You are here

PlayOnside: Raising awareness through football on the Thai/Burma border

Copyrights: PlayOnside

PlayOnside: Raising awareness through football on the Thai/Burma border

PlayOnside is a small non-governmental organisation based on the Thai/Burma border, using football as a tool for development and integration of Burmese migrant children.

Burma, or Myanmar as it’s also called, has experienced one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world with internal conflict contributing to thousands of civilian casualties, forced displacement and resettlement in other countries. In total, it is estimated that about three million Burmese people have fled their homeland since 1980, fleeing from armed conflict, human rights abuses and lack of opportunities.

Hundreds of thousands have sought refuge specifically in Thailand to find safety, access to health care and education, and a better future, and many of them in the small Thai border town Mae Sot, also the home of PlayOnside.

PlayOnside was founded in 2013, and has steadily grown and expanded its reach. Now, every weekend around 500 children from 17 different migrant schools gather to play, learn and compete while making new friends and expanding their network in the process. The goal of the different competitions initiated by PlayOnside is to focus on fair play, respect and tolerance while also learning about different topics along the way.

Earth Day 2017: Kicking off the Mae Sot Tree Planting Project

One of the most important aspects of the PlayOnside programme is the educational aspect of it. Different topics, like health, leadership and environmental awareness are incorporated into the football programme. This way, football functions as a tool for empowerment, knowledge and awareness.

Hence, the main theme of Earth Day 2017 of “environmental and climate literacy”, fit perfectly with the PlayOnside curriculum, and the organisation used the occasion to kick-start a fundraising campaign. By planting fruit trees around the football field, the organisation has access to healthy nutritious organic fruit all year round for their 500 players and coaches. 

The children will plant the trees, and the children will be responsible for watering, maintaining, and harvesting – raising awareness about healthy food, and the positive benefits of a balanced diet.

The surroundings of the field are harsh and barren. In the hot season, the area is dry and inhospitable. In the rainy season, surface water makes the floods the area, risking soil erosion.

The fruit trees will function as a natural filter rapidly absorbing surface water, and are well adapted to survive the drier periods. The shades of the trees will be a welcome escape for the children waiting, eagerly anticipating the next match. 

Another relevant educational topic is deforestation. Deforestation is a serious problem in South-East Asia. According to a report on Thailand from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 43% of forests were lost between 1973 and 2009. The northern regions are at a greater risk of deforestation due to lack of government regulation over resource extraction. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, there has been a movement of environmentally conscious advocates pushing forward a national agenda of forest rehabilitation to preserve and restore forests. By planting trees, having discussion groups of the positive environmental effect trees have, PlayOnside hope to create environmental awareness and engagement for new generations.

You can find more information about the project here.


Article type



Ole Michelsen


Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 10:23