Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thai Ties

I fully acknowledge that I'm a bit "backwards" in terms of what makes me comfortable or even interested in giving. While most people prefer large organizations with thorough oversight and accountability, I'm a huge fan of the tiniest operations out there - I like supporting causes that are run by someone who's in it heart and soul. That's not to say that I don't think massive charities like Unicef, Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, etc. aren't doing amazing work and benefiting from economies of scale - I just think they're better off pursuing bigger donors than little ol' me. My little $25 donation is hardly worth the time and stationery involved in sending me a receipt that I don't even want.

Anyway, I think I may have found a charity that satisfies more criteria than I can count, all of which I've touched on in previous posts...

- I mentioned wanting to do something for the Burmese after the initial post-cyclone burst of aid, especially given the colossal mismanagement by their despotic government.
- I've been to Thailand a few times and have been casting about for a specific way to help their most neglected populations (sex workers, hill tribes, etc).
- My father always had a special place in his heart and conscience for southeast Asia, having spent over a year there as a tourist immediately following his discharge from the Air Force during the Vietnam War in the late 60s.

The charity is Thai Freedom House, and it's a one-(wo)man band operation. This one has an additional super-personal angle for me: the focus is on education with an emphasis on language. I have an MSc in Applied Linguistics and the Cambridge TEFL certificate, and I taught English in Spain and Japan back in the 90s (I hated teaching and was at best mediocre).

Lisa Nesser, the woman behind all this, recognized that the Burmese refugees and hill tribe people of northern Thailand have almost no chance of improving their circumstances - the same circumstances that lead to human/sex trafficking - if they can't speak the national language. She runs classes for children and adults to learn Thai and, to a lesser extent, English. She also feeds them, since things like nutrition and sustenance are not fixtures in their lives. Her goal is to get 40 donors to commit to monthly donations of $25 to keep things going, and I have a feeling I'm going to join that club.

1 comment:

thaifreedomhouse said...

Hello Katie, I just wanted to thank you for your donation and your post. I was led back to your post by another donor who was inspired to donate to us through your blog! I also received your donation on Monday morning. Your right, we are a small, grass roots organization and 100% of your donation goes directly to the school as everyone working here is a volunteer, including myself. Right now we have about 35 kids and are trying to raise money to open a cafe in front of our school to help support us in the long run. Don't know if/when we will get there but we keep dreaming!
It is people like you who are inspired by these children who in turn inspire and instill hope in us. Thank you and keep up your good work as a massage therapist, those people who don't respect you and what you are doing will receive their own payback in their karma.
peace, lisa