People Matter: what it takes to influence a nation

What does it take to influence a nation?

Imagine Thailand believes that people are the major influencers of a nation, it’s culture, it’s values, and its future.  So we, as an organization and as individuals within that organization, dedicate an immense amount of resources toward the people in this country.

Because people matter, and that matters to us.

On December 26th, 2004, Baan Nam Kehm and it’s neighbouring communities were devastated by one of the worst tsunamis in history.  3,500 Thais and foreigners lost their lives.  Proportionately they suffered the worst losses of any town or city in Thailand.  Families, houses, and relationships were ripped apart in mere minutes, but into the human and physical wreckage came help.  Locals and internationals gathered to help pick up the shattered pieces.  And Imagine Thailand was there.  Right from the start.  And after the initial clean-up, when most aid groups had left, we stayed.   

Because people matter, and that matters to us.

The ravaged community of Takua Pa asked if we could help their children.  Imagine Thailand responded by establishing the Lighthouse Learning Centre, an after-school educational support facility.  Children who would otherwise have struggled in school or dropped out were given an amazing opportunity: help with their studies and a place to be loved and nurtured.

Between 2004 and 2013 the Centre grew out of a small, crowded house and into a permanent facility with room to grow and the kids kept coming.  In ever increasing numbers.  By 2015 we had again outgrown our space and so we launched the “Container Project”.

By early 2017, thanks to generous donations from many people and organizations, 2 shipping containers were converted into classrooms, 1 part-time and 2 full-time employees were hired, and 65 students from 6 local schools were welcomed into their new learning home.

9 students, who have attended the Centre for over 10 years, will graduate this year and move onto higher education. 3 of them will be the first in their families to ever graduate from high school despite the tsunami. Their graduation is an incredible, wonderful, almost unimaginable event!  What made the difference?  In their words, “we received an opportunity to learn, but we’ve also been shown we can make a difference, today and tomorrow”.

Because people matter, and that matters to us.

Each school term, at the request of the local government, our Lighthouse Learning Centre Director, Tak, is asked to lead a Teacher Training Seminar for teachers throughout the region.  One of the attendees commented to her that “one of our girls attends here.  She says she gets more than just tutoring, she also gets love”.  She then asked, “how do you give students love?”.

Tak responded, “We treat every student with dignity, we tell them they have value, we tell them we love them, and we hug them”.

When Tak visited this teacher’s school the following week, the teacher came bounding up to her with a smile on her face.  “I tried what you taught us.  It’s working!  By showing love to the students, they listen better, they are more respectful, and they are showing love and respect to each other.  And what’s more, I realize how much I need love, too”.  And with that she reached out her arms and asked Tak for a hug.

We believe that when a student, a teacher or a community are shown love and given the opportunity to love, they can make a difference.  That’s what it takes to influence a nation.

Because people matter, and that matters to us.

Join us this Giving Tuesday as we seek to strengthen our existing relationships within the community, and look for ways to grow our influence, as we grow the influence in others.  But much more than that, we hope you find an opportunity to give and receive love this season.


The Lingua Franca at Entrance 

For native speakers of English, it feels like we can cheat linguistically around the world. There is often someone, somewhere who can offer assistance in our mother tongue. Here in Thailand, there is a resurgence in the value placed on learning English. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has decided that English will be it’s unifying language. And just like that, there is a felt need to move beyond the jargon specific to one’s field of study and build confidence in free-flow conversation and everyday life (in English, of all languages).

At Entrance Coffeehouse and Studio, investing in students by developing their English skills is a key way to serve the university community. Hannah, our Imagine Thailand team member at Entrance, takes a lead role in using English as a means of connection. Practicing the art of conversation requires a topic (or four) and so learning a language often pushes people to talk more - about the world, about their experiences, and about their expectations.

