Rural Training Center, Thailand (RTC-Thailand)

Holiday Thanks

Dec 15, 2006

In so many places of the world, conflict and strife fill the lives of many with fear and dread. Uncertainty fills their daily lives leaving precious little time to think of the future.
The 2006 holiday season is upon us, and the Rural Training Center-Thailand (RTC-TH) staff and volunteers are thankful for the support and good wishes from many people who have chosen to say ?“yes?” to our Thailand project, and to our Y.E.S. focus (Youth, Environment, and Sustainability).

The RTC-TH is an all volunteer / shoestring effort. No one gets a salary or stipend. We don?’t seek grants or outside funding. Our core belief is that money is NOT the solution to a problem. People and education are the central ingredients for solving problems. One test of the belief we have in what we do is a simple one. We spend our own money for the effort. After all, if you are not willing to spend you own money on a project, why would you expect anyone else to give you their money to spend on it?

During the 2006 holiday, several volunteers prepared for the Jan 2007 Rural Environmental Education Enhancement Pilot Program (REEEPP) effort. Amazingly, 86% of the group served in the summer 2005 REEEPP trip! All volunteers pay their own expenses to participate. To do so two times says much about their dedication to the project. So here is a big hats off to Erika Rodriguez, Andy Arboleda, Tuyen La, and Robert Rodriguez.

While there are many who support our efforts, we would like to mention a few people who have stood out recently. Veronica Rojas, an ?“experienced youth?” who came to college and took GEOG 1 (Physical Geography) with Mr. Lee, donated a number of boxes of children?’s books for the Jan 2007 effort. Veronica has also pledged GIS support for the RTC-TH Demonstration Farm and has ambitions to help launch a GIS training effort for REEEPP.

Sue Nelson, a member of the Los Angeles Geographical Society (LAGS), went on an LAGS trip to Southwestern China co-led by Greg Lee in 1999. A former school teacher, Sue donated $25 toward books for the Na Fa Elementary School library. In terms of the the Thai economy, that means 900 Thai Baht, the equivalent of about 9 days pay for a common Thai worker in rural Nan Province.

Carol Kellog, a teaching colleague of Mr. Lee, also donated children?’s books for the Na Fa Elementary School library. ?“Starting about Thanksgiving, I start cleaning my children?’s bookshelves?” said Carol in response to Mr. Lee?’s request for children?’s books.

Carlos Solis, a former student of Mr. Lee?’s GEOG 10 (Human Impact on the Environment), came by with a medium-sized box of assorted school supplies and $100 cash for the Jan 2007 REEEPP effort. ?“I?’ve been getting the e-mails and watching the website. This is a good project, and I want to do something to help,?” Carlos said as he made his donation. When you consider the exchange rate in Thailand, his $100 contribution become 3,600 Thai Baht. ?“That is more than some common workers in rural Thailand make in a month!?” said Lee.

In contrast to much larger organizations, these people-to-people efforts may seem miniscule. ?“The size of the material and monetary contribution is not really that important. The really important aspect of all of this is the genuine humanitarian connection. The community-based education approach we use in the RTC-TH is predicated on people who have (e.g. knowledge, skills, or resources) and care to share with others. The RTC-TH is dedicated to providing opportunities for those who care to share to meet, directly or indirectly, with the program beneficiaries?….the learners. The learners self-select to participate in RTC-TH training. They also make a commitment to share what they learn with others. They are reminded that they would not be able to get the training if others did not care to share with them. So the initial actions of caring and sharing are as a small pebble dropped into a pond. As the ripples disperse outward, they expand into every widen circles and reach distant places,?” says Lee.

?“Ultimately, all of us benefit. For me and my wife Saifon, we get to do a project that gives back to her elementary school and village. At the same time, she gets to visit her family and friends. We don?’t have a lot of money. But we do have time and energy, knowledge and skills, we make do with what we have, and we care and share. I like to think that this simple approach is something that makes our parents proud of who we are and what we have become,?” said Lee. ?“Years from now, as things turn to dust I don?’t know how many people will remember us as individuals. I do hope they will remember some of the lessons from REEEPP and become better people for it and became empowered to make a good life for themselves and others.?”

The RTC-TH staff and volunteers also send thanks to the Faculty, Staff, and students at Na Fa Elementary School. Without their outstanding dedication to REEEPP, these volunteer trips would not be possible. And lastly, and most importantly, the RTC-TH staff and volunteer send their sincere thanks and best wishes to you, our supporters, for the holidays and new year!

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