Short history of the Kharma Foundation’s projects over the last 9 years:
- 2007: Ratchawithi Orphanage for Girls in Bangkok received approximately 440 toys for their students.
- 2008: Wat Don Jan Orphanage in Chiang Mai received school supplies, sports equipment, clothing, food and most importantly a blanket for each and every one of the 660 children living there.
- 2009: Molotu School in the mountains of Chiang Mai province received resources and helps to create vegetable gardens. They also received dry food; a chicken house and a playground for the 100 children to play on.
- 2010: Four Schools of The Royal Border Patrol Police in district 13 of Kanchanaburi province received school supplies, sports equipment, dry food and rice. The resources were also provided for to ensure that over 1,000 children received personal medical treatment.
- 2011: The initial visit by the foundation to the Ban Mae Gon School in Mae Sariang district took place. During this initial visit new beds and mattresses were placed in the boys and girls dormitory. The mushroom house and vegetable garden underwent refurbishment. A frog pond and fishpond were created. The school also received school supplies, sports equipment, dry food and a medical checkup by a professional doctor for 80 children.
- 2012: Follow up visit Ban Mae Gon School in Mae Sariang district. A brand new dormitory for the boys was built and the size of the communal area for general gathering and meal times was doubled. The school also received a playground and dry food for 90 children.
That year we also visited for the first time Baan Huay Grataai School in Mae Sariang district. This school received sports equipment, as well as blankets and personal items such as clothing, snacks and 1000 kilo of rice for approximate 70 children.
- 2013: A follow up visit to Baan Huai Grataai School in Mae Sariang district took place. That year we constructed a building for the kindergarten children. This building is used for the children to play, eat and sleep in. A mushroom house and fishpond were created. The school received pigs, ducks, chickens and a children’s playground. In addition to this they were provided with updated medical equipment, beds, sports equipment and dry food for around 80 children.
- 2014: This was the foundation’s 8th year and by far biggest project. In total four schools received help from the foundation. These were:
– Darulhikma school in Narathiwat.
– Tadiga Mabuwoh School in Narathiwat.
– Issarahuddin school in Songkhla.
– Jaroensaat school in Yala.
- 2015: the 9th year the volunteers traveled to the most remote region in Thailand, Umphang district of Tak province. We visited two schools called Mae Chan Ta and Le Tang Ku. We did building projects in both schools: at one school we upgraded the dormitory and the toilet buildings and in the other school we created a big mess/activity hall. We donated our normal tons of goods of rice, canned food, sports equipment and school material.
The Christmas Action 2009 of ‘the Kharma Foundation’ ‘
Ho ho ho, and merry merry Christmas to all you around the world!
Here we are, at the ending of 2009; another year gone by. Another Christmas action of the Kharma Foundation, which only exists due to your help.
What a great response we had from you. I was worried that this year would be a problem year due to all the problems in the world. Financially the world seems to be doing a bit better, and you have shown that the good in people is so much stronger than the problems created by the American housing market and the Madoff’s etc.
With all your money, close to 4 thousand euro’s (!), the team, Nion and I helped this year again by Paul and Tip went shopping on a Thursday. We had flown into Chiang Mai the night before and had a friendly welcome as ever. First we met up with the two very friendly volunteer teachers that are running the school. They were absolutely amazed we showed up, and that what we talked about was really going to happen.
Mind you, places like this never get any help. The government pays them 10 baht per kid per day for all. That is food, school, sleep, but also anything else they need or the teachers need. 10 baht is 20 euro cents!
We had a big shopping list, of course toys, but also food, school material like books, pens, etc. We wanted to buy outdoor material for the kids to play on and to get their well needed exercise.
But we also needed adult stuff to keep the school running. We found a shop that sold the big car batteries and the owner liked our goal and donated one for free, plus free fluid to fill them up when they fail to work longer.
The toys were all for sharing. Monopoly-kind of games, badminton rackets, Frisbee’s, balls; all so the kids can play with each other.
We went to a book store to create our own library, and so we did. The bookstore staff was surprised of two huge loads of books we bought. Mostly children books and learning material, but also two huge maps of the world and of Thailand and of animals and plants. I could not help myself to buy two books about Holland, of my own money! So there will be very tiny hill tribe kids learning about tulips and windmills!! 😀
Next step was the outdoor equipment. We all remember as kids we loved climbing, sliding, and playing with other kids. We found a cheap store/factory that creates their own climbing stuff, see pics. After a hard time bargaining, the lady would not give an inch, we left with four pieces.
On return home to Paul and Tip’s house, the goods from Bangkok had arrived. It did not look that much stacked in my spare bedroom, but when you see it all stalled out in the car park I suddenly realized we did quite well.
There were boxes of books, loads of dry food and a 50 kilo rice bag donated by the school where Nion works, thank you Berlitz Sukhomvit; we had loads of clothing and a lot of stuff from a kind donator, Mr. Sunpawishu. He gave the kids a stereo with speakers, a computer and loads of other stuff.
The blankets that were donated by a very kind sir in Schiedam had arrived a day earlier and just to see those huge packages was a happy sight. And I should not forget the huge amounts of jackets bought by Nion and her sister. They had a golden deal, approx. 400 jackets from Japan, for a bargain price. Tip with some help, washed them all before we would give them to the kids.
All and all, we had a good stack of gifts to give.
D-day, 8 o’clock in the morning
The troops Paul had arranged have arrived. Three very friendly men, all three armed with a big pick-up truck. We loaded all the stuff we had onto the pick-ups, but we had too much. Thinking of the first year we did the Christmas action, we loaded it all in the back of a taxi. How it has grown, thanks to you all!!
Luckily the lorry came by the house that has picked up the outdoor equipment in the morning. All the other goods we loaded in the lorry. The teachers came to help and around 9 the caravan set off to the hills. In hind sight, the teachers had predicted a travel time of about 3 hours, but this turned out to be 5 and a half hour.
It was a long drive. First we had to cross mount Doi Inthanon, and from there it was another 2 and half hour over rocky roads. During the stop we bought all kinds of seeds etc. for the veggie garden, plus material to keep the hogs out of the garden.
In January when we return this should be up and running, plus the new to be build chicken farm.
Old mudslides, huge boulders that fell from over hanging mountains, cracks and disappearing asphalt, deep cliffs, my friends I can tell you, I have never been on such a road. The countryside was stunning. Mountain range after mountain range; an awesome sight.
The first hill tribe woman we saw, I can only say it was like a post card. An old woman in traditional clothing, black teeth and a big pipe in the corner of her mouth. She looked amazed by the caravan of white people, but treated us with a big old smile.
I can write loads about the journey but I will keep it reasonably short, as you probably have more things to do.
On arrival at the school it was a happy sight. All the kids had their ‘uniforms’ on and gave us their custom huge smiles. Of course a bit shocked also, it does not happen often in this part of the jungle filled hills you suddenly have 5 white dudes in your village. And especially I got a few looks, as I am the size of about 6 or 7 of these kids. Maybe the ginger beard wasn’t very helpful neither haha.
We unpacked all the stuff and loaded it in a little shack, what turned out to be store room and library. The only way you would have guessed is due to the three empty shelves. The will not be empty much longer!
Tip had bought a ton of banana cake and brownies, so first the kids got a little taste of a sugar rush. They loved it! Then the kids got lined up for the handing out of the jackets, sponsored by Nion. We got some great pics of the kids in the jackets. I loved the boy in his cool bomber jacket.
The lorry got lost, what was disappointing, so we were not there when the climbing toys arrived. But we are going back in January to finalize stuff so we will see it then.
In January the chicken farm will be build. We thought of the old saying, give a man a fish and he is content for a day, teach him how to fish and he is set for life. The improvement of the diet of the kids will improve their learning abilities and improve their lives.
Time flies, and after the jackets and the food, sadly for us it was time to go. We were depending on our three kind drivers to get us back to safety and they did not want to drive in the dark on that road, what was completely understandable.
The kids were sad to see us leave and we got high fives, smiles and waves. Some of the kids, I tell you, I wanted just to take in my pocket and show them a better life. Heartwarming but also kind of emotional.
About 20 of them lived in the school due to loss of parents etc., what basically made it an orphanage too. Heart breaking to think that some kids have to live from 20 cents a day, and then thinking it can be much worse in this world too.
At least these kids have the volunteers, the villagers and you!
What has happened and what will happen?
We improved their lives already. With love, with attention and with the stuff we brought along. They will be warmer due to the clothing, sleep warmer due to the blankets and have a warmer belly due to the variety of food. They will be happier due to all the toys; they will be healthier due to the exercise. They will be smarter due to the books and wiser due to the learning equipment.
And now, they will soon get fresh healthy food due to our veggie garden and chicken farm. We have told the volunteers that if they have spare eggs or spare veggies, please try to sell them to the villagers so you can get more seeds and food for the chicks.
We all have touched the lives of over a 100 kids, even up to a 120. This due to the weird situation that some of these kids are stateless, because they belong to the hill tribe that fled Burma. Kids that have no meaning to the rest of the world. Kids that had never seen a white person (sad for the kids it had to be me lol). Kids that would have been shivering due to the winter, and shaking due the hunger.
We, by coming together, have changed this! Something we all can be proud of!
As they say in Thailand, good luck, Chok dee!
