A Recent Trip with the TWCCTW Group
May 24, 2013

I recently returned from another interesting and highly productive trip to SE Asia.

This trip was a little different because I was traveling with Scott Friedman, Jana Stanfield, and a very talented “Together We Can Change The World” (TWCCTW) group of 10 people, including Rhonda Faught, Maria Kassova, Lynn Leahy, Jonathan Low, Rebecca Morgan, Robert Stack, and Carol Talbot. This is a great group of professionals in clear alignment with our SE Asia Children’s Foundation goals and our approach to educating children.

We began this trip in Singapore by attending the Asia Speakers Association annual meeting followed by the Asia HR Summit – with 3,500 attendees and a large vendor Expo hall. We even had a booth for our TWCCTW fund. Taking into account the travel participant contributions, the money we raised at the meetings, and a wonderful Technology Grant from the National Speakers Association (thanks to Scott for the connection and to Jana for writing the grant) we raised approximately $20,000 to be used to further our cause of educating at-risk children and breaking their cycle of poverty.

From Singapore our group traveled north to Chiang Rai. That evening we were joined by Treasure Shine (Thailand Project Manager for our good friends at Partners Asia. Here we are ready to depart from our Chiang Rai Guest House.

The next day we visited two of my SE Asia Children’s Foundation projects. First we stopped in at the Good Shepherd Sisters Girls Home. There we were greeted by all 50+ girls, the staff, and many of the Akha parents from the neighboring villages. We had a great time. We ate together. We danced. We sang songs. We laughed. We made friends. We helped. We made a difference.

Good Shepherd Sisters - Chiang Rai - staff
Here we are dancing with the Akha parents. Later we taught them the Chicken Dance (the U. S. version at least) and Scott led with his world famous Hokey Pokey! (I’ll spare you the photos of that!)
Good Shepherd Sisters - parents doing the "chicken dance"
Treasure tried on one of the two-pound Akha traditional headresses. I confess, I hardly recognized her at first. I don’t think Scott (left) did either.
Good Shepherd Sisters - Akha traditional headdress
Jana had a great time teaching this delightful girl some songs on her guitar. It was smiles all around.
Good Shepherd Sisters - Jana with girl
From there we visited Jit and her Baan Saan Rak orphanage home for 21 kids. She’s a wonderful, dedicated lady doing a great job giving these kids an opportunity at a better life. We couldn’t help ourselves from shopping for some of the beautiful hand crafted cards and fabrics made there on site.
Baan Saan Rak - hand crafted cards and fabrics
From Chiang Rai we headed for Chiang Mai, stopping along the way to visit the Peace Children’s Home in Wiang Pa Pao. There we saw great progress from our last visit. The main building is now completed and occupied by 17 hill tribe children who are now attending Thai government schools. Led by our friend, Tutu, these kids are getting an opportunity for an education and a shot at life previously unavailable to them.
Peace Children’s Home - building
Peace Children’s Home - facilities
Peace Children’s Home - Bill Taylor with children
After that visit we continued on to Chiang Mai where, among other activities, Jana Stanfield and others from the TWCCTW group put on a concert attended by over 200 people. From this effort we raised over 36,000 Thai Baht (approximately $1,200) to benefit the victims of the fires and violence at the refugee camp on the Thai/Myanmar border. We were pleased with our ability to put together the concert on such short notice and make a meaningful contribution to these displaced people.
We traveled on from the north of Thailand to Siem Reap. Being my first trip to Cambodia, this was quite an eye opener. Cambodia has a much smaller population than its neighbor Thailand (approximately 14 million vs. 70 million) and a much less-developed infrastructure. That is not surprising, however, when you consider the terrible hardships inflicted on these people during the Vietnam War, followed by their war with Vietnam, followed by the reign of Pol Pot and his Kymer Rouge where over three million people were killed. The major cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh were virtually vacated and the vast majority of the intellectuals in the country were killed or simply disappeared.
I did get a little time to visit the world famous Angkor Wat. I knew this World Heritage Site was big … and I knew it was impressive, but I had no idea just how big and how impressive. Here is just one of the many smaller temples within the city.

Imagine – a city of 2 million people abandoned to the jungle for centuries – and now undergoing extensive preservation and reconstruction. Nice to see that happening. Look at this picture. Is the tree holding up the wall — or is the wall holding up the tree. There are lots of places like this throughout Angkor City.

In Cambodia we visited three schools, orphanages, and child-care facilities.

At the Future of Khmer Children Organization (FKC) we were most impressed with Theany and her work as Director. Here she runs a school for over 200 local children where they can learn useful life skills, including English. They also teach sewing and traditional dance. In the rear of the small, crowded patch of land Theany is in the process of constructing an orphanage to house 40 needy boys and girls, seven of whom are already sleeping on the floor of her own home. She needs a lot of help.
Our $5,000 Technology Grant is committed to this facility. On my next trip in July we’ll work through the details of exactly what technology will best serve them and approve the specifications for the new building to house the new technology.
We also visited the Life & Hope Association, also in Siem Reap. They have a very clear focus on educating children and preparing them for gainful employment upon completing their education. This is another project worthy of our support.
Led by a group of monks, this place teaches the kids good values and some productive skills for a self-sustaining life. I like the values they express. I found this posted on the wall of their sewing training center.
Lastly we visited AOEO (Angkor Orphan and Education Organization). Non-political, non-religious, and non-government (just our kind of place) where they are currently caring for about 40 boys and girls in a very rudimentary facility. They, too, look like a fine candidate for assistance.

There is much more for us to do in Siem Reap. (I doubt that we’ll venture to Phnom Penh very soon.) We now have three candidates for support, one of which we’ve already made a clear commitment to. In addition we’ve got an opportunity to work with the Governor’s wife and somehow assist her with her Red Cross responsibilities, along with another couple of child care facilities to visit. I’ll be back there for four busy days in early July.

With a closing dinner at the Soria Moria hotel dining room our TWCCTW 2013 Tour officially ended and the group headed off in their separate ways the next morning. I flew back to Bangkok and then on to Pattaya for an all-day session with the Good Shepherd Sisters and their Fountain of Life Women’s and Children’s centers. After another day back in Bangkok for meetings with the local representative of Splash www.splash.org a Seattle based non-profit providing clean water to children in the developing world, it was time to head to the airport and wend my way back home.

All-in-all this was a very full, productive trip. We raised over $20,000 for the cause, directly supported organizations serving hundreds of kids, identified at least three new homes to support, built strong, trusting relationships, and carried a lot of friendship and fun to the kids we visited. I’ll be back in June and July to follow up on this and carry on with our ambitious projects.

Life is good … at least for some of us it is. Others need a bit of help … which we can provide.