In this episode, Michael Waitze talks with Allison Sanders, the Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Baan Dek Foundation (BDF) about the Foundation’s work supporting the lives of vulnerable migrant children growing up in construction workers campsites in Thailand.

The Baan Dek Foundation (BDF) was established in 2002 in Chiang Mai by Nicola Crosta, Magali du Parc, and Acha Sripaurya. After surveying vulnerable communities around Chiang Mai, they realized many of the most vulnerable in Chiang Mai were the children of migrant workers living at construction campsites around the city. They are at risk of neglect, abuse, exploitation, and missing out of basic childhood development needs.

In response, they developed a multilingual team that engages in a social work-based approach to supporting children from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos living at these campsites. A core part of their support is building a bridge between migrant communities and existing education and health and safety services available to migrants and where there is a gap BDF tries to find a solution to ensure the needs of children are met.

BDF has been supporting more than 1,000 children per year in Chiang Mai, but the challenge is large and can not be handled by the BDF team in Chiang Mai alone. They estimate there are 60,000 children living at construction worker campsites around the country, particularly in Bangkok where migrants provide the bulk of labor for the booming construction industry. As a result, BDF has recently expanded to Bangkok and have been developing sustainable and scalable solutions to meet the challenge.

Among many of the programs BDF engages in, Allison points out, there Migrant Empowerment Project has been one of the most impactful. It trains migrants in each community with the skills to access health, education and safety services and become peer educators who can take over the role of Baan Dek’s staff.

BDF also recognizes the importance of scalability. For example, they took their successful Superheroes Academy program which has been teaching about 500 migrant children a year in life-skills and turned it into an application that enables children to digitally access the academy activities through tablets and low-cost smartphones. In recognition of their innovation, BDF won the MIT Solve Award.

Beyond making a direct impact, the Baan Dek Foundation’s strategy is to drive systemic change and “improve the dynamics of the entire construction industry” by working with institutional and corporate partners. A key partner is Sansiri, one of the leading property developers in the country. It works with UNICEF and Baan Dek to improve conditions in construction worker campsites and provide safe spaces and education for children.

To drive more systemic change, BDF worked with UNICEF to produce the Building Futures in Thailand report on support for children living in construction worker campsites and how private sector companies can more appropriately support the children of construction workers.

To learn more about the Baan Dek Foundation, visit

EP 07 - Allison Sanders - Baan Dek Foundation - An Approach That is Collaborative and Proactive

by Allison Sanders | Social Innovation Podcast