TV star Joe Swift, from BBC Gardeners' World, will be visiting pupils at Our Lady & St Joseph Primary School in Hackney, east London, next Tuesday to tell them about a project which is helping Burmese child refugees in Thailand grow their own food.
Organised by the Thai Children's Trust, the project is called the Mushroom House Project. Already the Hackney school has given £800 to pay for two mushroom sheds. Joe will talk to the children about mushrooms, how they grow and, in particular, the benefits of growing food at school. He will also visit the school allotment.
In the western border town of Mae Sot in Thailand over 700 Burmese refugees attend Hsa Thoo Lei School. Many of the Burmese migrant children have suffered hazardous crossings across the river that divides the countries and are extremely vulnerable to malnutrition.
The school's income is far below levels required to fund regular lunches and many children have no food during the school day. The Thai Children's Trust is raising funds for the school to provide some nutrition to these vulnerable young people.
The mushroom sheds will be built at Hsa Thoo Lei school. They will house pre-prepared spore bags. They are placed on racks in a hot and humid hut. Regularly tended, the spore bags produce mushrooms over a three month cycle. For most of this time there will be mushrooms available to supplement the diet of the children. Any spare will be sold.
"We are so grateful to the school community of Our Lady & St Joseph Primary School to start this project off with such a generous gesture. Just one shed at £400 will make a difference to an entire school and all its pupils." said Andrew Scadding, CEO of Thai Children's Trust based in the UK. "With Joe's green advice I hope we will spark keen interest in how schools can grow their own nutritious food and see what fun it can be. We hope, too, that we can encourage fundraising to help the Burmese refugees."
The Thai Children's Trust, which started in the resort of Pattaya, is now extending its work to support vulnerable and disadvantaged children across Thailand. The charity helps orphans, disabled children, children with HIV, tsunami survivors and street children - providing a home, an education and a future for almost 1,500 children, and reaching out to thousands more through health and nutrition projects. For more information see: www.thaichildrenstrust.org.uk/