The staff at Entrance also participate in weekly English lessons with Hannah. Entrance is very much a Thai coffeehouse, but like anything here in Bangkok, there is an international pulse. So you’ll be greeted in Thai by Thai staff members, but know that you’re in the heart of a multicultural mega-city.

Hannah has been running English Club (EC) for four years now and in that time over 200 students have learned communally through EC. Students often start coming motivated by ambitions of working for a larger international company where English is a must. It usually takes a few weeks, but with time you see students grow in confidence and begin to express themselves more freely. EC is a wonderful space for students to move past the educational model of absorption and adoption and into the trickier waters of exploration and discovery. EC meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 17:00 to 19:00 at Entrance Coffeehouse and Studio.

Entrance Family Gatherings (EFG) take place on Friday evenings from 18:00 to 20:00 where conversation centers around a set topic. There is a short presentation of the topic, small discussion groups, and food (because great conversations usually happen around great food). While EC offers the opportunity for conversational practice, EFG is focused time to explore life’s bigger issues and the subject matter engages with life, faith, society, and family. It’s a safe, conversational space to explore some thoughts you may have been having or interact with thoughts you’ve never had before.

If you’re looking to improve your English, check out Entrance. If you’re English is already excellent, then come and enjoy a coffee. Know that the heart behind it all is connection - in any language. For more information contact Hannah (link to Hannah’s email).


ทำไมเด็กมีผลการเรียนที่ดีขึ้น เราช่วยเด็กได้อย่างไร

คงจะมีพ่อแม่หรือผู้ดูแลเด็กจำนวนมากที่กำลังคิดหาวิธี ให้เด็กมีผลการเรียนที่ดีขึ้น ผู้ดูแลเด็ก คือครูคนที่ 2 ของเด็ก จึงสำคัญอย่างยิ่งที่เราจะต้องช่วยเด็กได้  โดยการที่เราจะต้องจัดสรรเวลาคุยกับเด็กเรื่องเรียน ปลูกฝังให้เด็กรักการอ่าน กำหนดเวลานอนให้กับเด็ก  ติดตามประเมินผลการเรียนของเด็กอย่างสม่ำเสมอ  ให้ความรักความอบอุ่นกับเด็ก  หมั่นคอยหาจังหวะถามโจทย์ให้เด็กตอบทั้งเรื่องที่เด็กไม่เข้าใจและเข้าใจ    

หากเขาตอบถูกก็มั่นใจได้ว่าเขาเข้าใจและไม่ลืม   ให้เวลากับเด็กอย่างเต็มที่  ติดตามพฤติกรรมในห้องเรียนของเด็ก จากคุณครู ว่าเด็กเรียนเป็นอย่างไรบ้าง เขามีความตั้งใจหรือไม่ เข้าใจหรือไม่ ถ้ายังไม่เข้าใจก็จะได้หาสาเหตุและวิธีทำให้เขาเข้าใจได้

แต่สิ่งที่สำคัญที่สุด คือ เราต้องให้ความรักกับเด็ก ถ้าเราทำสิ่งเหล่านี้ เราจะช่วยให้เด็กมีผลการเรียนที่ดีขึ้นได้อย่างแน่นอน




Partnerships - Don't Leave Home Without Them

Bennett Cohen had anosmia – he couldn’t smell a thing and had almost no sense of taste.  Yet he wanted to go into the food business.  His old grade 7 buddy and best friend, Jerry Greenfield, wanted to go to medical school, but gave up after getting turned down twice.  The two decided to team up and make bagels, but equipment costs were so high they gave up on that too.  Undaunted, they rented an old gas station and tried their hand at selling ice cream.

John Winston was bright but failed his final high school exams and admitted to being a slacker in art school.  He was far more interested in girls, friends and music.  His mom taught him to play some chords so he started his own band that, ironically, he named after his old school, Quarry Bank High.  Over the next couple of years, the Quarrymen added a couple of teenage musicians, changed their drummer, then settled on a new name.