The warm and heartfelt greetings from the volunteers
Bangkok Thailand, 24-January-2011
Dear friends of the Kharma Foundation,
It’s a little later than usual, but here is the awaited letter from me the organizer to you the donators. This year you will receive two stories as we had two teams. The pictures will be added soon too, but here already something to read and to look at.
What a great year it has been… I was a little worried for while about the target we had set; the 1000 or so kids we wanted to reach this year. As there were 4 schools all run by the Border Patrol Police district 13, it would have been a disaster in my eyes if we could only help 2 or 3.
The donation really started coming in around the Christmas period. People had some time off, reflected on the year and remembered the Kharma Foundation.
Every year we strive to help kids in the rural areas and try to give help on different levels of life. Not just a shirt or a ball, we like to support them with 1. Health, via healthy food we bring with us and seeds plus equipment to make a vegetable garden; 2. Clothing and blankets so the children look sharp and are better protected in days and nights; 3. School material so there is mental food for the kids and last but not least 4. Sportive equipment so the kids can work out by having some physical activity and of course enjoy!
Nion this year carefully picked this BPP (Border Patrol Police) project as it was running project under protection of the Royal family (as almost all things are in this country) and showed they were very serious in taking care of their children. We wanted to support projects like these this year, to see if we can contribute to improve the lives of the youngsters. This compared to last year where we worked with an orphanage that did not have any running projects or ever really got any help. We found it hard to make something out of nothing, especially when the leaders of a school or orphanage have to learn from the beginning what to do with for instance seeds and a chicken farm. And also when the area is poor or unsupportive, many good ideas and help will go lost.
This year we wanted to help a school/orphanage that helped itself and its students. This has been a strange year, for me but also for the Kharma Foundation. I sadly lost in a very quick succession a very good friend and a person as close to me as a brother; Dan Mapstone and Niels Groeneweg.
We, Nion and me and other people very close to the foundation, decided to donate all our goods this year in the name of these two handsome fellows. They both had huge hearts and would have contributed this year again, like earlier years and we want their love to go on. We have created a picture frame with their pictures with a little text and these have been given to the 4 schools.
It was a strange year for the foundation because it seemed not to be so successful this year; I had to chase many people around haha and a week or so before the deadline we still could have used quite a bit of money just to make the 4 goals we set completely covered for all 4 schools.
But thanks to some amazing late donations and some slick PR and collecting of Terry, a good friend of mine and the father of my god son, we managed to reach the target point, and over!! And this never happened in our short history. There is actually money left! Do not worry, this is not left for me to have a drink on… this is left to help more kids. We have our eyes set on Mae Hong Son, two small orphanages. This will be later in the year, as we want to collect some more money and Nion needs a deserved rest. To donate and to collect money is the easy part.
She has been an absolute trooper this year and done most of the pre-work. The last month as said before was terrible for me and I was an emotional wreck. Nion kept on calling, arranging, traveling to the border… She had meetings, more calls, more emails and more and more shopping. Every time a good donation came in, she had more shopping power! And we came to a never before seen amount of over 3000 kilos of goods!! Hello!
And I was not on the scale myself trying to get it heavier. Just the jackets were close to a 1000 kilo. Then the 1000 pairs of shoes, the 1000 blankets, the food, man, it was such a pretty sight to see it all in big trucks. The chief of the BPP told Nion that he had never in his career and life seen so much stuff together. And this comes from a guy that had received more donations from for instance the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and from the Thai government. The Kharma Foundation blew them out of the water.
We all made this possible together!
And of course we always donate goods and not money as Thailand and many other countries in this world are not run by the most trustworthy people in general, so you need to be careful the money does not disappear in to the wrong wallet.
The last few days before the weekend of the 15th and the 16th of January 2011 I spend with my good friend, donator, volunteer and driver Scott shopping. As said the money came in even on the days we were in the sticks (slang for the back country), so even on Friday evening we went to a Makro and a Tesco, but also on Thursday. We bought an amazing amount of school books, school itinerary from pens to rulers, drawing paper, clay for the really young kids, paint, but also footballs, volleyballs, badminton rackets, balloons, etc.
Thursday we also went to Jathujak Market in Bangkok and bought over 50 kilos of seeds, gardening equipment, sun blocking screens for the veggie gardens, fertilizer, insect poison and name it more. The rented pick up was full, we had to empty it in my house, arranged a lorry to come pick it up on Friday night to drive it to Kanchanaburi. We had a load of office equipment like cork boards, itinerary, white boards, etc. that was donated by Dan’s family and widow to load in our Toyota and we went on to drive to Kanchanaburi city that same day with our 4×4, stopping on the way by more Tesco’s.
On Friday night I met up with my team; team number Two. ‘We’ consisted of Scott, my Thai mother from Kanchanaburi pi Pen, her husband Gerhard and my Thai brother pi Kwan (pi is a respect term you use for older people). Pi Pen’s grandchild J.J. joined in on Saturday and also Dan’s sister Ceri. The goods were divided on the large army base near Kanchanaburi where the headquarters of the Border Patrol Police district 13 is based.
Team One or team Nion had the short straw when it came to traveling to their two schools as her team had on day one, after coming in from Bangkok early morning, another 3 or 4 hour drive to the first school. The second day would be a 4 hour 4×4 jungle trek to reach the second school and 4 hours back. And this was just traveling hours, not calculating if something went wrong; which it did of course.
Luckily this year Nion will write something too, so she will tell you all about her adventure herself.
Our Saturday started off a little hectic. Leave it to me to chase everyone for donations etc., but had forgotten to print out the map how to get to the BPP. My team member, a local, thought it was in town. Turned out to be 20 kilometer out of town! So we ran a little late to say the least 😉 Logistics is not my strong point. After some stressing we managed to find it and were welcomed by team Nion and the police chief. The goods were split mostly down the half so after a little while the two teams set of on their journeys. We had a 3 hour drive towards Songklaburi and had stop in a little town Thong Pah Pum. Here we had to go to a local BPP camp to drop of the goods for the second school on Sunday, which we could only reach by a boat.
The police were very helpful and all guys there, from the top to the normal cadets to the teachers were amazed on how much stuff there actually was per school. We had much fun splitting it in two; the bales of blankets and the shoes plus jackets were huge packages and heavy, so I impressed the Thai tough ex-military guys by lifting them up myself and help them like one of their own. Needless to say, I was exhausted when it was done. We moved on and had another 2 hours to drive and we arrived at the first school.
It is called Sahathanakharn Krungthep and has 340 children from which about 30 are orphans and live within the school premises. As it was in the afternoon on a Saturday the playground was very quiet, but still I think there were about 100 kids present. The boys came out to help with the unloading of the truck; some of the girls came out with refreshing cold water. On a higher mountain nearby a little Buddhist temple was on the top and it looked over the school like a caring mother over her child. It gave a very serene feeling.
The friendly teacher and head of the school Mr. Supheera was very proud to show us around, showed us their veggie garden and chicken farm, the last was donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Japan. After the tour all the goods were unloaded and put on display on tables. The tables were making noises of the heavy load they had to carry. The donating of goods is taken very serious by the BPP so I had to sign some official documents and estimate the amount it was worth. I proceeded to hand over the picture frame and the teacher was very interested in hearing the story behind it.
Then there was a photo opportunity with one class of the school and all the goods. It was funny that they, the BPP, made more pictures than us. They thought I would like to pose with class after class, but for me one is enough. I come there to help, not to be some kind of photo model 😉 We had to write in a guest book a wish for the kids and who we are etc. A funny but also proud fact was that the first page was signed by the daughter of the King, Princess Somdet Prathep. We suddenly mix within good circles.
Although I had two Thai speaking people in my team, it was a little bit hard to communicate. The teacher did not dare to speak English, which is normal in Thailand as they are afraid to make mistakes and my Thai ‘translators’ were too shy to interact with the officially dressed BPP staff. But with my little Thai, hands and feet, a lot of smiling and a lot of repeating we learned a lot. They had a fish pond which we visited and threw some feedings for the fishes and we had a look in a classroom. The buildings were well kept and the goal of supporting a school that supports itself and the kids was definitely a fact. We did wonder if next year we should return to our statement of helping the most unfortunate kids. The problem you face there is that the goods you give might easily be sold so they can buy some food for the very next day.
I do like the idea of not bringing a fish for a day, but teaching how to fish.
Every year we get wiser and better in aiming our help. The kids seem very impressed and happy when they saw the footballs, badminton rackets etc. Of course this is the thing that attracts most attention. But when we went to bed that night and no one turned on the airco and I even took a second blanket as it was definitely nippy, the thought that those kids could tuck under their new blankets for a warm night’s rest brought me a smile. We decided to drive back to the small village near the first stop so we did not have to drive back in the morning. Team One had a little dinner on a mountain side overlooking the lake, and then back to Thong Pah Pum.
Pi Kwan arranged the rooms, very Thai style, cheap, but good. The men of our team ironed out a bottle of Thai whiskey but were all in bed by 12 as the day was a long one, and we had another one waiting. Sunday the 16th, a beautiful morning. We had to leave around 8:30, so up at 8. Almost all did well barring pi Kwan who we had to wake up about 10 times. I have to say in his defense, he is a raving alcohol enjoyer and bar manager that normally that wakes up at 3 or 4 in the afternoon.
