As 2015 draws to a close, there is no shortage of bad news regarding the problems and challenges facing us as individuals, in our communities and in society as a whole. It is therefore with great pleasure and a deep sense of joy that I am able to give you some great news about my 2015 Calling All Angels “Hope is in Your Hands” fundraising campaign.
Some of you will already know that in April, I dedicated my run in the Warsaw Marathon to raising much needed money for Schools of Hope, in northern Thailand. Over 200 sponsors have so far made donations from more than 30 countries around the world, raising a staggering $13,225. This was way beyond the hopeful but not “impossible” $10,000 target I set back in February and the generosity I have witnessed has really blown me away.
All of this money will be used to part-fund the construction of a new school on the outskirts of Chiangmai so that the older children can live and study there instead of depending on grants from charities to pay for places in the existing school system. Once they reach senior school age, these children cannot really continue with their education in Arunotai, where the first ‘Schools of Hope’ facility is located. It is very close to the border with Myanmar and at least a couple of hours away by car from Chiangmai. The older children have no access to decent employment opportunities that Chiangmai offers them, so the new school will definitely enhance the quality of life for these refugee children.
Above: One of my most joyful moments this year was handing over the proceeds from this year’s Warsaw Marathon fundraising campaign to Noom Hkuhr, Director of Schools of Hope, pictured here with a few of the older boys before they went off to their weekly Karate class. The total raised was a staggering $13,225 which is now being used to part-fund the construction of a new school. If you are new to this campaign and would like to make a donation, please use the link here. 100% of all money that is raised goes directly to Schools of Hope
Above: Another joyful moment for me was crossing the finishing line at the Warsaw Marathon on April 26th 2015. As well as raising funds for the school, which was a miracle in itself, it was the first time I had ever run a marathon in under four hours!
If you were one of the amazing people who contributed to this campaign, please give yourself a huge acknowledgement. I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you. Without your help, there is simply no way my Calling All Angels Foundation could function in any meaningful sense. Already, the new site for the school has been fenced off and electricity and water supplies have been installed. Last week, I visited the new site with Noom Hkurh for the first time who showed me how their plans are likely to materialise. Based on current estimates, it looks like construction can start in early 2016, although more money will be needed to complete all of it. For those of you who are interested in helping with the building of the new school, or would like to volunteer at the existing school in Arunotai, please get in touch with me for further information and we can look at what is possible.
Above: (Right) The site for the new school, with the temporary residents who are looking after it until construction starts. (Left) Noom presented me with a very special thank you card that he drew by himself, which I gratefully received on behalf of everyone who made a donation!
Although the spotlight of attention for my campaign was firmly focused on the funds needed for the new school, the existing school which was launched in 2009 continues to play a vital role in providing opportunities for children crossing the border from Myanmar into Thailand to get support and education, starting their journey of hope towards creating a normal life for themselves. In the village of Nong Ook, near Arunotai, Noom and his team are dedicated to these children and making sure they get a decent start in life and spend many hours each week to help them improve their literacy and communication skills. After first visiting Nong Ook in February 2015 and inspired to get involved, I returned a few days ago to let the children there know about the campaign and how much support they had been given by people all over the world. Naturally, they were thrilled to hear about this!
Above: A few of the children at Nong Ook studying English at the school. These boys are novice monks at the adjoining temple
Below: Fiona McDonald (centre), from Chiltern House Group in Singapore, leads the children through exercises to help them improve their English, with willing assistance from Marta (left). Chiltern House Group is a leading provider of education in Asia, for children of all ages. Founded by Julia Gabriel, they voluntarily give massive support to Schools of Hope, including this recent three-day visit in which they ran special classes for the children
Above: Checking out the new school bus (left). Hands up who loves these children? (right)
Below: Thank you to everyone who donated money to this year’s campaign. You have personally made sure that every single one of the children pictured here with me has a great chance of a normal, decent life and they all appreciate your support enormously. If you would like to visit the Schools of Hope, or support our fundraising activities, please let me know
To raise more money for Schools of Hope, I am currently writing a book about my four-hour marathon challenge, becoming a global nomad and fundraiser and a whole bunch of personal experiences that have changed or enriched my life during the last ten years. Called “Life Without A Tie”, I am aiming to complete the book in 2016. A significant proportion of the proceeds from sales of the book will go to the Foundation.
In case you don’t know me, I sold my business and home in England and all of my possessions in November 2005, leaving myself with just a bag of clothes and a laptop. With a desire to explore and discover new parts of the world, I was hoping to meet people who would inspire me and become my teachers for the next phase of growth in my life. To make this all possible, some complex financial re-engineering was required to sustain my journey without the level of income I was used to. I had no experience as a budget traveller and at 45 years of age, I may have become one of the oldest back-packers in Asia!
After ten years, it is time to share what I have seen, heard, felt, learned and understood from this journey. I know it is possible to live in anonymity, without possessions or status, without attachment to goals, without a fixed identity or routine and be as happy (actually, even happier) than I was when I was living more of a “conventional” life in England, pursuing a career, materialism and enjoying a busy social lifestyle. This book will enable me to share my experiences, and the knowledge and insight that came from them, with people who are on a similar journey and who want to know the truth for themselves. If you want to reserve a copy, or are interested in hosting a talk in your local area to help me launch it, please let me know.
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