Imagine being denied rightful citizenship in the country of your birth.
Without citizenship, no country has to defend you.
No hospital has to care for you.
No school has to educate you.
You’re forced to live without the protection of the law.
For women like Meeyu, this means you are further vulnerable to violence and sexual exploitation.
Your gifts can provide citizenship for countless hill tribe members in Thailand.
Meeyu is a 28-year-old mother of five and belongs to an indigenous hill tribe minority group in Thailand called ‘Akha’. Her family is not a group of refugees seeking asylum, nor are they internally displaced.
But despite living in the mountainous villages of Thailand for generations, Meeyu and her family, along with many other hill tribe members, are not officially recognized as Thai citizens.
Because she lacked citizenship documentation, Meeyu was confined to her village as a child and unable to go to school. Her family lived near a police checkpoint, and without citizenship, they could not go beyond the checkpoint without risk of being arrested and sent to prison.
When she was older, Meeyu eventually married and found work on a nearby rice farm with her mother Akhang. But the family still lived in anxiety and despair every day.
They feared they would always be trapped and vulnerable.
"I am scared without citizenship,” Akhang whispers. "I worry about the effect on my children, that they won’t be able to go to school.”
Thankfully, help was on the way.
When a relative told her about an organization called IJM, Meeyu felt a surge of hope.
"When IJM came, I trusted them and believed that they could help,” Meeyu says.
IJM staff immediately set up several meetings with district officials to complete the citizenship applications.
Our team in Thailand made multiple three-hour journeys from the Chiang Mai office to accompany a frightened Meeyu and Akhang back and forth past the police checkpoint near their home to check on the paperwork.
"I got sick every time because I would be so scared of going through the checkpoint,” Meeyu recalls.
Akhang’s application was processed quickly, and she became a citizen in January 2015, followed shortly by her other children.
More than a year later, in April 2016, IJM staff met Meeyu at the district office where she stamped her thumbprint on the paperwork that finally made her a citizen of Thailand.
"I want to put my ID card on my forehead and go to the police and say ‘I’m Thai!’”Meeyu laughs before straightening her posture to share a serious message.
As she begins to speak, her voice breaks and tears emerge:
"Please tell the people who helped our family, thank you. Thank you to everyone who has supported us."
Without the generous gifts of supporters like you, Meeyu and her children would be left without protection, and without a future.
Join us in giving families like Meeyu’s the life they deserve.
Your generosity will help provide hill tribe members citizenship and a passport to freedom.