Open Minds

By Krabi Magazine Feb 20, 2014
Santa came early last year. A collaboration of Big C, Honda, Krabi’s local 96 FM Unity Radio, and Open Mind Projects -an international volunteer organization- brought toys, shoes, school supplies, and an entertaining educational assembly about environmental conservation to Koh Jum’s primary school this past December. This event has been ongoing for years, with many planned for 2014, aiming to reach schools across several districts in Krabi Province. Local advocates, government officials and media joined in the outreach by donating items and traveling to the island to participate in the assembly. The children played games to earn gifts, and were treated to a comedy sketch about local conservation by a local high school drama troupe.

Big C and Honda were the most recognizable sponsors of the event, but Open Mind Projects (OMP) has had a significant presence in Thailand since its introduction after the devastating tsunami of 2004. Aside from immediate aid and rebuilding, OMP has worked extensively with local communities on field projects for eco tourism, wildlife conservation, health care and child welfare, IT training, and English education in many remote communities here in the South. What sets OMP apart from other for-profit voluntourism organizations is its transparency in funds allocation. In an age where many voluntourism organizations offer an enriching experience at confusingly high price tags, OMP allows volunteers an accessible experience as a not-for-profit organization, sustaining their projects with the employment of local communities and low administrative fees.

OMP has received several prestigious accolades and coverage over the years – CNN, Bangkok post, UNESCO to name a few - for the incredible work completed in Thailand. Two volunteers from Sweden attended this event as part of their introductory training to Thai culture and some of the work they will be doing in village schools. In the spirit of the holidays, the children were taught traditional Christmas songs and dances.

While the children received donated items and gifts, the real message was educating the community on preserving the island’s natural beauty, and protecting the environment. No effort was too small to cover, as children were taught an array of things such as how to conserve space in trash and recycling bins by folding juice cartons, turning off lights, and preserving natural habitats. “Educating the children is a good way to educate the community about conservation. They practice these habits at 

school, are more aware of their actions, and take these practices home to share with their families, “ Khun Muon tells us. Khun Muon is a local representative of OMP that supervises volunteers in the Krabi area. As more and more tourists visit Thailand each year, these issues couldn’t be of more urgency and importance. The production was anything but small, as the assembly went on for almost three hours with locals and parents alike, gathering outside the school grounds to watch. The event radiated high energy as hundreds of children giggled their way through competitions, singing, a comedic play, and the greatest star of the show, the giant Big C bear. Naturally, they went bananas.

If you would like to know more about upcoming events, please contact Open Minds Project – Thailand, or tune into 96 FM Unity Radio.

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