Weekly Local Biography

 Mayuree Yoktree

 

The director of the Yardfon Vocational Rehabilitation Center is a very earnest Thai lady who owes her choice of profession to a chance encounter on a bus with a more senior university undergraduate. That encounter pointed her in a career path that has proved to be the right one, and has seen her bring happiness to hundreds of children over the years.

Mayuree was born in Suphanburi, the eldest of three girls of a local schoolteacher. Teachers were all the way through her family and it was expected that she would follow in the family tradition. She says that she was sent early to school (to stop the fighting between the three sisters), finishing schooling by the time she was 16 years old.

At age 17, she was doing the first year’s general undergraduate course at Thammasat University, before choosing the faculty she would study in. This is where the bus trip came in, meeting a social work student who sparked Mayuree’s interest in undertaking that line of study herself.

This was not an easy choice. Her father was not really in favour and her family did not understand just what a “social worker” did. In many ways she was looked down upon as the family felt that she was not undertaking a course of study commensurate with her station in life!

However, the three and a half years at university changed the young Mayuree too. “At school I was very quiet and introverted, but the social work study groups were small and I began to gain confidence.” She admitted that as a schoolgirl she had no idea of the real lives of people, but the university course was both practical as well as theoretical and changed her perceptions too.

After graduation she surprised the family again, which still did not understand the need for social workers, by getting a job within seven days with a rural based NGO. This included a training course in the Philippines, which again amazed her family that this was a world-wide career choice.

Now with acceptance from her father, he advised her that she should move into government service, which she heeded, joining the Public Welfare Department. After four years in the department, she married and she and her husband came to Chiang Mai 22 years ago. This area is now her home base, and she has had two children here.

By this stage in her life, being hungry for more knowledge, she realised that she would have to learn English, as much of the body of research work was recorded in that language. Even though she felt that she was a little late in starting, she took herself to AUA to improve her ability to communicate.

She worked as a social worker in the Provincial Welfare offices in Chiang Mai and Lamphun and continued to read everything she could lay her hands on. Her diligence was noted by those above her and she was promoted through the ranks of the Department of Public Welfare to eventually become the superintendent of the Wieng Ping Children’s Home for abandoned and orphaned babies. “This changed my life a lot. I like to work and never take holidays or weekends off. My hobby is working, and since our house was in the children’s home compound it was good because I could look after both my own children and the children in the home (at the same time). This was a golden period of my life.”

During this ‘golden period’ as Mayuree called it, she developed the first foster family programme for Thailand. This was a concept she learned from studying overseas experiences and research papers and she started the project in Bangkok and then became the resource person for many other provinces in Thailand. She is justifiably proud of this and spoke excitedly of how previously ailing children become so much better when placed in a family situation. Her home also became the first to accept HIV/AIDS affected children and she coordinated the efforts of the NGO’s outside to take an overall view of the problem that faced the community. As well as fostering, she promoted the concept of adoption and she spoke animatedly of placing children in over 400 families. The once shy little schoolgirl was now actively involved in community projects, making TV documentaries, editing books, writing brochures and doing public information seminars to bring the plight of her young charges into the public consciousness.

However, the normal tenure as superintendent is only 4 years, and after 10 years in the position, the department told Mayuree they had a new project for her and it was time for her to leave her much loved children’s home. She transferred to the Yardfon Vocational and Rehabilitation Centre 16 months ago as the director, and being Mayuree, she threw herself into this new posting with equal vigour.

“I read all the books and reports of conferences so that I could get to know how the disabled person feels and what are their needs. Now I know the system and can work with the staff and the previous director whom I know. We have the same heart and the same goals for our disabled students.”

Mayuree is a woman who has not only compassion in her own heart, but she also has a pride in her department. The new PSO accreditation (similar in concept to the ISO) of departments as applied by the Department of Social Development and Welfare is her current goal and she says that hers will be the first department to get to this level.

Now “almost 50” she is looking ahead to expand her sphere of influence from just Chiang Mai to all of Thailand, and she certainly has the enthusiasm to do this. Personally a Buddhist, she feels however that all religions help people to do the ‘right thing’ - “I must do the ‘right thing’, not just for me, but for everyone,” she said with humility. The world needs more Mayuree’s.