Scott, Ceri and I jumped in the 4×4 straight to the BPP camp site; the other car went to get breakfast. The teacher and head of the second school Mr. Veerachat was waiting for us with the second lorry full of goods. We had to drive for a small hour to the lake shore.
There two long tail boats met us and one was loaded full with our goods.
The second boat was our taxi. Nion told me before we left that she heard it was a four hour boat trip. Then Scott heard from the teacher, or thought he heard that it was only 15 minutes. We had no clue anymore. Luckily the truth was in the middle. 15 minutes would have been way too short, but 4 hours and then back too would have been a mission and a half. Luckily it took us a good hour and a bit to reach the river delta after crossing the lake. Even on a normal map we could see we were getting very close to Burma. That was a little spicy as just days before that a civil struggle popped up again and months before 20.000 refugees fled in to the area we were. Luckily nothing happened and we ended up in a small harbor kind of place with three old trucks. Due to the very low water level in the lake the water resided to 10 to 12 meters lower and we could not come with the boat to the little village called Ban Pi Lokki. From the little harbor area we had to upload all the goods in the old pick-ups and drive a proper 4×4 road to the village.
It was an old missionary village so in the middle of town (read 50 huts spread out) was a little church. Weird to see that in the middle of absolutely nowhere in Asia. Then again the Christ loving world has travel too far and beyond places to bring God’s word. Most of the Thais, even when Christian, are still Buddhist and also will believe in ghosts. So the mix of church, temple and shrines all over was a colorful mix. The small kids spread over the village found it extremely interesting to see a few white people in a pick-up and all came waving and you heard the ‘hello’s’ and ‘bye bye’ from everywhere, even from a tree where one of the little nippers had climbed in to have a better view.
We arrived at the school and as it was Sunday and these people were apparently Christian, a lot of kids were elsewhere. But again, easily a 100 of the 260 were present. Again the same, the boys helped carry the stuff and the girls giggled at Scott and me as the two big white guys and a few came out with refreshing drinks. The pick-up had to go up and down two times to get all the stuff, so we had time to get a little tour. A very well kept veggie garden, a different chicken farm and even a few pigs were on the school grounds. The 12 kilo of seeds for planting will be absolutely perfect in place. Scott and I worried about this when we bought it, if it would be of good use. Yes was the answer! When we got back to the square all goods had been unloaded and again spread out on tables. It looked impressive.
Then the usual followed of handing over our photo frame, the teacher would pray for our friends and the frame would get a nice place in the office. I had to sign the documents again and also the book. I left them a positive message. I hope to return here in a year or so and see how they get along. The country side is amazingly beautiful and the people very warm. The kids were so quiet and so polite standing there in line that we decided to pass out at least one of the gifts, the blankets one by one.
We had pink ones and other colored ones, so every time when a group of girls would come up one by one to collect we would quickly get the pink ones out and when the boys came, we gave them the different colored blankets. My whole team joined in, even little J.J., who is only 4 himself, and he helped passing out the blankets. We saw many happy kids running home or talking with each other. A blanket the size we gave can warm a family! The rest would be handed out by the head of the school the next day when all the kids were complete. Scott played around with one of the footballs for a bit, we had another refreshing drink and we were off.
The head teacher wanted to bring us to a fisherman’s village nearby so we could have a lunch together. Hungry as we were, and to be honest a little tired to from all the new sights and little stress if all would go okay, we all agreed with him that that was a good plan! We jumped back in the pick-up, to the boat, out of the river delta, towards the lake and there was this very idyllic fisherman’s village floating on the lake.
All the barges were floating on bamboo piles, attached to each other with ropes, and by roots. Roots? Yes, roots of about three or four trees that had popped up from seeds many years ago and were now at least 7 or 8 meters high, proper trees. The roots of these trees had woven barges together and did not touch ground. It was a weird but beautiful sight. Between the barges and floating houses they had little fishing nets where they were farming fish. The fish we ordered were caught with a net, a few hard bangs on the head with a stick, scales got removed and in to the pan. How do you mean fresh?! After the lunch which was great the head teacher continued with us on the boat to the lake shore where our cars were.
Some thoughts and reflections:
I learned something good this year. An Indian friend told me about the teachings of Karma/Kharma and a famous saying in Indian translated in “do good and throw it in the river…” Meaning something like when you do good, a good deed, it is no good to dwell on it or to try to show off with it. People do not have to know you did well. It’s nothing to brag about. You just do it and then leave it. You do not even have to feel physically good or get any reward. It was obvious for Nion this year that this is the case. She was sick as a dog the whole 3 days we were on the move.
Last year we were in such a hurry to reach the orphanage, we only had little time to spend there with the kids and before we knew it we were on our way back due to hard road back and the daylight disappearing. I was somewhat disappointed, wanted to get more out of it, and wanted maybe more pleasure for the effort. I knew this was not correct, but I could not help but feeling that way. Hearing this Indian saying gave it all a place. It’s not about me; it’s about the people you try to reach. It’s not about my feeling, but about what you can do for the other without wanting or needing something back in return. Just do what you can do and forget about it. It was not special or perfect. You do not need a compliment…
It’s never what it is. To help is not easy. If it was, people would not need it so much. You come with good intentions. You come with your own background, your own story. You come with your own vision. You come with your own pre-determined image of how it will be… Nothing ever is what it is.
To care and to love spreads a message. Food spreads life. Luckily we are all in a position to do something for kids in need. We need to focus on life improvement. Sometimes the blanket will be sold for food; sometimes it will warm a family or kid for years. Sometimes the seed will fail to grow, most of time it will do fine. We need to focus on the good we can do, rather than only focus that what is needed is too much to give.
More research, more and better targets. More help, more goals. Grow every year by word to mouth. One year will be better than the other, so what? Step by step more professional and always with the right intentions.
The beginning and end of it all is to take a little time out of our busy lives to see what you can do, then proceed to do it and then throw it in the river…
Thank you all for your amazing help!
The Christmas Action 2011 of ‘the Kharma Foundation’ – BAAN MAE GON
Dear friends, family and supporters,
A changed man is writing this letter. Firstly a very big thanks for your contribution to the foundation this year to make the trip possible. If you could have gone with me, could see what these eyes have seen. If you would have seen the happiness in the faces with your own eyes, it would have changed you too!
Let’s start at the beginning. The donations went beyond expectations and we have the entire “project Baan Mae Gon” paid for and we even have left overs. We already partially have 5 packs ready at my place and these will go to 5 flood affected orphanages. That’s what we will do in late January and February. Of course I will add pictures to this email and when you are reading the story you will understand what picture fits with what part of the story.
In the month of December Nion (co-founder) and her volunteers went shopping at the Cambodian border, where they bought shoes, clothes, mattresses and blankets for a fraction of the price that they are offered in Bangkok. In this form she is a real Dutchy.
At the end of December and the first week of January Scott, the loyal volunteer and I went and purchased loads of stuff in the Chinese district in Bangkok, where everything is for sale what a child could wish for; from badminton rackets to school books. Little dolls and cars to note books, pens and Lego. Footballs, clay, markers, crayons, hand sewing kits and balloons. A pick-up truck full! Later we went to the Thai Macro store and we bought everything for the stomach like dried mushrooms and noodles, but also toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and shampoo. Everything we bought in large quantities and complete boxes. An additional 500 kilos of rice and things like sanitary napkins… yes, send the two men on the road in Thailand to buy a large pack of sanitary napkins; of course that was a lot of giggling and red cheeks.
Everything was collected at my friend David’s home, which has a large garden and all in all it was a big lorry full. The truck came in the morning of Wednesday the 11th of January to go 800 kilometers up North towards Mae Sariang to deliver it all to the local police station. The night before I slept at David’s house and was spoiled by his wife with a 5 star diner and a drink afterwards. Woke up early in the morning to join up David, David’s house guest Jasper, the driver and some more helping hands in order to get the whole thing loaded.
The next day we; David, Scott and I, left to the north in the luxury 4×4 car of David and Jasper at the last moment decided to come along, something he certainly did not regret on the way back down. I had misunderstood it was about a 7 hour drive… that turned out to be wrong. 7 hours to Tak (city in the North) and then we still had to cross the mountains. This was a further 5 hours on roads that were not the best and unfortunately it was already dark so we did not know how beautiful the surroundings were where we drove through. Fortunately we had more than enough time on the way back during the day and I can say I have never seen such beautiful scenery. Mountain after mountain after mountain after mountain. Amazing!
We arrived very late in the village of Mae Sariang and after the bags had been put in the guest house, we stretched our legs (after 13 hours in the car) and enjoy some good food found at 1 in the morning. Great country it is! Then to bed and an early rise to meet up with the rest of the volunteers, so we can load the stuff to five pick-up trucks to take us up the mountain to Baan Mae Gon.
But it was a real Friday the 13th because when we arrived at our car it had a flat tire. And with the mountain to go over and to cross three rivers with a small spare tire did not really seem sensible. Thailand is Thailand, and within five minutes a young man stopped in student uniform to ask if David needed any help. He took the tire off and went on the back of motorbike and drove to the only car business. To all of our amazement they arrived an hour later, bringing back a fixed tire. A rubber plug was shot in the hole and fixed it. Amazingly, the fix kept and we went safely over the mountain and went back three days later.
