I’ve just recently returned from our January 2015 Together We Can Change The World (TWCCTW) trip to Thailand and Laos — a time that was busy, interesting, and productive. Here are some of the highlights.
We began in Bangkok where my partner Scott Friedman and I were the featured speakers at the Bankapi Rotary club luncheon meeting. Judging from the questions we got afterwards I’d say that our talk about the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility programs was well received.
The following day TWCCTW partnered with Bangkapi Rotary in an evening fundraiser at the new Marriott Hotel at Thong Lo. Scott emceed while four of our TWCCTW travelers each presented a segment on various aspects of leadership. Again, very well received by the crowd numbering more than 150. And, most important of all, we raised over $1,000 — all of which was donated to one of the places we support – the Mee Eashin Development Foundation in Rangsit, just north of Bangkok. (More about MDF shortly.)
Here’s fellow traveler Paul Larsen in action talking about the importance of a Global Footprint.
On Friday we traveled south to Pattaya to visit the Fountain of Life Women’s Center– where 400 local women are provided with training in self-sufficiency and job skills, and the nearby Fountain of Life Children’s Center where nearly 200 children are prepared to successfully begin their education at government schools. Another most impressive visit.
Here we are serving as “practice dummies” in a couple of their classes
Then, on Saturday we ventured north out of Bangkok to visit the previously mentioned Mee Eashin Development Foundation (MDF). Here, our friend Treasure Shine runs a school for more than 60 children of the Burmese migrants living and working in the Rangsit Market community. Amazingly, Treasure has worked with the education officials in Myanmar to obtain accreditation for her school so that when these children return to their homeland in Myanmar they will receive full credit for their schooling up to that point.
Nicely integrated into the local community, Treasure also manages to provide coaching, counseling, and basic health services to the parents of “her children” and other adults in the neighborhood.
Venturing on to Vientiane, Laos, we were fortunate to have an extensive briefing by Michael Toyryla Chef, Political/Economic Section with the U. S. Embassy there. Most informative. He also recommended that we meet Rick Reece, Founder and Director of a local NGO* called Village Focus International (VFI). The following day our group hosted a lunch with Rick and his assistant, Kongseng where we learned about their work assisting Laotian victims of human trafficking — both women and men — a serious problem in that part of Laos and Thailand.
We invited Kongseng to join us the following day as we crossed the Mekong River via the Friendship Bridge and relocated to Nong Khai, Thailand so we could visit the Good Shepherd Sisters and see first hand the work they are doing in that area. Not surprising at all, the Sisters in Nong Khai are highly concerned about the issues of human trafficking in the region, so we’re hoping that the introductions we made will result in some productive cross-border cooperation to help those Laotian women and men safely return to their homeland.
The Sisters also directly address the issues of HIV/AIDS in these local villages. In addition to coaching, counseling, and education, the Sisters under the fine leadership of Sister Pranee, operate two impressive facilities called Hands of Hope. At their Friendship Center 35 women living with HIV are able to belong to a loving, accepting community and have gainful employment making a wide variety of beautiful, artistic, hand crafted items. Take a look at their on-line store.
We were warmly welcomed
We did manage to fit in a bit of sightseeing while we were in this eastern part of Thailand. The Red Lotus Fields were impressive to say the least. Just imagine – over 5,000 acres of lotus flowers in full bloom. And, we were also able to visit the Sculpture Gardens, another impressive display of Thai creativity and artistic expression. We even arranged to have dinner one evening while cruising on the Mekong River at sunset.
Already we’re looking forward to our next TWCCTW trip beginning on May 24th as we depart Singapore for Siem Reap, Cambodia.
After saying goodbye to all the fine folks on this TWCCTW trip I ventured off by myself to do some SE Asia Foundation work. That portion of the trip will be covered in my next report.
Life is good – at least for some of us it is.
Others need a bit of help – and together – we can provide exactly that ☺
* Non-Governmental Organization