I’m proud to have had the opportunity to become friends with Tom (Theerachat) Potisit, the brain behind the Global Expedition for the World’s Greatest King. In this interview we chatted about his initial project and the challenges he’s faced in his new endeavor to help northern Thailand’s poor school children.
Dwight: How did your project start?
Tom: The inspiration for the Global Expedition for the World’s Greatest King came from my desire to celebrate what is good about Thai society during a time of unrest in our country. Nothing symbolizes the hope of the country more, than the wise rule of our beloved King. When I found out my friend Ed was planning to fly his small aircraft from Florida to Bangkok, I took the opportunity of accompany him. During the trip I reached out to Thais living abroad and let them share their love for the King by writing 81 postcards. This number was significant because it was in celebration of the King’s 81st Birthday on December 5th 2008.
Dwight: At what point did your project turn into something for charity?
Tom: As a follow on to the original project, I decided to continue the theme of celebrating Thai life by selling photos I had taken on my journey. I decided to use the money raised purchase encyclopedias and a dictionaries for 82 under performing schools in the North of Thailand. Again, we chose 82 because of the King’s 82nd birthday.
“I felt I should do something to remind ordinary Thais what is good and special about our country.”
Dwight: Why did you choose to help schools?
Tom: This year has also been one for troubles in Thai society. I felt I should do something to remind ordinary Thais what is good and special about our country. For me, this is epitomized by the Thai King, who has always been, and continues to be a symbol of wisdom and guidance to us. I wanted Thai people, especially those no longer living in Thailand to have a chance to voice their support and appreciation for their King. I got the idea after looking at some of the King’s existing projects and chose to support one which aims to give books to underfunded Thai schools.
Dwight: What was your biggest challenge fundraising?
Tom: As always, fundraising is about awareness. Getting people to physically come to the photo exhibition was a challenge. Once they were there, they all embraced what I was trying to achieve.
“Many acorns make a large forest.”
Dwight: What tips would you give someone who wants to do something similar to what you’ve done?
Tom: Firstly, a project like this, is achievable by anyone. It does not require a big budget, just a simple idea. Keep your project in perspective. I think the appeal of my project, is that it is very humble in scope. A small idea often pricks the consciousness of people without judging them, or lecturing them on how they should give to charity. It is also true that although you cannot solve all the world’s problems in one go, a small contribution, no matter how tiny goes a long way to encourage others to do something similar. Many acorns make a large forest.
Dwight: What, if anything, would you change about the way your project has evolved?
Tom: I will definitely avoid holding an outdoor exhibition during the rainy season, or choose an indoor venue next time!
Dwight: What can we expect to hear about this project in the future?
Tom: We aim to complete a scrapbook of the original Global Expedition soon and present it to the Royal household. Following that, we will document the distribution of the books throughout the North of Thailand during October-December 2009.
“They do make a difference, as much from the physical contribution they make, as well as the symbolism of ordinary people trying to give something back.”
Dwight: How can we help?
Tom: Please keep supporting projects like mine. They do make a difference, as much from the physical contribution they make, as well as the symbolism of ordinary people trying to give something back.
Thanks Tom for letting me share the story of your successful project with readers here. You have inspired me and I believe you’ll also inspire others to get busy putting their hand in, no matter how small their contribution may seem.