Dear Donors and Friends of the KF,
De muscle ache is gone, the calm has settled in; time to update you all on the results of the 11th Kharma Foundation project.
First some figures:
We have received over 1 million Baht this year, to be exact 1.088.000 Baht which is about 25.300 GBP. We have created 2 brand new dormitories, made from teak wood. This hard wood is native to the region and the buildings will last over 25 years with minimal upkeep. Even the tropic weather can’t hurt these beauties. We also have had built 10 toilet/washing rooms. They are made of bricks and hard wood and should last at least 15 years. So also for the next generations there are safe places to sleep and proper toilets. Together these 3 projects have cost just a little less than 15.000 GBP.
We have also donated mattresses, pillows, blankets and mosquito nets valued at about 1.900 GBP.
The factory had delivered the wrong size mattresses and instead of the 1 person mattresses we ordered, they delivered 2 person mattresses; so we doubled the sleeping space for free. We have donated 11 mattresses to the 11 huts that is the village Jo Phra Key; this so the kids and parents that live there will sleep more comfortable.
Then the playground… this is the most fun donation for the kids. 5 brand new items like seesaws, slides, swings, a helicopter and a spinner. From the minute they were placed there was a traffic jam of kids that were playing on them nonstop. 3 items were ready to use when we were there, 2 still have to arrive. They are too big to transport by pick-up and will be brought by the army helicopter in the next few days. The kids have something to look forward to. The value of the playground plus delivery is 2040 GBP.
Besides all this we have donated dried food, kitchen equipment, books, stationary and other school stuff; and as always sports equipment. Total value: just over 2700 GBP. And we bought a teddy bear for all the 150+ kids for about 300 GBP in total.
This year the logistics and the transport was not only a nightmare but also expensive. Over 10 pick-ups, motorbikes and people to carry the heavy items; in total we spend 2.650 GBP on transport.
We have about 26.000 Baht (600 GBP) left for our next year’s project.
For a small cause sponsored by just family, friends and friends of friends, we have grown to a decent size! From looking for a school till the actual visit it takes about 4 months. It comes with stress and pressure but when you see the glee in the eyes of kids zooming down the slider, when you see a 3 year old girl hugging her first teddy it was all worthwhile. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your ongoing support.
The Kharma Foundation is supported from many countries, from Australia to France, from England to Holland and small donations and big donations make it possible to that we create these projects to help kids that really need a bit of support to make their life a little better.
I can hear you think: But how was the trip…
Simply stated in 2 words the trip was heavy & fantastic. We knew it would not be easy. The teacher had warned us multiple times. But when we were driving on these old raggedy motorbikes on small mountain trails, we suddenly understood why the teacher found it hard to believe that we would actually come. I had requested pics of the road a few times, which he never provided. I guess he was scared that after seeing the ‘road’, we would change our minds.
The first few steps of our travel itinerary this time where like other years. Taxi to the airport, an airplane, the minibus to Mae Sariang (a small village closest to where we need to go) and from there in the 4 wheel drive pick-up trucks towards the school; this was all familiar. Even the 6 hours in the pick-up truck for us seasoned volunteers is almost normal. De road went from good to poor to bad to “ehhh where is the road?”. Trough river beddings, through mud and bushes; the ‘road’ became harder and harder. But then something new: the road ended and we needed to do another 25 kilometers to reach the school. In the middle of the jungle were 15 motorbikes with drivers waiting for us. Luckily we have some footage of the path that followed as you wouldn’t believe it if we told you. Sadly we couldn’t film everything as in many parts you needed both hands to hold on.
The 25 kilometers; which took about 2 hours through ditches, rivers, up the hill, down the hill, up the mountain and down the mountain; was on a trail not wider as my belly. In Myanmar and in Thailand around this time of the year they do a lot of slash and burn where fields get burned to put new crops. These fires spread through the forests and jungles, so for big parts we were driving through freshly burnt areas. This gave an extra dimension to the ravines, the bumpy trail and the tough going up and down steep hills with over 45 degree angles. It was extremely tense and the sight of the school and village was such a delight. In the middle of nowhere is an understatement…
Oh my God, or Buddha, or what other holy spirit: We made it! What a trip. The next three days it spooked in everyone’s head that we also still had to go back the same way; something to keep you up at night.
The kids where as usual scared and shy: white giants have arrived. Some villagers came to look at the new comers and I inquired who was the oldest. A one eyed lady of about 60 was asked if she had ever seen a white person before and she could only recall a missionary when she was young in some other village. We were the first white people to arrive to this school and village. This made the villagers a bit apprehensive and sometimes you could feel like an animal in a zoo. Luckily we are kind of used to it and with some big smiles and Mr. Bean style jokes you can break the ice a bit.
We were able to sleep in the classrooms, which saved us from setting up tents. Sleeping in a room with a roof makes for more comfort. The villagers, the kids and most of the teachers come from the Karen Hill tribe. It is an out casted group from Myanmar that is tolerated in Thailand as long as they stay far away in the mountains.
The first full day we spend with the kids and we had a drawing competition and some games. The second day was a ‘sports day’ with a proper football tournament, musical chairs, balloon games and more fun. The kids clearly enjoyed it and warmed up to us. As always pictures will speak a 1000 words and I do not want to write a book, so I will add a load of beautiful pics with this email.
The most emotional moment was before we handed out all the goods to the kids. In a speech the head teacher thanked us, more important, thanked you, for the unselfishness help we have given.
The teacher was visibly moved, something that moved us. Noodle translated his speech and broke down in tears herself. “Thank you that you did not forget us. Thank you to persevere and made it all the way here. We are humans too, no animals. Thank you for the donations, that did not come with any strings attached.” When the kids thanked us by singing two beautiful songs there were few dry eyes. It was amazingly beautiful. The kids must have thought we were proper weirdos with our tears. But after months of prepping, three days of travelling and reaching our goal, a load fell off our shoulders.
But for myself, I would only really be able to relax if everyone would come off the mountains save and sound. And luckily we did!
When all the volunteers where safe and sound in the pick-ups and we were on the way to civilization was the true moment of the load falling off the shoulders, for all of us. Back in the real world everything seems to be a little different. The way they live in the mountains, if you took away the bikes, it could have been a 100 years ago… or much more. Life is hard, but also life is simple. To experience that with our western mind state is something very special.
Now back at home we are so thankful to be part of this. We are so thankful to all of you that support us year in and year out. We hope more people will do projects like this and together we can make this a little bit of a better world.
Our shirt had the Chinese proverb:
“If you want happiness for one hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a life time, help others.”
Thank you that together we may reach this ultimate happiness.
A sincere and warm greeting from the teachers, the kids and the volunteers.
Chok dee! (Thai for “good luck to all!”)