April – May SE Asia Trip Report
May 26, 2014

This trip began in Singapore where my partner, Scott Friedman, and I were offered an opportunity to speak at the nearly 4,200 attendee 2014 HR Summit. Needless to say, this was a huge gathering of interesting people from around the SE Asian region.

Our talk, entitled: “The Secret to Employee Retention — Corporate Social Responsibility” was well received. Our unique approach to the subject was to suggest that the key element of an effective CSR program was actually PSR – Personal Social Responsibility. Citing first-hand experiences from highly respected organizations like Microsoft, Starbucks, Softchoice and others, we demonstrated how successful programs were grounded in a clearly communicated corporate structure that then provided employees with opportunities, including meaningful matching money, to support the causes important to them personally.

From Singapore our Together We Can Change The World (TWCCTW) group of 12 moved on to Siem Reap, Cambodia where we visited the Future for Khmer Children (FKC) an organization dedicated to providing supplemental education for approximately 235 impoverished children from the nearby local villages. There we toured the recently completed (and TWCCTW funded) Art Berg Technology Center. In addition to bringing lots of toys and games for the 235 children we also made a $5,000 grant to add more technology (in the form of computers, flat screens TVs, DVD players, laser printers, and the like) to further enhance the educational opportunities for these kids.

While there, in cooperation with the Borei Angkor Hotel, we conducted a fundraiser which gained another $1,365 for the Technology Center.

While visiting FKC, one of our TWCCTW group, the good Dr. Steve examined and gave fluoride treatments to about 150 of the kids. Way to go, Steve.

Clean water … to support a better life

Theany, the founder of FKC, also manages a program to provide clean water wells for local villagers. In support of that, our TWCCTW group sponsored two new wells. We visited the villages. We saw the wells being dug using primitive, but effective, hydraulic drilling methods. We later visited the same village families and received their thanks for the blessing of clean water. I know it is hard to imagine in this day and age, but these people have never had a reliable, year round source of clean water in their villages. Not ever! Now they do. They now have water they can use for their normal daily needs, and those of their animals – and water that can be used for growing crops that will provide them with some much needed nourishment and a source of additional income.

What a joy it is to find that we can provide this much help to these people – for the amazing cost of $350 per well. Yes, you heard me right — $350 per well!

While in Siem Reap we also visited another organization we support, Anjali House, where 100 impoverished children from the local villages receive education to supplement that provided by the local government school system. In addition to the soccer balls and toys we brought, we’ve previously assisted Anjali House obtain a water filtration system so they can eliminate the expense of purchasing bottled water.

From Siem Reap we traveled on to Chiang Mai, Thailand to visit the Wildflower Home operated by the Good Shepherd Sisters. Currently, 11 women are provided with safe housing, pre- and post-natal care, counseling, job skills training, and day care all focused on getting them to a point of self sufficiency so they can productively return to their communities.
Much is needed to bring this facility up to a serviceable standard and to expand the capacity to an economically feasible level. Our TWCCTW group made a grant of $5,000 to assist with the development of their Master Facility Plan. We were also able to deliver a large supply of children’s clothing, shoes, toys, and games for the moms and kids.
And, of course, we had a little fun while we visited.

While in Chiang Mai I had another thrill – this one a 6.0 earthquake. Scott and I had just finished a business meeting at the 21st (top) floor of the Le Meriden Hotel when the building began to sway … and then sway some more … and then shake violently. Being not real familiar with Thai earthquake building standards, we decided to beat feet down the stairwell – all 21 flights. Would it surprise you to know that it didn’t take us long? Once outside we joined the throng of people also abandoning the building. Fortunately we were not among those engaged in a variety of “unwrapped” activities at the time the quake struck and who ended up down there dressed in bathrobes, wrapped in towels, or otherwise less than fully adorned in normal attire. (Sorry, no pictures here.)

Turned out the earthquake was centered in Mae Lao, a village near Chiang Rai, about 200 km from Chiang Mai. (More on that later.)

