The remote province of Mae Hong Son, located in the mountains of the northwest of Thailand that borders Burma, is one of the poorest areas in Thailand. Its population includes many different ethnic groups, among which are a number of impoverished tribal peoples. These communities are under increasing pressure from problems like deforestation and drug trafficking. Many of their traditional cultural forms are unsustainable in the modern age and its people are struggling to adapt to the rapid changes around them. Stress-related ailments are constantly rising. Long traditions of self-sufficiency and mutual aid have slowly diminished.
The seeds of Dhammagiri Children were sown when a group of wandering forest monks passing through the area learned of the villagers’ predicament. They decided to help them by setting up a children’s home to provide the hilltribe children with a conducive environment. The children would go to public schools, and under the monks’ guidance, receive moral education according to Buddhist principles of respecting life, compassion and honesty. When they leave the children’s home, they would be able to contribute to the society and help their families break the cycle of poverty.
Initially, funding for the projects was kindly sponsored by Ms Crystal Lau, a Malaysian lay Buddhist and sister of Venerable Ajahn Cagino. However, as the more children came under the care of the home, an institution became necessary to put this work on a more organized footing and allow opportunities for others to participate. Dhammagiri Children was born.