I had the brilliant idea that if it was ‘only’ 42 km to the school, that we could just as easily drive up and down every day and could sleep comfortably in the guesthouse… After two hours on muddy paths and across rivers, along cliffs and through deep puddles, narrow paths the driving up and down to the guesthouse idea was quickly gone. It was over two hours before the 42 km had been conquered and it was the most beautiful ride ever. The mountains, the scenery, the streams and rivers, the rice fields, the buffalos, the bamboo; it was incredibly beautiful.
When we reached the village we saw that we had landed in the middle of nowhere. A few huts on stilts, it was no more than that. A nice cold rippling river separated the village from the school which was built on a hill side.
The school existed of a few older buildings, and a pair of new ones. Made of teak wood, the very expensive wood that is local to the region, but the buildings had not much in them.
Some of the children stood at a little distance to watch the whole caravan, but as soon as you made eye contact, they looked away or ran away or they gazed in fear. Later we understood that for many children we were the first white people they had ever seen! And then they saw a fine example like me! That’s a shock! Completely understandable…
We arrived around lunchtime and Nikki the cook for the next days had jumped in the kitchen and had created a delicious lunch. She is a young Thai lady and girlfriend of our Engineer Ryan, student of Nion, she teaches Thai to foreigners. We had the lunch and had time to meet each other; most people did not know each other.
We had a diverse group. And may it be said that everyone who was there as volunteer had paid all their own food and drinks and journey.
We had three Dutchmen, Jasper, David and me & Englishman Scott. A Norwegian named Justien, also a student of Nion. Similarly, Michelle, an Irish lady. Then we had Ryan the Canadian, our engineer. A Malaysian guy named Nantha. There was Trent, an American doctor and our medical support. An Austrian named Hubert and seven students of Chulalongkorn University accompanying us to translate but also to help with cooking. They taught the children Thai and English and the villagers about safe sex and how to deal with their garbage. And of course ‘mother’ Nion, co-founder.
I thought it was very nice that this year we even did some teaching and educating, something I would like to do more of in coming years. Not only giving books but also actually spends time teaching the kids.
There was a sign on the school grounds with “Education is the foundation of life”. And so it is. Education is the key to a better future. The Kharma Foundation is growing every year and we have more wishes and more goals. Teaching kids is one of them. The foundation was something that was thought of five years ago in a hospital bed; to see that grow so much in such a short time is awesome.
18 strangers joining together, rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. Everyone did their job. No moaning, no complaining. Of course there were problems and setbacks, but together we solved it all. It was in one word: perfect.
After lunch, we started our work. Everyone got a task of Nion before they set off to this school, so we knew what to do. Everybody started and everything went well. David and Jasper were the mushroom house builders and in two days created two well-filled houses, the huts were there already, but they did the engineering of the shelves and the rest.
Ryan the engineer and a team of people like Nantha, Jostein and Hubert sawed and hammered beds for the girls that before had slept on the floor. We also purchased and fixed mosquito screens on all windows and doors to stop dengue and malaria mosquitos from going inside, which are not uncommon in the area. Scott and I helped everywhere, but the first day we made two stairs as the morning dew made the red clay quite slippery and many times the children would slip and fall on their backsides. For the first time in years I actually performed manual labor and it felt good.
The Aiesec students gave lessons to the eager kids and so the A, B, C’s and 1, 2, 3’s were heard echoing through the small valley, what gave a great background tune.
Nikki, Nion and Michelle were the kitchen princesses and every day they cooked food for both the children, the teachers, the villagers that came to help and our breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each time around 140 mouths to feed. All the food was paid for by the volunteers. The children were delighted every time that there was not only rice with chilies on the menu, but then there was soup, then delicious chicken, or Thai beef salad etc. etc. Compliments to the chef and her helpers!
The first night everyone was satisfied. Diner was good, work was on schedule and with the trip and the labor we felt tired. Tired, but satisfied. Everyone? No! David had his car parked next to the river just outside the school grounds, where also most tents were set up for the volunteers to sleep. He opened all the doors, put on some nice tunes, started a campfire, and actually there was the birth of the first Kharma Foundation party!
All volunteers came to the fire and the atmosphere was good, of course partly due some alcoholic beverages. It was a perfect day! No other word, just perfect.
I forget to tell you that after the hard work we wanted to shower. A smile appeared on the teacher’s face and he pointed us to the river and a friendly wink as in ‘success’… No shower, just the old fashioned way of a bar of soap and a river. I found a little bucket and so went on in to the river that was not much deeper as to your knees. For the first time in my life I ever washed like this and I felt great, among many prying eyes of the children of course.
Delicious, cold, clean sweet water… And the surroundings!! The mountains in the background. It was like a movie with us as the leading roles.
The second day, awoken with a little hang over and it was back to work after a nice breakfast. We fixed the roof in the boy’s room so that the mosquitoes could not get inside, and then finished the mushroom huts and Scott taught English to the kids. The villagers came to help create the fish pond with cement and the frog pond. These are also sponsored by all of us via the foundation. The fish have already been purchased. The cement needs to harden. Next month it should all be ready. We have also purchased three pigs to be fattened. The school will take what they need of the pig, sell the rest of the meat and buy a new pig as they do not have a fridge to store the meat.
I went with a group of older boys to the jungle to cut bamboo and one of them, I guess he was about twelve years old was teaching me how to split bamboo.
Scott’s wife is 7.5 months pregnant and he wanted to contact her to see how she was. I wanted to join as I smelt adventure. One of the teachers arranged three motorcycles and so a hellish ride began. The ride there by car was already crazy, but to do the same on a motorcycle was a bizarre rollercoaster. We needed over one hour ride to the top of a mountain just to get a phone signal, we were that remote. It was fantastic, scary but fantastic. Slipping and sliding through rivers and through streams where we sometimes were up to our thighs in the water. The noise of the exhaust underwater was awesome and still our faithful mechanical animals kept going forward. What an experience! Luckily everything went well with Scott’s wife, the teacher himself was happy that he could call and check upon his 6 month old baby in a village further down. I have no children or a pregnant woman so I called my parents.
On return we were greeted as heroes that had been unafraid to take the trip and there was already some betting on how many times we had slammed on our buttocks. Unfortunately for them, not one time!
Dinner was fine again and we got a dancing show provided by the kids. There was dancing on a primitive stage to Thai music via a rented speaker system. All power came from diesel powered generators. The children did their very best and it was very entertaining to see. We all clapped and cheered. A few times this trip I was really touched and moved to a little tear, this was one of those moments. The joy in the girls eyes, the energy the boys possessed to dance with the wildest and funniest moves. I only have 50% of my testosterone left due to the surgery five years ago, that gave birth to the Kharma Foundation… So I am somewhat easily moved nowadays. What touched me too was that the hard knocks like David and Scott later admitted to me that there were moments when they also had a tear to hide. It is touching to be a part of something this great.
But it was the kids that made it touching and are so cute. A few sweet little girls I would estimate three or four years old who not dare to say a word to you and just giggle. There was a set of twin boys of around three years with such naughty and cheeky faces. My greatest friend was deaf and mute boy of about 4 that followed me around in the last two days and found everything interesting I did. Crooked ear, an older boy I learned the art of bamboo splitting off with a scared ear. The hip hop boys were totally hooked on David with his crazy dancing. He made all the children laugh but the group of little boys wanted to copy every move and even challenged him when he took a break; David in his late 40’s has a lot of energy but yes 4 of those 10 year old boys had just wee little larger batteries. The dancing dolls, the babies. All the kids were funny, lovely and worth every penny we invested.
The best day was the last day when the school had planned a sports-day for the children to show how much they appreciated that we were there. Let me repeat again, thanks to you all.
There were two teams: Team Orange and Team Blue. Not hard to estimate what team the Dutch guys belonged to of course. Unfortunately I had no Holland shirt with me, only a Feyenoord shirt, so that had to do.
The Sports Day consisted of a football match and a Thai foot volley sport called Takraw. There was a tug of war between the boys, girls and mixed with the volunteers.
There was a football match between volunteers, of course won by the Orange team! There were some funny games like pushing a banana in the other person’s mouth while blindfolded and the funniest was a race where there were three stages. The first was to run for a few meters, stop and kneel to take a sweet of a plate filled with water without use of hands, a little run, a 1 baht coin found in a plate full of talcum powder again without use of hands, a bit of a run and then eating a large handful of biscuits which could only be washed down with a thick jelly-like stuff.
I had a lot of fun when I saw the kids do it, not knowing that it was planned all along that I had to do it the next round, against David, Trent and Nantha. The pictures are speaking for themselves! It was so funny to see all the children encouraging, jumping up and down; we had great fun.
Then came the big distribution of the stuff we brought with us with 5 pick-ups. We had mattresses and blankets for all children, we had shoes and jackets. We had mosquito nets and little things like candy, cookies, etc. It was great to see three year old kids stumbling away trying to carry everything. The mattresses were twice as big as them, but all of them succeeded. We also had sweets for them to enjoy.
