In 1997 with the assistance of UNICEF, the Volunteer Group for Children’s Development (now VCDF) was established as a non-profit organisation to help improve the lives of street children in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. In an effort to reduce the risk of children being affected by HIV/AIDS, drug use and entry into sex work, VGCD provides emergency assistance for street children. VGCD also provides care, education and vocational skills development for street children and youth.
The Co-Founder and Campaign Director of HEART OF THE STREET (HOTS) was the Art Program Coordinator that initiated the art program at VGCD in 2004. She was also the organiser of the HEART OF THE STREET exhibition held at the Chiang Mai Art Museum in May-June 2005 to showcase the street children’s art work. The exhibition aimed to raise public awareness and highlight the issues that street children face: HIV/AIDS, child prostitution, child trafficking, sexual diseases, drugs, lack of citizenship and identity cards.
The HEART OF THE STREET exhibition was successful at raising awareness about the circumstances experienced by street children in Chiang Mai. However, it became apparent that there was a lack of awareness about the child sex trade and information on how to report offenders.
In order to fill this gap in understanding and to provide reporting information, Heart of the Street (HOTS) was establish to campaign against the child sex trade and to help mobilise community action to combat the problem.
Since the launch of the first campaign ‘Stop the child sex trade. Take action...Report offenders’, HOTS has identified additional risks posed to children within local children’s organisations and institutions with limited child protection measures. To help address this problem, HOTS has developed a new campaign and is producing educational material for children’s organisations to develop effective child protection measures.
HOTS operates with the support of a small, core team of dedicated individuals from the local and international community and relies on HOTS members who volunteer to work with the team on specific activities and projects.