The following day we traveled to Chiang Rai where we first visited the famous White Temple, now closed because of earthquake damage. It was a shame to see all the fallen roof tiles and bent and broken steeples of this magnificent temple. Already, crews were working on repair.

The saddest part of the trip, however, was our visit to the Baan Saan Rak orphanage in the village of Mae Lao (the very epicenter of the quake) where my friend Jit takes care of 20 orphaned and abandoned kids. Here, the damage was extensive. I suspect that at least two of her buildings will need to be torn down and replaced. Realizing that it is only a drop in the bucket, we did leave Jit with a donation of $1,000 to begin the repair and rebuilding process. Jit is going to need a LOT of help in the days and months ahead.

The following day we once again visited the Good Shepherd Sisters Girls Home and School in Phan, about 40 km south of Chiang Rai. Although the earthquake was quite strong there, they fortunately experienced only minor damage.

I’m happy to report that after much investigation and action planning, the facility is finally nearing capacity with 58 of the 60 available beds full. Now, the next step is to build a waiting list for this outstanding educational opportunity for at-risk hill-tribe girls.

During this visit TWCCTW provided $2,000 for first-year university scholarships for two girls.

Makee, 19, on the left, is Hmong and wants to be a Designer. Ming, 18, on the right, is Lahu and wants to study computers and business. Two cool young women. They’ll help us change the world. Quite the bargain at $1,000 per girl per year

Including the scholarship funded by our SE Asia Children’s Foundation last year, this brings the total number of scholarships to three. Needless to say, we’re hoping to increase that total in the near future.

That visit to Phan finished this year’s TWCCTW trip, so the next day I returned to Chiang Mai for another working session with the group at Wildflower Home. For this meeting we assembled the two Sisters (Supapawn and Siriporn), Jid, their Board Chair, George, a Thai man with extensive expertise in integrated agriculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, fish farming, and the like, and Roi Crouch, an American colleague of mine with extensive experience consulting to non-profit organizations. Unfortunately, Net, the Community Architect working on the Facility Master Plan was called away at the last minute and unable to attend our meeting. Nevertheless, we spent the day working and made significant progress.

I’ll be back in Chiang Mai in early July to pick up where we left off. I’m confident we’ll continue to make progress towards building this place into a world class facility for taking care of these at-risk, pregnant women and their babies.

In subsequent working sessions, Roi was able to make meaningful progress working with the Sisters and Jit to put together operating budgets and to develop a variety of action plans for engaging the local community and building a larger base of financial and operating support. A more complete story of the Wildflower Home and the current needs can be seen here.

While I headed off to Pattaya for meetings there, Roi Crouch flew to Nong Khai, along with another American colleague, Cheron Gelber, to work with Antonia and the Sisters there and lend a hand with their fundraising, grant writing, and community development efforts. All reports indicate that that time was well spent and productive.

Here’s a couple photos of Roi (left) and Cheron (right).

And here are Roi and Cheron with the entire group at Nong Khai.

While Roi and Cheron were working in Nong Khai, I traveled from Chiang Mai to the Fountain of Life Women’s Center in Pattaya so I could conduct 2-1/2 days of training in working together in small task forces and project teams.
We had a good time working together and finished with the traditional (and very special) group photo.

Following that time in Pattaya I returned to Bangkok where I spent most of one day with Treasure Shine and her Mee Eain Shin Development Foundation (MDF) in the Rangsit Market area of the city. There she serves the needs of a marginalized population of migrant workers from Myanmar by providing meals and education for nearly 50 of their children, along with various counseling, health care, and education services for the adults as well. Remarkably, Treasure has managed to achieve Myanmar accreditation for the courses taught at her MDF School thereby providing the children with the educational credentials they will need when/if their families return to Myanmar.

Here’s the welcome I received upon arrival.

And, here are the kids at work in their small classrooms.

Well … that pretty well sums up another long and productive trip. I’ll be back in SE Asia in June. More to follow.

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

For those of you interested in supporting any of these projects, the opportunity is right here.