Children from such poverty eat less sugar and of course it certainly had its effect. The famous sugar rush! I was DJing somewhat via the Ipod through the speaker system, the sun had already set and the Aiesec students had taken off all the balloons of the stage and given them to the children. When I looked up at the sports field, I saw something I had never seen. Approximately 50 children had more energy radiated of them than 20,000 ecstatic football fans or a sport stadium full of gabbers. They bounced up and down, running, jumping, dancing, rolling, screaming, a chaos, but really super nice and heartwarming. And of course our own Dave the clown who danced in between all the kids followed by his group of young fans. It was FANTASTIC!
A more beautiful goodbye we could not have wished for. Everyone, children, teachers, and all of us had a huge smile on our faces. I really had a few tears of joy when I saw all the kids looked so happy. 5 years after its launch, the foundation is an adult, we are doing well, we want to grow, and we want more!
Baan Mae Gon has stolen my heart. Our hearts. I’m thinking about making an annual return and see where and how we can help each year. But this we have to think about in the next few months.
It was great. Really. Life changing! I hope this year to launch a few brands that will become sponsors to the foundation. The Kharma Foundation will be my life’s work!
Thank you all for wanting to be a part of this.
Now we have still some to go before 2011’s Christmas action is finished. We are in the process of picking the orphanages that we are going to help with the emergency kits. These will include school supplies, sporting equipment, rice (100 to 200 kilo per package), canned food and maybe even blankets. Once this is done you get an email and of course the accompanying photos.
On behalf of Nion, the children, the teachers, the villagers, I thank you all very very much for your support. Please send this letter to your friends. Not to show them how good you are by donating, but much more to get this small foundation more famous and to increase awareness. With all of us together, we can accomplish so much.
I would like to end with a good saying that I heard when I was in the mountains…
“Do for others just a bit more than you would do for yourself and the world will be a better place …” And isn’t that what we all want in the end?
A small (incomplete) list of items purchased and tasks are completed:
- Mattresses and pillows
- Sanitary towels
- Hand-Sewing Kits
- Badminton racquets
- Board games
- Duplo Lego for kids
- Wood for beds, roofing
- Mosquito nets
- Window and door mosquito resistance
- Storage cabinets for clothes
- Dried mushrooms
- Canned food such as tuna, mackerel, beans
- Oil for cooking
- Building beds so the children do not sleep on the floor, due to vermin and snakes
- Digging of stairs so that the kids can decent and go up safely
- Making a roof cover so mosquitoes stay away
- All windows and doors in the girls room and boys room with mosquito cover
- Created two mushroom houses (we had 2000 pieces)
- The fish pond and frog pond
- Teaching in Thai, English lessons to the children
- Provide information about safe sex, sponsored by the famous Mr. Meechai, who provided free condoms to us
- A good full meal three times a day for children
Dear donors and friends of the Kharma Foundation,
The hard work of the volunteers of the Kharma Foundation (KF) has been finished, so now it is time to let you all know what we have been doing with your generous donations. It was a long and fun quest filled with beautiful impressions and new experiences.
I know from earlier remarks I always write too much and too long so at first I will try to be to the point and after that I will elaborate more for the people who are interested in the impressions. The targets we managed to reach at the school of Baan Mae Gon:
- The dormitory of 10 by 10 meters of Teak wood has been build. It’s complete with roof, raised of the ground to keep animals from entering, mosquito screens have been placed, hatches for the windows to keep the wind and rain out.
- The kitchen and mess hall has been extended there for the kids have more space to eat.
- The kitchen has its own sink.
- The washing place has two sinks for cleaning dishes.
- The old dormitory has been fitted with new mosquito screens for the windows and doors.
- A playground has been purchased and placed.
- The 24 new students got new mattresses, blankets, clothing and flip flops/shoes.
- All the purchased goods; food, stationary, sports equipment, toys and clothing have been dished out to the kids and to the school.
- The KF has donated 750 kilo of rice as well as canned food, protein and noodles.
- The head teacher has been schooled in the benefits of Moringa for his students and has been supplied with the seeds for planting.
Scott, a volunteer of the first order and I have put up a fireworks show for the children that was spectacular to say the least. Nion and I thought it was fun to treat the kids to something they have never seen before and it turned out that the elders and parents of the village had never seen it either. It became a big success.
The targets we managed to reach for the second school of Baan Huai Krataai:
- The preconditions have been set to donate a new toilet facility by a friendly company.
- The stationary stuff, books, pens and more have been brought and donated.
- Canned food, protein, noodles, candy and 450 kilo of rice have been given to the head teacher and staff.
- Small toys and candy have been shared among the happy kids.
- Blankets have been given to the children that sleep at the school.
- All kids have been supplied with new towels, flip flops and toothbrushes.
The amount of money that was reached for the KF Christmas action of 2012 was 367.130 baht of which 125.000 baht was left over from 2011. The idea in 2011 was to help flooded schools with the remaining funds, but due to a lot of bureaucracy and unclear wishes of the schools we contacted we decided to not waste the money and keep it for the 2012 Christmas action.
It turned out to be a wise choice as it was harder to find funds this year, I guess due to the lingering financial crisis the world is still facing. Luckily all targets we had in mind have been reached.
This partly thanks to the company Sindicatum that did not donate money to us, but we supplied them with a list of goods we needed like mattresses, blankets, flip flops, underwear and much more and they purchased those and donated that to us. It’s a small detour, but the same positive result.
As it stands now there is about 5000 baht left. We are still waiting for one bill for shipping back the professional equipment and tools that was borrowed from the company of our technical man Ryan. Without these power tools the building would never have been finished with this speed, especially the nail guns were a gift from heaven. Whatever amount is left, may it be 5000 or more, it will either be donated to a charity like we did in other years or we keep it for the 2013 episode.
With that the Christmas action of 2012 has been a very successful undertaking! We thank you sincerely that you have made this possible. I hope this give you all a good feeling as well. I have a very positive feeling about this year’s action and I think and hope the next years will get bigger and better. More companies want to work with us and I also hope you will create a healthy advertisement to friends and family about what we do and what we stand for, share the photos and convince people to support us.
In the name of all volunteers, the school staff and I particular the kids: THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
== The Kharma Foundation; where good people make a difference ==
Now I will try to give you a travelogue as how I experienced it. I will take the space to elaborate and for the people who like to read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the trip. The photos have titles so you can see the people, the kids, the work and the impressions.
Sitting on the couch at home after returning from such a long journey I can only smile. What a trip. We have travelled over 2300 kilometers… From Bangkok to Chiang Mai, to Baan Mae Gon. From there to Mae Sariang and on to Baan Huai Krataai. Back to Chiang Mai and then a visa run to Mae Sai.
What a beautiful country… What a sights and what a beautiful people. It’s an absolute recommendation to go this region and take a 4×4 and go off the highway into the unknown. It’s like time stood still. The mountains, the valleys, the rivers and streams… The paddies. The inhospitable parts, the cliffs, the jungle and the forests… In these surroundings ‘our’ two schools are placed. Far away from the civilized world. Out of reach of mobile phone signals, no internet, no power supply. The people are poor, but a smile is never far away. The people live and survive.
This year we wanted more. Not only to donate goods but to actually do something that will stand, that will last. With the building of a dormitory we have put our first step in that direction. This building made of Teak wood will be there for at least 15 to 20 years. It gives even more satisfaction to donate something that is not finished or that wears and tears quickly. But it is quite an undertaking. Just take the main wooden beams that are supporting the whole structure. Those had to be brought to the village by an elephant. It’s a shame we were not present when this happened to take some photos. The slope was too steep and there was too little space for the animal to drag them to the location of the build so the villagers carried them the rest of the way.
Upon arrival we saw the villagers had worked hard for the past few weeks and the floor and ceiling was as good as done. Ryan, our technical wizard took the lead and told the volunteers what to do and there for we managed to finish the build in the next three days. We had an American of almost 60 named Derek, a young Norwegian called Jostein, the Polish boyfriend of Nion Michal, and two Thai gentlemen Thanaset and Winai, all of whom worked from morning till sundown. Scott, my cousin Claes and I also helped with the dormitory but as only so many people can work on one build; we did other chores like making the sinks, attached the mosquito nettings and screens and did other tasks.
The thing that was an instant hit with the kids was the playground. From the moment it was placed on its location it was never without kids. From dusk till dawn they played and played and played. It’s good for the kids as it gives them exercise; they learn to share, to enjoy together, and to help each other. Never thought I t would be such a success. The dormitory is good for the kids but they do not see the value of it or not see any fun in it. The playground so much more. A definite addition to future years.
The kitchen got run by the lovely ladies we brought with us, an Irish lady called Michelle; who works at Sindicatum, Heide a German colleague of Jostein and three Thai ladies Nikki, Mind and Nueng. They not only took care of our hungry stomachs but also cooked for the all the kids and teachers for 4 days. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. We did not have it luxurious or better as the kids, everything they ate, we ate and the other way around. The kids were visibly happy with the food the ladies prepared for them. Fish from the barbeque, beef stew, fried omelets and much more. Homage to the ladies!
The evenings we spend around a campfire with a nice drink and some snacks. A few good tunes and pleasurable conversation. Its fun to see that such a mixed group of people got along that good. No arguments and no visible irritations.
