Today, with many of us helping people in need in different ways, I am reminded of the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation.

 

 

I remember my first charity evening dinner in 2008 at Royal Phuket Marina, where I met Sue Ultmann. I learned so much about the foundation and how it had been started by Baan Rim Pa restaurant after the 2004 Asian Tsunami with the aim of teaching English for FREE at local government schools where English was not being taught due to the schools being at the lower end of the scale.

Originally the charity started at the small school in Kalim with 124 students. The big school in Kamala asked for help as they had no budget to teach English and that is how it progressed to teaching more than 600 children each year. Almost 200 of these children live in a dormitory at the school as they are either orphans or their parents are unable to care for them. An after school and weekend program called “Coconut Club” is organized for these children.

The teachers are tasked with educating the students in English and in recent years, Science in English, Math in English has been added. The goal is to give the children a better chance of finding work in Phuket’s most prominent industry – tourism. The name of the foundation says it all – Phuket Has Been Good To Us – and it’s true!

Back then, I suddenly realized that I want to see the school in Kamala myself, which the foundation supports, to make sure that it was not some kind of front. We Russians are always suspicious, but when I arrived at the school, I remember tearing up. I’m not very tearful, but I remember really crying because of what I saw.

I had never seen children running towards a teacher to give them a big hug, or children who enjoy simple gifts and signs of attention. For them, it is a miracle of miracles. I had never seen children locked in a school, not because they are not allowed anywhere, but because they have nowhere else to go.

I had never seen children running towards a teacher to give them a big hug, or children who enjoy simple gifts and signs of attention. For them, it is a miracle of miracles.

I never saw such open smiles and such kindness towards teachers. I never knew that there were people, volunteers, who come to a school to help children understand normal life from the outside. To teach them how to cook, how to care for themselves and other things that seem ordinary and familiar to us who are born and raised in a functional family.

I saw older children taking care of the younger children as if it were the family they never had. I thought that God would reward the people who organized and supported the foundation for many years – those who come to the school only to help. Those who take the children (the lucky few) out on Saturdays and weekends with their family to enjoy ‘normal life’, and those who help them to survive by giving small contributions.

The foundation exists without government support – only with donations. The foundation used to hold many significant events with hotels, restaurants and activists from the sports and entertainment industries. The events would attract a large number of people and, of course, the funds they need to operate – approximately 300,000 THB per month.

 

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The times have changed, relegating many of us to our homes and subdistricts and with social distancing becoming the new norm. Still, there are children at the school who need to be fed and looked after. The everyday household items we take for granted are the items they go without. Food, water, electricity, washing powder, toilet paper, masks and other essential goods – the same ones we need to get by on an everyday basis.

Now, with social distancing and subdistrict lockdowns, the school does not have the staff to continue operating. The children cannot be integrated with families, and you can not visit the boarding school. With your contributions, however small or big, we can help the foundation to continue and the kids to survive.

All the galas and parties organized by the foundation were prestigious and hugely successful; collecting large amounts of money – we were all proud of our involvement and contributions. We did not spare any money to attend these events either, with stunning outfits, shoes and hairstyles. After all, it was essential for us to have our selfies taken, to look good and show everyone that we’re not greedy and believe in helping the less fortunate. I do not think that some attended these events only to eat and drink wine, no. I believe that aside from the boost in self-esteem, there existed in each of us a desire to help.

With your contributions, however small or big, we can help the foundation to continue and the kids to survive.

It must be accepted that we are all ambitious and inclined to show off – this is normal, and indeed, I am one who enjoys the attention. But if it helps others around us in a less fortunate situation, then why not? This is not something we should feel shame for, we must be proud of it!

I am not one to judge who helps whom and how – this comes from the heart and should never be done out of obligation. Still, I want to ask you to help those who are in need – those who you will not see on the street, at sunset when you are jogging or in the supermarkets. Time has changed, and we can’t get together for dinner or have parties, but none of this is necessary if we want to help.

Instead, let’s get some wine and make dinner in our own homes, and transfer the money we save to the foundation! Imagine how many we are, how close we are to each other and how proud of each other we would be and most of all, how happy the children will be!

We must have gratitude for the fact that we are all here, the fact that we are allowed to be here, to have our own businesses, homes, families, and to teach ours and our community’s children. For many ex-pats, Phuket has become a home rather than a vacation destination. We have been allowed to be here in this beautiful and warm country, and we must be thankful for that.

We must have gratitude for the fact that we are all here, the fact that we are allowed to be here, to have our own businesses, homes, families, and to teach ours and our community’s children.

We enjoy the warmth and sunshine from this country, we live in comfort, some have family here, gave birth to children here; this is our home. Still, it’s time to give back, or at least to try to give back. You could say that there are so many foundations – Save The Elephants, Soi Dog, the list goes on. Take the time to help the foundations you consider deserving, and what you give will return to you. We say give and take, not the opposite.

The foundation has only enough funds to survive a few months after school returns. They desperately need help to continue their amazing work.

There’s a saying we have in Russia:

“From each one thread, and the poor get a shirt.”

Writing with immense respect and love to Sue Ultmann

Raisa Sheludkina
Raisa Sheludkina

Raisa is the founder and publisher of Real Life Magazine. She arrived to Phuket and founded Railand Property real estate agency in 2009. Fun-loving, kind and openhearted, she effortlessly contradicts many of the stereotypes attached to the island’s Russian community. Contact Raisa at raisa@rl-property.com


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