Mae Ab Education Center
December 22, 2016

Sometimes It Is Really Difficult To Say “No”

Recently Carol, George, and I visited the village of Mae Ab where a dedicated group of volunteers is working to provide the community with an Adult Education Center. (Carol and George are my Rotary colleagues here in Northern Thailand.)

So far the villagers have raised 250,000 Thai Baht (about $7,100). They have purchased a plot of land, prepared the site, and begun construction. They need an equal amount of money to complete construction and equip the building with the furniture, equipment, and teaching materials to begin classes next spring.

One particularly attractive element here in this community of 3,000 people (consisting of nine different ethnic groups, mostly various hill tribes) is that they are all working together for a common cause and the betterment of their community. Seeing that awesome spirit of cooperation in action is inspiring.

In the evenings after the normal work day, the teachers will offer basic education in reading, writing, and math for 50 to 60 local adult men and women who never had the opportunity to complete (or in some cases even attend) primary and secondary school. Also, during the daytime hours they plan to offer a variety of other life skills training classes to those interested in attending.

I’m impressed with the commitment of the community leaders and those who will teach the classes. All in all, I think this is a commendable development project, but unfortunately, one that does not fit well with our mission.

The more I asked questions about the student population for this project and the corresponding learning objectives, the clearer it became that the real focus was on giving these hard working adults an opportunity to achieve the basic literacy they were previously denied due to their life circumstances at the time.

As important as that is, it is just not our mission. Simply put, through the SE Asia Foundation we defeat poverty by educating girls. Considering our limited resources, we believe our grants will have more long-term impact if we keep that clarity of mission and purpose. Thus, I had to deliver that very difficult message of “No, we cannot fund this project”.

However, I did agree to post this information on our website blog in the event that someone reading this account might find this to be a project they wished to support.