The second evening Scott and I, as the big children that we still are, treated the kids on a semiprofessional fireworks show, sponsored by us both. The idea was born from Nion and me. Of course our main focus is the future and wellbeing of the children, that’s the main target… But the kids can have fun as well and almost every child is fascinated by the colors and sounds of fireworks. Almost needless to say that it was a great success. The kids were mesmerized. Some of the small ones were a bit scared but the next day it was the talk of the town. The 15 year old kid that helped us lighting all the stuff will probably never forget this for the rest of his life. And that is beautiful in itself. We have given the kids some positive and fun experiences and memories.
The third day was sports day for the kids and the volunteers joined in as well. Claes and I set off on a long journey while the others stayed behind to finish the job in Baan Mae Gon. We first travelled to Mae Sariang and from there we picked up more goods and one more pick-up truck and we began our trip to the second school in Baan Huai Krataai about 70 kilometers away. 50 of those 70 kilometers were over a sandy trail over mountain tops and ledges. It was as if we were driving on the roof of Thailand. Breathtakingly beautiful… Every so many kilometers a little village or township with surprised looking people, animals running around freely, authentic clothing, wooden shags and huts and then more and more jungle and forests. As far as you could see, green and more green, mountains after mountains. The road we were on was the only road in the area. Miles upon miles of wilderness.
And suddenly we were there… A small speck on the map, Baan Huai Krataai, with a small cute school. The kids were ready for us, waiting, staring, wondering. All students were very shy as the sight of white people (especially the size and shape of us) was extremely rare. It is a shame that with these quick visits you do not get the time to melt the ice a little. So it is mostly shy laughs and some of the kids were frightened to death of me. I cannot blame them…
I never really like to take too many pictures as it gives me the feeling of being in a zoo. Luckily Claes made a few pictures and videos and so we have a lasting memory of the place. The kids were delighted with all the goods, but of course the teachers even more. In the little book they had for donors to leave a message I counted 12 pages with 12 messages that were written over the last 4 years. Goes to show not many people wonder this far out. The Kharma Foundation is one of the exceptions!
We had to leave before the sun went down as the road back was hard enough in the day time but impossible with no light. Some of the slopes had over 30 degrees to 40 degrees of angle and we were not driving the best rental car. It was a real adventure and that was very much visible on Claes his face who was in this kind of setting for the first time in his life.
The next day we all met up in Chiang Mai where we had a little closing party in the beautiful garden of Scotts dad Paul. His wife cooked us an excellent meal and Paul arranged some cold refreshing drinks. A perfect ending to a perfect trip.
What a journey, what a success. With a relatively small amount of money we managed to do a lot in this corner of the world. It is still possible. Over a 100 kids in one school and over 60 in the other have been supported by all of us. It always gives me the taste of more.
Wanting to do something good and doing it by the grace of your support is something beautiful and very rewarding. To see the happy faces, the proud and happy teacher who fights for his kids on a daily basis to make their life better… it’s all worth it. All action, all stress, all the begging, all the planning, all the pre-work, all the effort, is all more than worth it!
I hope you liked my story, I hope by sharing this and the photos and videos I was able to take you on this journey. With all the donations, big and small, we made this possible. We all live a good life, the one a bit better than the other. But to come together and to take some effort to help the people who have a hard life, by being there to help these little fellow human beings, well, that gives us all a good feeling right? One more time from the bottom of my heart, thank you all…
With a tear of joy in my eye and a huge smile I salute you,
Martin and of course Nion and all the volunteers
Dear friends and family, donors and supporters,
A little tired after a long travel I can report to you that the Kharma Foundation’s Christmas 2013 action has been concluded and has been a great success! A great success! With an amazing result in donations and a great team of volunteers we managed to achieve all the goals we set, plus a few more.
I will first give all the details and numbers and after that I will elaborate on the stories and experiences. With the great sponsoring of a handful of companies and a charity event plus the usual sponsoring of the family and friends we have accumulated a historically high amount of 758,600 baht. We have 19,600 baht left which will be used in a future project. The major spending was to build the Kindergarten building of 8 by 10 meters, which was finalized when we were on site.
We have spent the donations on:
In addition to the planned goals we have had more money coming in than expected and we spend that on:
Wheelchair for handicapped boy James
A diesel power generator for Baan Huay Grataai
Sponsoring of children’s day for Baan Mae Gon
14 extra bunk beds (something went wrong with the order and we got double). 5 Have gone to a neighboring School. 9 will be used in a future project.
Other items that were purchased or sponsored were:
1. Bunk beds = 14 / Mattress = 19 / blanket =19 (Sponsored by Sindicatum)
2. Underwear = 240 / towels = 80 / sanitary napkin (sponsored by Pronto Marketing)
3. Clothing 100 kg (sponsored by Sindicatum)
4. Sport shoes =100 / socks = 240 (Sponsored by Sindicatum)
5. Eyes checking and glasses (Sponsor by Pronto Marketing company)
6. Dried food / canned food / 600 kilo of rice
7. Sporting equipment / study material
8. First aid kits (Sponsored by Sindicatum)
9. Plastic shelves for boarding kids (Sponsored by Sindicatum)
10. Hosting the event ‘children’s day and sports day’
11. Kitchen equipment (knife, chopping board, pans, pots, spoons) (sponsored by Pronto Marketing)
12. Aluminum plates = 90 (sponsored by Pronto Marketing)
13. Big garbage bin = 8 (sponsored by Pronto Marketing)
14. Shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, detergent more than 80 set each kind (sponsored by Val, Alex and Yossy)
15. Gardening equipment
I never expected 7 years ago when Nion and I together with my friend Sammie and some others actually started collecting for the first time as the idea of helping finally went to reality that 7 years later we have built 2 buildings and have helped over 2000 kids. The first few years we had very big orphanages and the later years we focus on smaller groups but do more. 7 years we have tripled the donations per year, we have tripled the volunteers and tripled the great feelings we receive from doing this thankful job.
This year a big homage is in place for Nion, as she was the leader, the wizard, the time keeper, the dictator, the mother and the team player. ‘What was your job Martin?’ I hear you think… Well, I try to focus on finding the funding of the project and try to be a clown for the volunteers. But since my nasty slip earlier this year where I broke the coaxes and damaged my spine, I am not much helpful as a worker. I tried to help here and there but without Nion and the volunteers this year’s goal to finalize the building and the other goals would not have been possible.
We want to give a big thank you to Sindicatum for lending us Michelle and her four perfect workers, and a thank you to Pronto and its owner Derek for joining us and bringing along your staff. Of course we thank Berlitz to give Nion and some other staff the free time to travel with the onsite crew. We want to give a special thank you to Gilly and her group of Bangkok citizens for a great charity event and an unexpected donation.
7 years, I am proud a peacock that the dream becomes reality more and more. I hope in the next few years we can expand and grow with all your support.
Time for some stories!
This year was about improving the lives of the kids of Baan Huay Grataai. On first glace they might have had more than others we have visited and helped in the years before, but a few stone buildings or a solar power system is a farce when the food is still shockingly boring and unhealthy and the smallest children lay under a hot tin roof. The government does support schools like these, but in our eyes with the wrong equipment. Why a solar power system so you can have satellite Wi-Fi, if no one understands computers, has computers or understands the internet and the nutrition and food for the children is not sufficient? Why a basketball court if no Thai ever played that game? The answer will forever be: This is Thailand!
Our focus will always remain on a few important fronts: nutritional food so the kids health improve, school material for better lessons, sports equipment for activities and since a few years we try to provide better buildings and a playground for the kids entertainment. This year was no different.
The scene was idyllic. The mountains around the village were 360 degrees. We passed a river which turned out to be the border between Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). Never been so close, it had a strange feeling. The school buildings and dormitory and other shags were set against a mountain with on top a 12 year old unused basketball pitch. This was our camp site.
We had 5 overly filled pick-ups and a full Toyota Fortuner and needed a 10 wheeler army truck as we had that much stuff to bring up the mountain. The army had said we could hire the truck plus muscle for about 400 dollars but when they found out it was truly for the children and only for the children, upon arrival they changed their minds and we got that part of the transport for free! It’s great when you try to do good, it’s rewarded with these kind of actions.
The villagers are almost all chewing Maak, a beetle nut mix that gets you kind of high, a centuries old tradition. They are from a hill tribe, so the dresses are colorful and the smiles are never far away although usually with black teeth. Of course the arrival of a big bunch of cars and white people was a happening and many came to stare. But all in a good way; all respected the reason why we came.
The first afternoon most of our muscle focused on the building of the Kindergarten and the females owned the kitchen and cooked food for the children, the teachers, the locals that helped and the volunteers. For three days the ladies were superstars and the food was great. The kids ate what we ate and so they had a great time around the table. Although a lot of them were not used to good food and did not trust it at first. It must be weird if suddenly you have the choice of three main dishes next to the rice. The second day we had more kids of another school visiting and most villagers that came to help building the fishpond and the kitchen crew managed to cook for 200 hungry mouths. Amazing! Nothing but gratitude for the kitchen team.
When we woke up on the first morning we hoped to see the beautiful views of the mountains around us, but a thick fog was all around us. When the fog later cleared, the mountains peeked through and it was a beautiful scene. You wonder if the kids and the locals still enjoy these surroundings. We as outsiders certainly did.
One of the local dogs had killed one of our chickens, some of us wished it would have been the rooster as the little b#stard woke us up every 30 minutes from about 4 in the morning.
