Pattaya, 23- March- 2019.
Dear donors, family and friends,
The muscle ache is gone, the emotions have calmed. It is time to report to you what we have achieved this year. But first we want to take a moment to stand still by the sad news that the father of our super volunteer Lucy has passed away during our journey back off the mountain.
This year we dedicate this trip to Rod Travers (1946 – 2019); may he rest in peace.
This year in numbers: with two late donations we have managed to reach a total of 926,388 Baht which is about 22,594 GBP (26,095 Euro). There are 112 kids on the Ko Prae School, from 3 to 16 years old.
To reach the school you need to drive 7 hours from Chiang Mai, a steep decline on foot, a 45 minute boat ride on the Salawin river which forms the border between Thailand and Myanmar and then a 6 kilometer trek through a dry river bedding up a mountain and lastly a 300 meter climb up a hill with 37 degrees.
We donated 1 dormitory so the 45 girls can sleep safely at school; some have lost their parents, have addicted parents, working parents or just live too far from the school. Another donation is 10 state of the art solar cells, which manages a 5KW electric system which helps the school and the 10 huts that make up the village Baan Ko Prae. 7 brand new toilets were built and 1 playground has been placed with 3 cool pieces which was optimally used by a 100% of the small kids. We gave 65 mattresses, pillows and blankets to the kids and the teachers. 112 toys like Lego and Barbie dolls, but also 112 cuddly bears.
Kitchen equipment and long lasting canned foods. For every child we have a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and washing powder with loads to spare for a second round. And for every kid we had a brand new school uniform. We also will donate a new uniform to the school of last year; another 153 children will look amazing. Because of some late donations we have 60,746 Baht left over for the next year.
A small summary of the trip. What a journey! Even for the sport addicts in the group it was a heavy trek, especially the last hill at 37 degrees heat. But for the sports impaired, especially those with a little extra weight, it was a horror. We were not the first white people coming to the village; 10 to 12 years ago they had the American army in the region, probably for the war on drugs.
Our team consisted out of Lucy, Mark, the 12 year old Charlie, Gina, Somphong and his friend Tuk, police detective Keng who came as protection, the Kharma chef Noodle and Martin. Lucy was the first white lady ever so she had a lot of eyes focused on her; and Martin was the fattest man ever on this mountain so he had a lot of surprised eyes when arriving all sweating and breathing heavily.
The river was breathtakingly beautiful, mountains on both sides, sandy beaches, little shacks and peeking Burmese. Only a few dared to wave back and most looked like they saw white ghosts. The river’s water comes from the Himalaya so it was cold and fast flowing.
The arrival was pretty emotional as it was such a hard trek. It might have been lightly underestimated by some, but a great victory when we could lie down and take off the shoes and soaked clothes. The ladies went straight in to the kitchen and created an outstanding meal right after arriving: respect and love to the kitchen crew.
The first full day we spend on meeting the kids, seeing the building projects, handing out the uniforms, made a lot of pictures, had a great lunch and after a drawing competition. A top day. The kids were a bit shy, but we used to that. Some clearly had fewer problems with us and it was fun interacting with the few that were more curious than scared.
The second day we had a small sports day in the morning, a great lunch and in the afternoon the balloon stamp dance game and after that we donated the goods to each kid. All of them were walking around with huge smiles and a towel full of goods and toys. They were more curious, more smiling, less shy and scared. It was fun to see how the kids opened up and the joy on the volunteers faces. We had a great dinner at night with the teachers.
After breakfast the day after it was time to go down the mountain. Lucy heard the night before that her father was not doing well in hospital and it was all on our minds. The beautiful nature we walked through was a distraction. During the boat ride back down the river her father passed and went up the spiritual river; father and daughter may have met in spirit which gave the river a magical touch. Lucy was amazingly strong, we all admire her greatly.
All in all we look back on a beautiful and successful trip. Definitely Lucy too; she was happy she came, just like her father would have wished. The kids, the teachers and the parents were happy, the volunteers were delighted with the results and hopefully you as donor and supporter will be happy to reading this letter.
We can do this all only with your support, 12 years already. We have helped thousands of kids, trying to make their life a little better, their future a bit more bright. We thank you all. The Kharma family has reached anther summit, literally and figuratively. We wish you a great weekend and a great, healthy and happy year ahead.
With the warmest greetings,
The Volunteers of the Kharma Foundation