I recently noticed that I’ve neglected to communicate clearly what I will be doing in Thailand. This post is intended to set the record straight!
While in Thailand, we will be volunteering with The Charis Project, a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization that focuses it’s efforts in Mae Sot, Thailand. Mae Sot is a border city along Thailand’s western border with Burma. The population there is mainly comprised of Thai nationals, Burmese immigrants, and many hill tribes such as the Karen, Lahu and Lisu. The main purpose of The Charis Project is to empower, strengthen, and build up families and communities to care for and protect their own children, thus ending the need for orphan care. This organization represents the new breed of NGOs. Rather then depend on foreign aid, Chair works to encourage the community to adopt new solutions for old problems while at the same time fostering ownership in the process and job skill acquisition. One end result, we hope, is that sex-trafficking will go bankrupt because orphaned children will become just a memory.
Charis is still in it’s initial start-up phase. It has a few core programs that have initially been funded by outside donations, specifically the Charis Learning Farm, which I will be volunteering with, and the children’s home, or Family Support Center (FSC). The FSC functions mostly as an orphanage, but differs from classical applications in that it’s goal is to be self-sustaining and even provide for the community around it. For example, the farm, which is attached to the FSC, had a great rice crop this year and was able to provide enough for the FSC, some to sell and some to GIVE AWAY. When was the last time an orphanage gave something away? This shows that the model is working. Check out their website for more info on the FSC.
The Charis Learning Farm offers a similar service as the FSC in that it provides education, job skills and jobs to local residents. However, the farm is intended to bring money into the Charis Project, hence the self-sustainability model. The method by which we will do this is through organic and natural farming methods and healthier food
development in the midst of a food economy saturated with toxic pesticides which lead to health hazards to the field workers and the consumer. I will be taking on the role of Farm Manager upon my arrival. Gladly, since I have only frontyard farming experience, there will be a lot of on-the-job training. The current farm manager literally manages the farm. He is in the dirt everyday, something I’m looking forward to. However, my role will be more expansive.
While I’ll definitely be involved in planning, experimentation, and implementation of new farming techniques, I’ll also need to be involved in networking with other organic/natural farmers, investigating the latest farming methods, setting up a marketplace from which to sell our products and investing in relationships with the workers we hire.
I am both honored and excited to take part in this very worthy opportunity to serve my fellow man. It also helps that I’ll get to live out a childhood dream to run my own farm. I look forward to the physical demand of the job and experimentation with the crops. While I was there in October of 2014, I saw the farm in motion. The worm bins were completing their first cycle, organic fertilizers were brewing and the rice was growing. On my last day at the farm, we put together a garden bed for some yams. Those yams are nearing their harvest and look amazing. I can’t wait to get back to Thailand and get my hands dirty!