It’s surrealistic to be on top of a mountain, where your phone does not work, no calls, and no sms; but in some places we could receive Wi-Fi. This was due to the satellite connection set up by the government. You needed to drive for an hour with a car or motorbike to make a phone call. And that only a mile of the mysterious Myanmar. On one side you have Wi-Fi; on the other side you have one of the most secretive countries in the world. But also in the village itself it was strange. Every man walks around with a machete, most villagers are stoned and live in a setting that could easily go back 200 years, and there you are trying to WhatsApp your girlfriend and read your friends Facebook updates. Completely bizarre. All of us agreed we rather had no Wi-Fi, how strange that might sound.
The volunteers came from all over the globe; we had of course Thai, but also citizens from Romania, Norway, Holland, American, Germany, Ireland, Taiwan, Pilipino and England. Ryan the engineer was a leading factor in the buildings, Michelle was the queen of the kitchen. Heide had changed from the kitchen last year to the building team this year and was enjoying herself a lot. Everyone worked together very well.
The playground is the perfect gift for the kids. From constructing it on the first afternoon it did not know a silent moment. And I can guess it will never see a quiet moment again for a long time. The kids loved it. They learn to share, to help each other, to enjoy with each other. They learn to play together. This will be a gift we hope to give to many children in the future!
On Saturday, the last full day we were there, it was Thai Children’s Day, and it was sports day for the school and we were invited to join. The building of the kindergarten continued but most of us took time to play with the kids. It was fantastic. We saw funny games between the children and sometimes with a mix of volunteers and kids. In the evening we had a great dinner and Scott and I gave the children a spectacular fireworks show; sponsored by the both of us. The kids were typically shocked, scared but loved it. I guess the adults did too.
The building was finished by the end of Saturday. It brought a tear to my eye to see our second big project finished. Also because on Children’s Day we saw many very small kids that the villagers brought with them and you knew that they would be in that building in the coming years. It’s great to know there will be many kids helped by our donation to the school. Who knows, maybe the doctor that saves your life in 30 years got his start in our kindergarten or our dormitory. I know it sounds too romantic to be real, but the world has seen crazier things. I hope many children will find shelter and will find a better nutrition and a better education in the future. Made possible by all of you!
Sunday was the day of leaving, but also the day we gave all the gifts & donations to the children; the school material, the sports equipment, the blankets for the children that sleep at the school, the underwear and much more. We also had an eye test for all the children sponsored by Pronto marketing. The head teacher had some gifts for us; a scarf and bag for the volunteers. With extremely honest feelings, and you could see he was touched by all the happenings of the last few days, we said our farewells. I had a lump in my throat and when we drove off, the whole car was quiet and all hoped that we made a difference.
Let’s end one more time with these wise words: : “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Thank you for your time and your support. I am truly blessed to have friends and family like you that come together for the greater good. May Buddha, God or Allah bless you all!
Martin & Nion
Jomtien, Thailand 9-2-2015
Dear supporters of the Kharma Foundation,
We have concluded the 8th project, the 8th year, the project “The Deep South”.
A few figures to start with… the 4 goals to achieve this year were:
1. improving the quality of life for the kids
2. Changing the attitude of the children towards school and the future
3. Increase relationships between school-army-community
4. Trying to achieve a positive result so other foundations will dare to go here
We had 16 volunteers for this year with a few cancellations and one or two last moment additions; 4 Schools in 6 days; over 800 kids; over a 800 kilometers traveled within the 4 provinces of Songkla, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat; the highest amount of donations reached in our history of over a 1,000,000 Baht; countless happy villagers; proud and happy soldiers and their commanders up to the general of the 4th region; hundreds of stories; thousands of smiles.
May we proudly say it has been a success! The Kharma Family has reached a new height. Not those other years were less, not at all, but I feel that this year we managed to excel and to be different than all others.
In a world where everyone seems to have a (negative) opinion about Muslims lately and where a small bunch of evil men hold a world and a religion hostage for their own gain and sickening views of other humans, we as a small bunch of volunteers tried to make a different and positive sound.
A sound and a signal to the children that have been living in a surreal area of Thailand where there has been a civil war between religious freaks/criminals and the Thai army. These children have lost their parents, family members and/or friends. A signal to the parents and villagers that not all foreigners or people of other religions or of no religion are evil as some of the hate preachers try to make them believe. A sound to the people hiding in the shadows that we as outsiders have not forgotten these children that are caught in a sick adult game of power and death. A signal to the army that guns and bullets alone will not solve this problem, but genuine help from sincere people will be a big part of the answer… A sound that can be heard by friends and foes: the Kharma Family is small but not afraid.
Did I have my worries before? I would be lying if I said no. I think every volunteer was a bit tenser this year over previous years. Nion and I both had our worries: worries about the safety of the volunteers, worries about the reactions of the villagers and ‘the people in the shadows’. The collaboration with the army and the previous visits of Nion to the schools took away the worries bit by bit, but closer and closer to the day of leaving my head was spinning with both positive and negative thoughts.
A few volunteers canceled their trip, some with understandable reasons of work, but I can imagine some also due to the healthy fear of own life and limb. We are happy these people made their own choices and are happy these volunteers have helped us in years before and hopefully in the years to come.
But we are amazingly proud of all the volunteers that did show up. They found that the goals we tried to achieve were more important than their worries, and believed Nion that the safety would be as much as possible guaranteed by the good guys of army Special Forces Unit Suntisuk.
I like to thank these heroes! We had the familiar faces like Michal, Heide, Michelle, Scott, Andrew, and Neung and of course Nion. And the new faces of Edwin, Woot, Ray, Nick, Radoslaw, Poom, Top and Noodle.
We all like to thank the army lieutenant colonel Natthagarn also known as Mr. Act; the leader of the troops to protect us, and his brave men. A thank you to the commander of the Suntisuk unit Colonel Chalit Puangmaleepradap. They did not only make us feel safe, but also had a great interaction with the children and villagers. From the famous rope pull and other games to helping us painting and construct, they have been versatile and they have been our protecting angels. The army also helped with transporting all the goods which saved us a huge amount in transport fees.
It was great to see that our presence created such a wave that not only Channel 5 news came on two separate days but also the 4th regional Army Commander, the top of the top, came to see it for himself. He was impressed by the projects and complimented us that this had never happened before.
A thank you as well to the National Thai Railways for delivering all our goods for free in two completely packed and overloaded train carts.
We also like to thank each and every donor that supported this year. We had a seemingly unachievable target but you still believed in us and supported us. There are too many donors to mention all but we like to pick a few that have gone out of their way to make this year happen. The companies we like to thank are Syndicatum and Michelle; Parker Bridge via Richard and their 4 volunteers Edwin, Woot, Ray and Poom; BrainTrainerPlus and Hendrik; Vetz Petz and Kevin & Meji; Vizrt and khun Ju; SLC and nong Mui; the foundation Care 4 Kids and Woody & Ray and private donor Michal. But as said, each and every donation, small, big or huge has helped us, so our many thanks goes out to all of you.
This year we try to motivate the volunteers to write their stories and their emotions in their own language. We had (of course) Thai, English, Australian, Taiwanese, Irish, Dutch, Malaysian, French and German volunteers, so it has been a multi-national group of good hearted people. These stories will be added to the website www.kharmafoundation.com and also many pictures will be added over the next few weeks and months.
Of course I will add some photos with this letter so you can all get an impression of what was done with your donations and what we have seen.
I would like to finish this letter to you with bits out of a ‘thank you’ note to all volunteers received from Nion after we returned home safely. It shows a bit of the impact we created and the gratitude we have towards our volunteers.
Dear Kharma family,
This morning I received some calls from the girls from Islahuddin School; the difficult school we all visited together. They all told me that they miss you all very much. They all don’t eat the snacks they got as their rewards. They said they don’t want eat it because they can look at it when they think about us. They keep it to remind about us that we have been there. Afterward they asked Neung’s number and also called her to say that they miss us all.
Not only that, so far many girls and boys texting, posting and telling the soldiers that they want us to go back there again. They all miss us. Some of them trying to practice English with me because they want to communicate with you. I wish you could read Thai so I can show you those messages, I sent many of them to the military already
I told you these stories just because I’m very thankful for what you all did. These are the things money can’t buy. One of the goals was to create ‘curiosity’ for them and to realize the world is bigger. The results are more than expected. I want to bow and say thank you for you all a 1,000 times. I have you all as volunteers and many sponsors to help us achieved the goals.
Do you realize you all are the superstars down those provinces already? One more story is the reaction from the military from other units when they had a big meeting together. Some of military leaders said that what we did is saving the country. Do you realize how much people appreciating this!? Because of there was ‘NO ONE’ trying to do this such a thing before.
I’m really happy we did it together. I’m so thankful that I have a chance to know you all and really appreciate your efforts to help. I’m overwhelmed with the result what we achieve together. Thank you thank you thank you. Khop Khun mâak mâak ka.
Be proud of yourself. And I’m really proud of you all. I can’t come up with the beautiful English words, but I want you to know khop Khun mâak mâak from bottom of my heart ka.
This shows the impact we have had on the children, but also the impact the volunteers had on the founder Nion and she was speaking for me too. No matter how big or small the group, it’s the spirit, the energy and the love of the volunteers that made this year such a success.
