Dr. Prem Naidoo กับโครงการ Thai-ED เพื่อการศึกษาของเด็กด้อยโอกาสในประเทศไทย
How did you decide which charitable organisation to work with for the project?
I decided on using EDF because of the information available about EDF and the Darunee Fund. The Darunee Fund originated following the meeting of Terumasa Akio and an impoverished child called Darunee living in the North-East of Thailand. The fund emerged on the basis of a compassionate engagement between two privileged communities (USA and Japan) and a less privileged one (Isaan). I went to a school named Kamhlaba by King Sobhuza of Swaziland. Kamhlaba means one world. I believe all living things are one which is perhaps a Buddhist thought.
On meeting with EDF staff what has impressed me is their openness, their humanness and their willingness to trust. In any organisation transparency, honesty, decency, accountability and respect are characteristics to be admired. These I have certainly found at EDF.
Based on your experience as a helping professional, what do you think are the main problems that a charity faces in dealing with donors?
Appealing to donors is a matter of establishing confidence, trust and credibility. I myself have been quite surprised by the suspicion that arises when one mentions collecting money to help others. Relationships with donors therefore seem to me to be important. They should be given sufficient and ongoing information. Also reliability and dependability are paramount.
An important aspect of the relationship I think is that of mutual respect. Giving donors the appropriate respect for their efforts is fundamental. I think we forget that the funds offered by donors are hard-earned. The generosity of others needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. It should not be taken for granted.
What advice do you have to offer to other associations/clubs that want to be a part of helping society?
My advice to individuals whether part of an organisation or club or not is simply do it. To help others is to help oneself. Society thrives on people who trust enough to help others. No-one gets anywhere in life without help from someone else. I recently suggested a friend read “The Outsider” by Camus. After a few chapters she said she thought it depressing. To me it isn’t depressing. What it does have is a profound message for what society expects of us all. It expects involvement, interest and engagement. My word for this is commitment.
There are many established organisations like the Rotary organisation which always helps people who are ready to give. There is much information on the internet about organisations helping society. I was recently very impressed by reading about CO-ID, an organisation created by Fred Hyde helping Australians to build schools in Bangladesh. Just because there isn’t an organisation doing exactly what you wish to do doesn’t mean you cannot (as did I) set up an organisation to work with other established ones. Don’t be afraid to contact others about your ideas and above all trust in others.
What were your reasons for specifically donating for children’s education in the North-East of Thailand (Isaan)?
In all countries there are the possessed and the dispossessed. The river of poverty that runs so visibly through the centre of Bangkok has as its source the 12 to 14 million people who live in extreme poverty in Isaan. The people of the world see the people of Isaan but know nothing of Isaan. Even the people of Bangkok find Isaan an invisible place. I believe this to be wrong, even unforgiveable. Replacing a culture of dispossession with a culture of hope and a desire for a better future is the key. Who better to instil this than the children of Isaan?
How is the Rotary Club involved in the Thai-ED project? What are the types of fundraising that you do for the project?
The two Rotary Clubs that have been fundamental in setting up the Thai-ED project have been the Rotary Club of Chatswood in Sydney and the Rotary Club of Bangkok. My heartfelt (jing-jai) thanks in this regard go to Peter Kindred in Australia and Prof. Zadok Lempert in Bangkok without whose support Thai-ED would not have been possible. Rotary is well known for its support of charitable causes worldwide. The initial plan for Thai-ED is in its support for scholarships for high school students in Isaan. We are hoping that with the aid of the Rotary Foundation we may be able to progress to funding for computer or library equipment.
Our main fundraising efforts have so far come from individual donation. In February alone this has provided funding for a further fifty children. For 2009 we expect to start our endeavours earlier and hopefully be even more successful than this year.
We expect to attract a certain degree of corporate sponsorship. We may be fortunate enough to get funding from health companies for students interested in nursing or medicine.
I have contacted a number of prominent schools in Sydney. It may be that high school students will find within themselves a degree of empathy for their less fortunate counterparts and offer direct support. That would certainly be a way of making a very real and direct contribution to changing the world in a positive manner. At this point two schools have intimated some interest in obtaining further information.
We are planning to organise individual fund raising events such as an evening at one of Sydney’s most prominent restaurants. If this is a success then we will follow this with other functions, perhaps using some of the local Thai restaurants for the purpose.
What is RAWCS and what motivates you to undertake a project under it?
RAWCS stands for Rotary Australia World Community Services. It is a specifically Australian organisation which has been set up to help people like us at Thai-ED who do not have direct association with Rotary but would benefit from Rotary support. In principle Rotary normally works directly on its own projects but RAWCS can help by working with other organisations such as EDF. The flexibility of this arrangement has been a godsend to Thai-ED and the children in North-East Thailand whose lives will be changed forever by this intervention.
How do you think education can be of assistance in helping children escape the cycle of poverty?
Poverty is a socio-cultural phenomenon promoting the acceptance of deprivation as an inevitability. Its consequence is a learned helplessness that lasts for decades. It is the task of education to destroy this helplessness.
Education should look at not only technology i.e. learning and passing exams but more importantly the philosophical concept that change for the better is not only desirable but actually possible.
Michael Caine, the actor, talks about his impossible dream. Every year he says he has an impossible dream. The following year as if by magic the dream comes true. The children of Isaan need to be educated to embrace the impossible dream.
What would you like to say to other philanthropists like yourself?
It seems to me that the meaning of life is something to do with connections and relationships. I am not sure what establishes a better relationship than giving to society and helping people in the world. I suspect that a contented life is much more to do with giving than receiving and that this is a truth discovered by many philanthropists.
“Eradicating poverty is not an act of charity. It is an act of justice”. Nelson Mandela