In a first for the School in a Bag charity, its latest delivery of SchoolBags to help poor, orphan and vulnerable children in Thailand has had an extended impact by generating much-needed business within the children’s local area. This development is testament to the power of social media as the whole concept for the project came about via Facebook.
Luke Simon from the School in a Bag charity worked at the Prem Tinsulanonda International School in Thailand from 2004 to 2007. One of his students during that time, Hannah Smith, now works for the DEPDC/GMS (Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong Sub-region) and a chance conversation via Facebook in March this year has led to this successful collaboration between the two organisations.
Jointly coordinated by Luke in England and Hannah in Thailand, the Somerset-based charity has been able to get 350 of its eye-catching red SchoolBags printed and the contents sourced in Thailand, giving a boost to the local economy as well as saving on transportation costs. Volunteers from the DEPDC/GMS assembled the SchoolBags and have distributed them to students in their Mae Sai, Mae Chan and Chiang Khong centres.
The DEPDC/GMS is a non-profit community based NGO in Thailand, which aims to prevent the trafficking of women and children into the sex industry or other exploitative child labour situations. One of their key objectives is to provide schooling and vocational training to help abused or abandoned children start a new, more positive life, so the SchoolBags that have been donated provide valuable support.
School in a Bag Charity Liaison Officer Luke Simon said, “This pilot collaboration has worked well on many levels. Through Hannah’s network in Thailand we’ve been able to cut down on the cost per SchoolBag, which means the money goes much further and we can therefore help more children. We’ve saved on shipping costs by getting everything produced in Thailand, which also avoids a lot of time spent on red tape, and we’re generating business for suppliers over there, helping to improve the local economy. It’s been a great success and we’re already talking to Hannah about a possible phase two, as well as looking at ways to replicate this structure elsewhere to help us increase the value and reach of every donated pound.”
The donations used for this project were raised during the inaugural School in a Bag Awareness Week in April, a week-long series of fundraising activities including the Pampered Chef Ready Steady Cook night, the Avon Gorge Climb and Abseil, Shopping bag packing at Tesco and a Day Ride to Burnham on Sea.