Exploring the impact of positive youth development with grassroots partners in Thailand

By Marilena Penteado | October 30, 2023 | Asia | Education, Youth Empowerment

As a research intern with Global Fund for Children, Massey University graduate student Marilena Penteado collaborated with GFC grassroots partners in Thailand for her master’s thesis, gaining valuable insights into how their work is empowering youth. This blog post explores her research topic and internship experience, highlighting how these organizations in Thailand are making a positive impact on young people’s lives.

My research journey began with a simple yet profound aim: to explore the potential of the positive youth development (PYD) framework in Thailand.

Like Global Fund for Children, the PYD framework places a significant emphasis on leveraging the capabilities of young people to spark transformative change in their lives. Central to this framework is the prioritization of the welfare and prosperity of children and youth.

Consequently, PYD has the ability to change the trajectories of young individuals, particularly those who face various forms of disadvantage and marginalization, with the ultimate objective of fostering progress and advancement.

What is positive youth development?

PYD is a transformative and intentional approach that aims to engage young people within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families. This framework not only encourages productivity and constructive behavior but also recognizes, utilizes, and enhances the unique strengths of young people.

My research experience with GFC

During my three-month research internship with GFC, I had the privilege of experiencing the daily operations of five GFC grassroots partners in Thailand. I interviewed five dedicated founders, five passionate staff members, and ten inspiring young people. (The organizations and interviewees were promised anonymity so they could share their experiences openly.)

As I spent time with these grassroots partners, it became clear that in addition to promoting personal growth, they are instilling a sense of social responsibility among the youth. I believe that this will not only contribute to the betterment of their communities but also play a pivotal role in shaping a more equitable and inclusive Thailand, ensuring that no child or youth is left behind.

How GFC partners are impacting young people in Thailand

Youth Empowerment

In Thailand, GFC’s grassroots partners are dedicated to empowering marginalized youth, equipping them with leadership skills and fostering self-assurance.
During my research, every young individual I interacted with acknowledged the positive influence that these organizations had on their lives. Many young people shared stories of self-improvement and a newfound sense of purpose.

In turn, this has contributed to youth becoming more engaged within their communities by participating in events, working to develop their communities, and inspiring a younger generation to get involved. As young people become more involved with the people around them, they gradually reshape the perceptions and attitudes of their broader communities.

Youth Leadership and Engagement

Through interviews and firsthand observations, I witnessed the proactive approach employed by grassroots partners in Thailand. Their youth development programs intentionally prepare participants to assume ownership of their initiatives and cultivate a strong sense of responsibility.

Notably, giving young people the opportunity to undertake leadership roles and make influential decisions within these programs has proved to be successful. For instance, in certain organizations, youth have become staff and integral members of the team, actively participating in decision-making processes related to program planning and overseeing program execution.

Students in Thailand participating in a workshop.


In my discussions with young people, I discovered that mentorship plays a crucial role in their personal growth. One interviewee highlighted the significance of having a mentor who serves as a tangible example of what they can accomplish. The experience of witnessing someone from a similar background overcoming challenges and achieving success was a source of encouragement for them.

Mentorship plays a pivotal role in empowering young people by nurturing personal development, establishing valuable networks, offering emotional support, and disrupting cycles of disadvantage. It amplifies resilience, promotes community involvement, and contributes to lessening disparities, ultimately enabling youth to thrive.

Education and Skill Development

GFC’s grassroots partners in Thailand offer significant educational support, fueling students’ enthusiasm and participation. These organizations provide diverse opportunities that facilitate students’ engagement with conventional educational routes such as high school and university enrollment, along with comprehensive vocational training programs.

One key factor contributing to the success of educational and skill development programs is their ability to cater to the diverse backgrounds and needs of the youth they serve. This adaptability allows for personalized approaches that can better meet individuals’ requirements.

For example, one young person I spoke with who found traditional schooling environments unenjoyable discovered that vocational courses provided a more suitable and conducive learning environment. Conversely, other youth experienced a renewed enthusiasm for high school and university education with the support of GFC partners. These organizations’ diverse range of options ensures that youth have access to the necessary tools and resources for success.

Learning from GFC partners

This internship opportunity provided me with invaluable insights into the operations of these GFC partners and the profound impact of their positive youth development approach on the lives of young individuals.

Young people possess immense potential as change agents, and with the support of GFC and its partner organizations in Thailand, they are making substantial strides in their own development. My research highlights the critical need to prioritize young people and actively involve them in shaping their own futures.

Header photo: A community in Thailand participating in a candle festival. © GFC

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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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