I recently received a letter from someone who wanted to know about any good charities which they could donate money in order to help children. I have chatted with other people about this topic before and I know that there are quite a few people who want to help but they don’t know which charities to choose. So, what we are going to do over the coming months is bring you a list of charities that either we or people we know have had personal contact. This factor is very important because we know that before you donate you want to be assured that the money will be spent in the right way.
The first deserving charity we want to bring to your attention is The Students’ Education Trust (SET). This was set up by Peter Robinson who many of you may know as “Phra Farang”. Peter started helping students when he was a monk but once it began to become a fulltime job, he decided to disrobe so that he could concentrate on his charity foundation. Since he started, the SET has granted scholarships to more than 2,000 students. In addition, their Welfare Program has given much needed additional help to thousands more. Without these scholarships many of these students would have quit school and ended up in un-skilled jobs for the rest of their lives. The aim of SET is to help break this cycle of poverty.
The following is what Peter has to say about why he needs your help:
“For the thousands of people who visit Thailand every year, the country fully deserves and lives up to its reputation as ‘The Land of Smiles’. Visitors may be whisked from place to place by plane, coach or limousine. They will pass through prosperous-looking towns and cities straddling good main roads and may never appreciate that Thailand is really a nation of tiny and often remote farming villages. The visitor may be forgiven for concluding that almost everybody in the country is engaged in the tourist, service or entertainment industries in some way. In fact, about 80% of the population is involved in farming of one sort or another. Few visitors get to see the poorer, rural areas of Thailand where the daily struggle with poverty and deprivation may be an inescapable fact of life for many families.
“Few Thai farmers become wealthy from their land. In good years – those without drought, flood or pests – most farmers with small areas of owned or rented land are lucky if they can harvest enough rice, fruit and vegetables for their own family needs, with maybe a little left over to sell. Just finding the money to feed the family and buy basic necessities can be a major problem. Many families are trapped in a cycle of poverty, debt and more poverty.
“Even if a family is able to feed its children properly, a desperate shortage of disposable income may mean that anything more than that is a luxury, including even basic education. Primary and secondary education are theoretically compulsory and free, but fees must be paid for higher vocational training and tertiary education. Despite the early free tuition, 49% of children do not study at high school and 33% do not even complete their primary education. (Thailand Research Foundation, 2003). Even at eight or nine years old, children may be needed to work in the rice paddies or to contribute to the family income by getting a job. Often, children do not go to school simply because their parents can’t afford to pay for the uniform and shoes, bus fares, daily lunch or other expenses associated with education.
“Boys from such impoverished backgrounds have the option of ordaining as novice monks. There are usually around 100,000 novices in Thailand, aged from about seven to nineteen. Although often reluctant to ordain, the boys can then study free at monastic high schools and without the expense of uniform, food or accommodation. On completion of their studies, the boys usually disrobe as novices and look for work. Girls don’t have the same option but sometimes, with their brothers taken care of in monasteries, there may be sufficient spare money to ensure at least a basic education for the daughters in the family. If there isn’t, the girls must usually seek employment or work in the rice paddies.
“For many youngsters, the biggest problem comes at the end of junior or senior high school. After three years at high school students can sit the entrance examination to study for skills at vocational or technical colleges in three-year or five-year courses. Alternatively, after studying for six years at high school, they can try for a university place. Many are quite capable of continuing their studies beyond high school and may be desperate to do so, but a simple lack of funds makes further education no more than a dream. Without the money to pay fees or expenses, they are left only with the options of working in the rice paddies or seeking unskilled work in the cities.
“That’s where SET comes in. That’s where you come in…….”
You can help by making a donation of any size or frequency. I have been following this foundation for a few years now and I can assure you that the money is always spent wisely and in a transparent manner. You can pay direct into their bank account if you are in Thailand. Alternatively, they have contacts in both America and the UK. The details are as follows:
Thai Bank account: The SET Foundation, account number 104-2-65347-7, Kasikorn Bank, Kosi Road Branch, Amphur Muang, Nakhon Sawan 60000, Thailand. (SWIFT code: KASITHBK for onward transmission to 04-104).
Friends of the Students’ Education Trust (UK): Write to Ms Joanna Herbert-Stepney, Old Village Stores, Dippenhall Street, Crondall, Farnham, Surrey GU10 5NZ, UK. Phone: 01252 850 253
Friends of SET-USA: Write to Michael A. Brooks, Friends of SET-USA, PO Box 272152, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73137-2152, USA.
Their website is www.ThaiStudentCharity.org where you can find more information.
Please let us know if you can suggest any other worthwhile charity in Thailand.
Related blog: Farang monk