October/November SE Asia Trip
November 26, 2014

I’ve just returned from another most interesting and highly productive trip to SE Asia. I’ll share some of the highlights with you in this newsletter.

Work began this time at the Fountain of Life Women’s Center in Pattaya where my partner, Peter Scontrino, and I conducted a weeklong workshop on Leadership, Management, and Supervision for the Good Shepherd Sisters and their invited guests.

A total of 17 people from four different service organizations attended. In our ten-module format we covered:

  • Vision, Values, Mission
  • Leadership Essentials, including Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
  • Effective Communications
  • Employee Motivation
  • Performance Management
  • Finance, Budget, & Sustainability
  • Employee Involvement, Empowerment, & Team Development
  • Brainstorming
  • Six-Step Problem Solving
  • Leading Effective Meetings

Everyone worked diligently on some pretty challenging material.

The Program was very well received. Each participant received a Certificate of Completion on the last day.

While in Pattaya I was able to meet with Sister Anurak, the newly appointed Superior for the Wildflower Home in Chiang Mai. She is progressing nicely with the master plan for development and has received the green light to build a new 25 bed facility for housing the mothers and babies they care for there. Our SE Asia Foundation will be an important partner in this effort, with over 1,000,000 Thai Baht (~$30,000) now raised. There is still a ways to go so we’d welcome your support for this great project. More about the Wildflower project can be seen here.

Following that week in Pattaya I traveled to Chiang Rai to visit with Jit at our Baan Saan Rak (BSR) project in the village of Mae Lao. Tragically, Mae Lao was the absolute epicenter of the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck northern Thailand on May 5 this year. BSR suffered big damage with one building now completely unusable and another, their main pavilion for many activities, severely cracked and now held together with bamboo poles and baling wire. Here’s a look at that damage.

Not a pretty picture at all. Fortunately the dormitory building, the kitchen, the main classroom, and the toilets survived the quake with only minor damage that has now been repaired.

I’m happy to report that we’ve now got the engineering drawings finished for completely rebuilding those two buildings. And, we’ve also got a reliable building contractor all lined up to do the work at a reasonable cost.

Even though we think the funding for this work is in place, we all know that contingencies happen. Any support you’d like to provide for that would be greatly appreciated. There is a donate button for that purpose here.

I can’t wait to see Baan Saan Rak looking sharp and in a condition to continue taking care of the 20 kids living there.

From Chiang Rai I then moved on to Bangkok where once again I led a one-day workshop for some people at the Good Shepherd Sisters facility there. The four groups I had worked with before had all come from the Regina Sewing Center. This group was different. It consisted of 17 teachers, working in four different areas of the facility. They came from the day-care center, the mother and baby center, the women’s shelter, and from a newly established program where the Sisters are caring for approximately 200 Pakistani refugees that are living in the neighborhood and working diligently to adapt to their new life in Thailand. This was an interesting group more focused on how to work with their student groups than working together as a coordinated group as had been the case in my four previous experiences there. So, we adapted the day’s material accordingly and had a good session.

After that brief stint in Bangkok it was back to the airport for a flight to Udon Thani followed by a short van ride to the town of Nong Khai, located on the Mekong River right at the famous Friendship Bridge leading across to Vientiane, Laos.

I’d worked with the Sisters there on several previous occasions so this meeting with the seven “Champions” that had agreed to take a leadership role in advancing the seven Strategic Goals identified during the three-day Strategic Planning meeting we conducted last February was an excellent opportunity for me to see how things were progressing.

I was delighted to see how well they are doing on all seven fronts. In particular I was pleased to see the initial results from the village community survey they had decided upon as one of the seven priorities. It turns out that the Sisters are providing services of one form or another in a total of 170 local villages – and this was an opportunity to assess how well these services were meeting the most pressing needs of the villagers, along with what changes might increase the value of the assistance provided. Our SE Asia Foundation funded this survey.

After a careful design process involving representatives from every facet of the GSS Center in Nong Khai, the survey was conduced in a selected sample of 20 villages. Listening to the report of what they learned, and reviewing a summary of the data collected, it was evident that the survey was both well designed and conducted in a very thorough and professional manner. It will provide important guidance for them to modify and refocus the way they go about assessing and serving the needs of the people living in these impoverished villages.

I anticipate some wonderful Community Development work will show up soon.

