When The Mirror Foundation first arrived in Ban Huay Kom they noticed many of the older children were not attending the local school. When asked why, the children replied they stayed home in order to look after their younger siblings. The Mirror Foundation and the villagers met to discuss the problem, and it was decided that a day-care center for these children would be the best solution.
The Child Self-Learning Center is run on the principle that the child is a far better pupil if the desire to learn comes from within. The Center is a departure from structured lessons with a blackboard and a row of desks. Instead, the teacher leads a number of activities in which the child can take part according to his enthusiasm. The environment is one that encourages curiosity and allows the child to explore individual interests.
The Center is also careful to construct activities that will promote independence and pride in the children's Akha identity. Going to the forest to find food that the children then cook for their lunch is a common activity, one which teaches them skills for future self-sufficiency while reinforcing traditional Akha customs. The pride the children have in their traditional skills is evident when they take volunteer teachers, both foreign and lowland Thai, out to the woods to show them how it's done.
Funding for the Center comes only from the profits of the Voice of Earth Clay Workshop and donations. The monthly food bill for all thirty-six pre-school children is $145 US (about $4/day). Other expenses include basic materials such as paints and pens for the children's art activities. As Ban Huay Kom is not the only village that faces the need for such a center, the Mirror Foundation has plans to open a series of these centers through Mae Yao.