May I conclude once more from my comfortable couch in my nice house living in moderate luxury to all of you that are living in similar conditions that what I have seen this year, the poverty that these kids have to endure and the horrible circumstances that is the daily life in that area that this year has made me the most proud ever that I founded this Kharma Family of ours. I thank Buddha for the amazing support this little movement has been given by you all and via this mail one more time I want to put the spot light on Nion who has excelled this year over other years, from all of the supporters of the KF: Thank you!
Any other organization or foundation that would like to help this region, please contact the Suntisuk Unit. If people come together in this region to help the children, we could possibly change the future for a more positive one in this region and who knows…
There are still so many things we want to do for both kids and the people that take care of them, and luckily we have some money left so more updates will follow. For now, just items like mattresses, pillows and towels have made a huge difference for children that never had such ‘luxury’.
More stories, impressions and photos will follow. For now I am sitting here with a smile and a proud feeling. No arrogance, no self-indulgent… just extremely proud of the volunteers and proud of the support of the donors.
Martin & Nion
School 1: Darulhikma, Narathiwas
A: construction= new toilets
B: giving school, sport and food goods for kids and school
C: activity = teaching + sport day
School 2: Tadiga Mabuwoh, Narathiwas
A: construction = renovating class rooms
B: giving school and sport stuff for kids and food supplies for school + playground
C: activity = teaching + sport day
School 3: Issarahuddin, Songkhla
A: construction = renovating girls dorm
B: giving sport equipment, food and study material for kids and school
C: activity = teaching + sport day + big cleaning day + veggies gardening competition
School 4: Jaroensaat, Yala
A: construction = new boys dorm
B: giving sport equipment, food and study material for kids and school + extra kindergarten school
C: activity = teaching + sport day + big cleaning day
Stuff we donated via our Kharma Family members:
- 1000 kilos of rice
- 1000 bags of vermicelli
- 1000 underwear and clothing
- 2 playgrounds
- Gardening tools and seeds
- 2060 bags of sanitary napkin
- 6 ceiling fan
- 1010 towels
- 12 small tables and 12 book shelves
- 1,000 toothbrushes
- 1000 underwear
- 1,000 buckets + 1,000 soaps
- Paint for toilets and sleeping quarters
- 1 Cooler tank
- Sporting equipment for 4 schools
- 170 mattresses
- 50kg of detergent
- 40 big cooking spoons
- 600 bra’s
- 2,000 notebooks
- 100 boxes of color pencil
- 200 cans of canned fish
- 20 brooms
- Snacks for 4 schools
- 20 kitchen knives
- 10 cutting boards
- 1,000 bags of snacks
- 3,200 pens and pencils
- 1,000 rulers
- 50 liters of fish sauce
- 50 Kg of sugar
- 50 liters of cooking oil
- 50 liters of soy sauce
- 40 Kg of salt
- 18 water bottles
- 2 lunch boxes
- 12 puppets
- 2 umbrellas
- 17 handbags
- Roofing for soldier huts (private sponsor)
Dear Donors and Supporters,
In 2007 the idea of the Kharma Foundation (KF) was founded and 9 years later I am very happy to write to you after another successful journey: “Kharma Foundation goes Valentine 2016”. Nine is a lucky number in Thailand and I feel lucky to be a part of this great cause.
Today is the worldwide day of love and we have tried to spread some love with the support of many of you out there. I say ‘we’ as it was yet another group effort of donors and volunteers.
Over the years we have had some changes in the ranks, but the goals and the spirit remains the same.
9 years and the Kharma Foundation is still alive and kicking. Already 9 years of unselfish volunteers and donors that take the time to improve the lives of children that can use a helping hand.
This year the volunteers were: Scott, Lucy, Mark, Nat, Charlie, Phil, Bo, Sompong, Thanasat, Nirandon, Tharagon, Pornsak, myself and last but not least Janpen; a varied group from different nations and backgrounds but together in their love to do something positive.
We travelled to the district of Umphang in Tak province, the most desolate of regions in Thailand. Accessible only via the Death Highway and even when you reach the ‘capitol’ Umphang; not more than a village, it was still a long and uncomfortable travel to the two schools over dirt roads and small mountain paths. Nature’s beauty all around as far as your eyes can see but you soon realize that due to the remoteness of this part of Thailand not much help arrives to these schools and these children.
The two schools are named the Mae Chan Ta School in Mae Chan and the Le Tang Ku School near the Le Tang Ku waterfall. Both under control of the border police as they are close to Myanmar. The second school was literally 1 kilometer from the border; an imaginary line in a mountainous jungle.
Due to the great help of Lucy bringing greater awareness to the KF we have managed to outscore all expectations and gathered the highest amount of donations in the history of the KF.
We have managed to support 5 ‘building projects’ and the following donations of goods to both schools:
Building projects at the Mae Chan Ta school
– new toilet bowls and tiles to create a more hygienic toilet space
– brand new washing area to clean plates and clothes
– 6 new water tanks that hold 12000 liters of water
– a revamp of the dormitory for the children that sleep in the school
Building project at the Le Tang Ku school
– a brand new and bigger cantina annex activities hall
We donated a brand new playground to the Mae Chan Ta School, and this was HUGE success.
Goods donated to both schools:
– 1000 kilos of rice to both schools
– 100 kilos of glass noodles
– professional water filtering system with 2 years of filters
– 2 pairs of flip flops (slippers) for all children of both school, 625 in total
– for every child a big new towel
– a new toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and soap
– thick mattresses, new pillows and blankets for the children that sleep at school, about 70 in total
– mosquito nets for the kids and teachers
– over a 100 kilos in canned food like fish and vegetables for both schools each
– cooking equipment and cooking ingredients like oil, fish sauce, salt, etc.
– school learning equipment like books and paper
– school materials like pens, pencils, paint, glue, scissors, staplers, etc.
– board games for social interaction and play
– sports equipment like footballs, volleyballs, Takrow balls & badminton gear
– a cuddly brand new teddy for each of the 625 children
– a variation of other toys for the older children like etcha-sketcha’s
– a small gift to the permanent teachers in the philosophy “happy teacher, happy kids”
– a multitude of snacks as prizes for the sports day and general rewards in class
– and last but not least 200 new sport shirts for the Mae Chan Ta school for sports activities!
As you see, we have spent the donations wisely and we put the funds to good use. We try to find the right balance between the four goals we have: a better place to sleep, education, nutrition, sports & fun.
The visit to both schools was amazing and both head teachers were very grateful that a group of foreigners came to lend some support to ‘their’ children. Unselfish help, help with no strings attached.
They had only once seen a group similar to us years ago but they turned up and unloaded a lot of stuff, took pics with the kids and the boxes of goods and gifts… then loaded it all up again and drove off without leaving anything behind! No good glory hunters that misuse the children to make some profits.
For us to come and help, with no hidden intentions, no bible in hand like previous American churches did to seek more followers, not looking for any other reward then just seeing happy smiles on the kids’ faces… that was new to them. And happy faces we did see. The expression on the faces of the kids after they saw the playground and played non-stop till the sunset was priceless to see.
The children that sleep in the school were completely overfilled with joy with their first ever mattress. Just imagine how good they have slept that first night and every night since on a 4 inch thick mattress after laying on a bamboo woven mat… and a brand new pillow and blanket to make it complete.
The kids that got their first teddy could not stop hugging it and were even happier when we drove off and not asked it to be returned to us; of course they could keep it! The more than 200 four different color shirts for the schools’ sport day look perfect on the children as you will see in the photos.
One job was left unfinished and that was the plastering and painting of the inside walls of the dormitory in the Mae Chan Ta school. The technicians/police officers to do this job were called away to perform urgent police duties of stopping illegals crossing the border nearby after a new conflict within Myanmar.
But we have the promise that this task will be finished soon and we will keep you updated with the pictures when it is done. For now the new mattresses, pillows and blankets were a good first step.
All in all I can only conclude it was yet another successful mission! 1000’s of kilometers, 1000’s of kilos, 1000’s of smiles, 1000’s of good memories. The group of volunteers was simply great. Everybody supported each other and there was not one negative vibe the whole trip. Enjoying the trip is the reward we were looking for and all the new volunteers enjoyed every minute. The travelling was hard and it was like being in a different part of the world; a place where time has stood still.
The kids, oh the kids… their smiles, their faces, their energy! It was amazing. Shy the first day as usual but the second day the interaction was great. For most of them, the younger ones, it was the first time they saw actual white giants in real life… not on a T.V. screen, but in real, in their school! We have some great portrait pictures for you to enjoy.
I want to thank each donor for supporting our modest efforts to try to do something positive in the world. Each donation, big and small, is greatly appreciated and needed to make these charity trips to a success. I want to personally thank Club Insomnia Pattaya, Legends pool hall Pattaya, Braintrainer Plus Netherlands and Care for Kids Charity for their great support.
Then lastly my sincere gratitude goes out to the volunteers to take time out their busy lives and make the trip to a successful trip and a fun trip. Thanks to Sompong and his friends for the good guidance and care. Thanks to the general mister Amarit for his support and the opening of doors. And a special thank you to my girlfriend Janpen; without you and all your time and energy it would have not gone so well… You are Kharma’s super star for 2015/2016!
I hope you enjoy the photos we have selected and of course I hope together we will keep the Kharma Foundation around for many years to come!
Martin and the volunteers
-The Kharma Foundation-