In January of next year, our Together We Can Change The World (TWCCTW) group will be traveling to Nong Khai and spending a full day visiting all of the various service projects run by the Good Shepherd Sisters there, including their most impressive Hands of Hope project. My time in Nong Khai also provided me a good opportunity to locate an appropriate hotel, identify some other interesting places to visit including a famous temple, a stunning sculpture garden, and a huge lotus garden that will be in full bloom in January.

I’m very much looking forward to that trip where we will be visiting and providing some additional funding for seven wonderful projects serving the educational and training needs of impoverished children and women in Pattaya, Bangkok, Vientiane, and Nong Khai. More information about this upcoming trip is available. Contact me if interested.

From Nong Khai it was two quick airplane rides – one back to Bangkok, and a second one on to Siem Reap, Cambodia where my main purpose was to lead a two-day Strategic Planning session for the leadership group at one of our favorite projects – the Future of Khmer Children (FKC) school serving over 400 children (the majority of which are girls) with supplementary education in English, computer skills, sewing, Khmer culture, and related subjects.

While I was there in Siem Reap I was also able to visit the newly completed Art Berg Technology Center at FKC built with funding from our TWCCTW group and just recently equipped with $5,000 worth of computers, flat screen monitors, projectors, printers, and related up-to-date technology. With technical help from the good folks at Pannastra University, along with their substantial purchasing power, we were able to get great value for our money. Take a look. Isn’t this awesome?

(Incidentally, I know the flat screen monitor for the little kids studying English in the second picture is way too small. We’ll fix that next time around.)

We’re now ready to equip the second upstairs computer room in the Center. For that we will need another $5,000 so we can acquire and install more sophisticated computers and equipment for more advanced study and learning. We could use your help with this. If you might be willing to lend a hand (or a dollar), please contact me — or you can donate by clicking right here.

I was so fortunate to be joined in Siem Reap by David Ault, an American colleague and long-time supporter of FKC and Victoria Lafortune, an avid supporter of David’s work in Cambodia. David and Victoria worked as colleagues during our two days with the nine Cambodian people from the FKC leadership group. Thanks to another great friend in Siem Reap, Sophal, this meeting was hosted at her Pannastra University of Cambodia, thus providing us with the perfect facility for the work we needed to do. Thank you, Sophal. You made a real difference for us.
During the meeting we were able to focus clearly on the work of FKC and how we’d like to see it progress over the next three years.

A New Mission Statement soon came forth. I love it:

With our compassionate, highly skilled staff we provide progressive education, agricultural and life-skills training, along with food and fresh water to assist impoverished and underserved children in having a better now and a brighter tomorrow.

Once we settled on this revised Mission Statement, we moved on to explore Success Measures. In other words, what actual data could we report as clear evidence that we at FKC are doing an excellent job of fulfilling our Mission.

That discussion led to a realization that we could administer better examinations at the end of each year, and report on the number and percentage of our children receiving passing grades. We even went on to realize that we could report not just “passing”, but could also report those children receiving Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards thereby highlighting the excellence achieved by our students. Lastly we also agreed that reporting the cost per student per year would be important as a way to show our prudent use of funds.

We carried on with our discussions and identified six long-term Strategic Goals essential to achieving our Mission and the Success Measures already identified. They are:

Curriculum: Develop and maintain an excellent curriculum to support whatever subjects we decide to teach
Faculty: Insure that we have a fully trained faculty qualified to teach our curriculum
Outreach to Villages: Be sure that our programs and our work in the villages we support is directed towards meeting their most important needs
Resources: Make sure that we have all the necessary financial and other resources we need to carry out our Mission

Infrastructure: Make sure that all of our internal systems fully support our ability to carry out our Mission

Facilities: Be sure that we have the land, buildings, computers, teaching materials, and all related facilities necessary to carry out our Mission

Moving along from there we spent the remaining time working on developing Annual Objectives for each of the Strategic Goals and for developing Action Plans (what we call “Who, Does What, by When”) for getting the important priorities done.

I’m very much looking forward to my upcoming visit to Siem Reap in May of 2015 so I can monitor their progress and continue coaching.

In Siem Reap I also visited the Anjali House, another project we support. This gave me an opportunity to spend time with their new Cambodian leadership, to reestablish our working relationship, and to discuss next steps for our working together. So, here is another fine organization providing nourishing food and supplemental education for nearly 100 impoverished kids from the local area. We will continue finding ways to support them. If you’d like more information about supporting the Anjali House, just let me know.

After Siem Reap I returned to Bangkok, then Pattaya, for another couple days worth of Thai language lessons before heading back home to the States. (I’ll be back in Thailand to continue this work in early January next year.)

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