I am very excited to be here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This place is littered with people and organisations trying to improve the lot of impoverished and under-represented people here.
Today I went to the Chuan Chom Women's Correctional Institution. They have set up a restaurant and massage parlour, and teach the women to cook, waitress, massage and make crafts. I brought a gorgeous little bag that zips up to look like a smaller purse. Unique and made by hand. The food there was fantastic and I will definitely be going back for a massage.
Looking into it more deeply I discovered that the women are all in prison for minor offenses- drugs, petty theft and prostitution- crimes that at home would be punishable by a fine or community service. They would never see the inside of a jail cell in England.
All crimes that here in Thailand are committed out of necessity due to poverty and a wish to look after their families. Many are from the hill-tribes, people who are not Tai (the people) and considered outside of Thai (the nation) society. These people have little access to resources and education and unfortunately many end up in desperate situations.
For more info read this great review: http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/thailand/2011/04/15/visiting-chiang-mai-prison/
I hope to keep finding little gems like this- I will keep you updated!