, and vegetables twice daily, take an afternoon nap, and diligently learn the Thai alphabet (44 consonants and 14 vowels, forming words that can have as many as five different pronunciations and meanings).  For some of the children, the food they eat at school can be the only food they'll have that day.

"If you know how to write in the formal way," the head teacher says, "everybody will know you have been to school, and it will help you get a job. If not, you don’t have a hope of finding work."

THE GOOD NEWS

INTO Giving's support has helped more than 300 preschoolers since 2014 - help by providing school food (you can't concentrate when all you're thinking about is when you'll next eat again), paper, pens, crayons and other school supplies, and help toward teacher salaries.

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