The Digital Superheroes Academy: Reaching Vulnerable Children at Scale

Date

November 26, 2019

4 min read

Based in Thailand, the Baan Dek Foundation provides access to education, health and safety services for 1,500+ vulnerable children every year. These children live in slums and construction site camps, as many of their parents are migrants who have come to Thailand seeking manual labor work. These families live in extremely precarious conditions where children are often exposed to neglect and safety hazards, and face many barriers to attending school and accessing health services. BDF provides direct support to the children and families in these communities through needs-based programming and tailored case management. One such program is the Superheroes Academy, which teaches life skills to children in the form of superpowers. As they learn these life skills on how to access essential services, adopt safe behaviors, and develop critical thinking, they earn diplomas as superheroes!

For 4 years now, BDF Social Advisors have led Superhero Academy sessions directly in the communities they serve. During a session held in a construction site camp outside of Chiang Mai 2 years ago, the BDF team met a 12-year-old girl from Myanmar named ’N’. She regularly attended SHA sessions until last year, when her mother was assigned to a new construction project in another town.

BDF Social Advisors continued to provide support to N and her family after their migration. N told the team that she learned many skills from the Superheroes Academy, including the importance of an education.  Before moving, N knew to ask for a referral letter from her school in order to successfully enroll in a new school. Now, she is among the top 10 in her class despite disruptions in her education in the past.

As a result of the Superheroes Academy’s success among children like N, BDF has sought opportunities to scale up its impact. In 2017, BDF was selected by MIT Solve and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to develop an app of the Superheroes Academy. The Digital Superheroes Academy features superhero-themed animations and games that teach essential life skills, soft skills and tech literacy at scale. Today, the Digital Superheroes Academy includes 7 life skill modules to empower children as a web-based app you can download on any Android device.

The Foundation recently partnered with Iglu, Thailand’s leading remote working community – representing digital specialists from around the world to develop the DSHA mobile app. The mobile app will allow the program to be both scalable and transferable on a global level, ultimately overcoming the obstacle of families’ repeated migrations. The digital life skills are currently available in English, Thai, Thai Yai and Burmese, and Khmer will be available soon.

BDF is now training parents and other community members living in the construction site camps and urban slums as coaches for the Digital Superheroes Academy. These coaches will help children to download and use the app, and they’ll also participate in workshops on internet safety and community engagement. Together with the BDF Social Advisors, they will be empowered to provide impactful support to the children within their own communities.

BDF is actively seeking new partners interested in supporting the Digital Superheroes Academy. Both financial and technical support are needed to expand this program into the Southeast Asia migration corridor (Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia) to reach more vulnerable children with this life-saving knowledge. Find out more about BDF’s work to support their communities through this video and their deal page.


About Author
Allison Sanders
Allison Sanders Director of Strategy & Partnerships Baan Dek Foundation

Allison is the International Partnerships Coordinator for the Baan Dek Foundation, whose mission is to provide critical health, education and protection services to vulnerable children in Thailand. Allison is also Director of Impact and Development for Impact46, a social impact accelerator that provides consulting services to philanthropists, foundations and non-profits worldwide.

Allison previously served as BDF Director of Strategy and Partnerships (2018) and as BDF Senior Research Coordinator (2016-2017). Allison holds 2 Master's Degrees from the University of Colorado (USA) and Université Rhône-Alpes (France), respectively.