Partnership – an arrangement in which two or more individuals pool experience, skills, knowledge and other resources.  A strategic partnership can lead to the “whole being greater than the sum of its parts”.  In other words, one plus one can often equal three, and in some cases a whole lot more. The tree that stands alone burns bright when fired by lightning, but surrounded by vast hillsides of timber, the scope, impact and power of the blaze become staggering.

Gifts, connections, passions and experiences from one sharpen, inspire and motivate others to dig deeper into theirs.  I hear the mind and heart of my partner, which reminds me of something significant, which in turn triggers something my partner hadn’t fully developed, and on it goes.

Imagine Thailand is, and always has been, all about partnerships.  Canadians, English, Thai, Burmese and Karen in partnership with each other and, most importantly, in partnership with the one who guides us, calms us, walks with us and quickens our understanding to better know the hearts of these beautiful people.

Because of Imagine Thailand partnerships:  more languages are spoken, meaning more people are reached in the language they know best.  Public schools here and in Burma are connected with Canadian students – the Asians learn English, the Canadians learn the value of service.  Donors in Langley, Calgary, Toronto or St. John’s are connected with refugees and migrants on the Thai/Burmese border through a cup of clean water given in his name.  Buddhist university students who will shape Thailand’s future are connected with English speakers and teachers who passionately express their love through the medium of language.  Schools in Takua Pa so want to learn English that they invite Imagine Thailand workers to “teach our children, and please share about your faith if you would like”.

We believe we are here for two reasons – because it is asked of us and because we can.  May we bring honour in all we do, and may we serve these people that he loves so much.

Which brings us back to Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.  Today, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream operates in 39 countries worldwide (including Thailand!) and is worth over $70 billion Canadian.  And that taste and smell problem of Ben’s?  That allowed him to focus on texture, thus providing their ice cream with that extra something that people love the world over.   

And what about John Winston and the Quarrymen?  John Winston Lennon, his teenage guitarists Paul McCartney and George Harrison, and their drummer add-on Ringo Starr became better known as the Beatles, the biggest musical act of the 20th century.  The team of Lennon & McCartney is the most successful song writing partnership of all time.

The power of partnerships is not lost on Imagine Thailand, and your supporting role is no less a factor in ensuring that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.  We are better because of your partnership.

Partnerships – don’t leave home without them!


Engaging with Entrance

Imagine Thailand’s commitment to invest in emerging leaders has taken on many forms over the years. Much like the young adults we work with, leadership development is diverse and varied. We believe in not forcing students into our models, but rather embracing ways to connect with young leaders. One expression of this was a cafe where students could meet in a third space and connect with others, their studies, and engage with topics of faith. In 2013, our student coffeehouse, Passport Cafe and Gallery, merged with Entrance Coffeehouse and Studio. You can read more about that partnership HERE.

Located next to Chulalongkorn University, Thailand’s oldest and one of the most prestigious universities, Entrance is a wonderfully inviting space where students come to be part of community. For many students, living in small dorms with little or no communal space or kitchen facilities, investing in studies, and keeping up with family life, leaves them with little time or space to reflect, to dialogue, or to ask questions where they might not otherwise be able. These factors draw students to Entrance - plus the coffee is good!

Hannah is our Imagine Thailand team member at Entrance. She’s been there since the inception and her work focuses on connecting Entrance with the university community and the approximately 40,000 students in attendance. When you sit with Hannah, it won’t take long to realize that her years of relationship with young Thai leaders has given her a rich view into the lives of those who will soon be shaping Thailand. Chula, as it is lovingly called, turns out leaders and these grads are going places. And before they go, there is a small window of time where Hannah and the Entrance team can invest into them. We believe the students carry those investments all over the nation and across the world.

To connect with the community at Entrance, check them out online or if you’re in the Sam Yan area, stop in at 148-152 จุฬาฯ 5 แขวง วังใหม่ เขต ปทุมวัน. We’d love to meet you there!