• APRBVT Funds Bangkok Schools Project

    17 July 2018

    For many years The Lighthouse Club Bangkok (LCB) has been involved with the provision of construction site schools in Bangkok along with its association with Father Joe Maier of the Mercy Centre and the Human Development Foundation.  Raising funds for these schools has been the sole purpose of every event LCB has run, usually in the form of Golf Tournaments and, of course, by members’ donations.  

    On a visit to Bangkok in late 2016, the, then Asia Pacific Region (APR), Committee were invited to LCB’s monthly get-together and during the evening there was mention of how difficult it was to continually fund what is, almost, a never-ending beneficiary. 

    Fast forward to May 2018 and LCB have become the latest recipient of funds from the Asia Pacific Region Benevolent Trust (APRBVT) after deciding to become members of Lighthouse Club International (LHCI).  This was after several months of communication between the previous APR, now International, Committee, LCB and the Trustees of the APRBVT.  LCB, along with the Clubs in Vietnam and Cambodia, have no legal status in their respective countries so joining LHCI allows them to be “official”. 

    With almost all of the due diligence carried out, Steve Tennant visited Bangkok in January and was taken to a couple of the schools.  More recently in May, Janey Rogers visited 3 of the schools and provided “The Lighthouse” with this article and photographs:

    “Construction has been booming in Bangkok.  Those empty shells of projects left after the 1998 crash, which were still dotted all over the city in the early to mid-2000s, have all but disappeared.  On every construction site, there are families living, sometimes in fairly reasonable conditions, with their satellite dishes perched on roofs feeding in their favourite nightly soap operas; sometimes in not so favourable and, frankly, squalid squatter camps.  Mum and Dad are working all day, and their children are running amok and at risk from everything on a typical construction site.  That is, until the Lighthouse Club Bangkok set up its construction schools.

    The 3 schools I visited were Ekkamai 23, CES and Bangya Preak.  Arriving at Ekkamai 23, I was greeted with enthusiastic “Sawadees” from the dozen or so children, whose ages ranged from 2 to 12.  One teacher was charged with making sure these youngsters had enough to occupy them and from the looks of the tiny school, it seemed that there were plenty of educational toys, books etc.  One or two more diligent pupils were busy with their alphabet letters and there was evidence of English lessons too.  I handed out new pencils to all of the children, kindly provided by Hong Kong Chairlady, Cordia Yu.  It was hard to imagine that these children couldn’t leave their corrugated iron fenced “home”.

    The next stop was CES school.  This was on a bigger camp site, which was protected by security and looked very neat and tidy.  The school is a more permanent structure than that of the wooden school at Ekkamai.  CES is concrete and metal with certainly more protection from the elements when the monsoon rains come pouring down.  Unfortunately, on arrival, it was empty as it was lunchtime and, I was told, the children always go home for lunch.

    The third school was Bangya Preak.  Here, there were around 15 children, ages ranging from 3 to 16.  The teacher, Khun Sutnan, actually stays on camp Monday to Friday, only going to her own home at weekends, such is her devotion to educating these children.  Another round of smiling faces, polite “wais” and “Sawadees” and even a “Hello, where do you come from?” from one of the youngsters.  Again, most of the children were Cambodian.  The only drawback about Bangya Preak school is that there appears to be termite infestation affecting the wooden structure so the school is going to have to be demolished and rebuilt as soon as possible.

    There are times in life when you want to do so much but feel so helpless.  I asked if the children were ever taken on trips outside the camp, to the Zoo or other places.  The answer, sadly, was no.  Because some of the parents are mostly without up to date identity documentation, it’s too risky for these children to ever leave the camps.  That was something very hard to comprehend. 

    Life is tough but there were still plenty of smiles from the children and the teachers in the schools visited. 

    The final stop was to the Mercy Centre and I was introduced to Father Joe who happened to be on his way out as I was coming in.  To be thanked for just being present felt embarrassing and humbling when so much work is being carried out to make people’s lives better and all I was doing was turning up to take some photographs.  The Mercy Centre is based in Khlong Toei and has been helping disadvantaged families for many years.  The actual centre itself was built  18 years ago and its constructor, John Cook, had just passed away two days prior to my visit.   

    All that we do, as Lighthouse Club members far and wide, in our various lives within the construction industry means absolutely nothing if we are unable to put back something to make somebody’s life better.  If you imagine your child being left to roam around a site where the hazards are too numerous to mention then these schools are a lifeline.  All credit to LCB who have been supporting them for so long. 

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