I had fun thinking about all the things the great things that happened this year. I also have been wanting to write this to say it’s easier to make a difference than you think. None of these ideas are particularly original or impossible for you to do. I have big hopes for more In Search of Sanuk adventures in 2010. Thanks everyone for supporting, encouraging and sharing these crazy ideas. ~Dwight
#10 – Painting
Confession: I didn’t paint anything.
All of the art was done by refugees living in Bangkok. This was the first big In Search of Sanuk project of 2009 and gave us a big running start for the year. We raised almost 60,000 baht for the Bangkok Refugee Center and had travel photographer Gavin Gough there to document it. For a look back see his photo blog: Picture from my mind” Art Exhibition in aid of the Bangkok Refugee Centre
Hindsight: We didn’t know at the time how much of a difference we were making. Unfortunately, a lot of 2009 was a rough year for refugees here as arrests have increased and services decreased.
#9 – Writing
Confession: This was very hit and miss.
The lesson here is perseverance–something I’m still learning. I’m lucky to have a had a great encouragement in the way of an awesome community of bloggers Cody Mckibben has introduced me to. Everyone has been really welcoming and willing to share advice. I don’t take that for granted. Not everyone will invite you into their community when your ideas are unconventional.
Hindsight: One milestone was getting a chance to write an article for Cnngo. However, blogging is hard work and it took me a while to find my voice. The biggest challenge is balancing all you’re doing, with keeping people who care about your cause informed and involved.
#8 – Dating Miss Universe
Confession: This doesn’t actually happen until December 28th.
You thought I would quit after meeting Michelle Yeoh earlier this year? Nope. This time I’ve won an auction for a date with Natalie Glebova, Miss Universe 2005. Proceeds from the auction, of course, are going to build a medical clinic in Mae Sot near the Burma border. It’s a tough job I have, but I can’t complain!
Foresight: This really exemplifies what kind of random episodes which spring up when you’re willing to extend yourself for worthy causes. Whatever happens on this date, it’s already been successful. Through all the communicating with the organizers, I have already gotten a commitment from them to donate medicine to get all the kids at our teaching project checked up. Sorry Natalie, but that made me jump up and down a little more than the dinner plans.
#7 – Traveling
Confession: I now am in the habit of going somewhere and looking for ways to help. You don’t have to travel to do that.
When I first met my mentor, Marc Gold, the idea of traveling to do good was still novel to me. This year I have met and joined quite a few traveling philanthropists. I hope this is a sign that there is a growing trend of people realizing how rewarding it can be to spend your holiday helping others. Some memories that stick out are the slum kids in Denpasar, a restaurant employing street kids in Vientienne, teaching in the Thai countryside, visits to orphanages in Bali and on the border of Burma.
Hindsight: You can go looking for trouble, but you may not be prepared for what you find.
Confession: I wish I had been told earlier that you can sure sculpt a nice event, but it’s better to build a strong community.
Through both the Bangkok Tweetup and a larger party we organized this year called LUSH, we have really pioneered the idea of cause focused events in Bangkok. Some people come out for a great cause. Some people come out for a great party. Most people come for the community that enjoys both. In any case, we don’t discriminate. In addition to funneling money to our Sanuk My Saturday project and numerous other groups, we’re well known in the city for breaking bar records and having to send our sad faced supporters home after cleaning out all the spirits.
Hindsight: This was a great idea because we casually exposed people to our project that we couldn’t otherwise drag to come volunteer with us. Yes, you can reach people with something besides gala dinners in the grand ballroom.
Confession: No unwanted stress ever came from the little people. It’s the big ones I have trouble dealing with.
Some where along the road in these shenanigans a friend offered tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters. The Globetrotters hadn’t been to Bangkok since the sixties and I saw them perform in Atlanta when I was about twelve. So I got to feel kinda like a dad when I showed up at the arena with kids from our teaching project in tow. We had a section of the arena reserved for us (the other group they did this for was the US embassy) and all the volunteers who also tagging along.
Hindsight: This would not have been possible without all the people who attended the Bangkok Tweetup, drank and gave. The tickets were free, but we had to cover transportation, snacks and dinner for all the kids.
Confession: Any meal is a happy meal. I can do gourmet too.
Cnngo caught up with me eating on the street earlier this year to tell the city who hasn’t caught on to twitter what you already knew— that I’m addicted to the internet and volunteering. Take a look at the article: Bangkok’s fun-seeking, volunteering, tweeting American
Hindsight: A more accurate headline would have been Bangkok’s handsome, single, fun seeking internet addict volunteers to be attacked by kids whenever he leaves the house.
#3 Thrilling The World
Confession: I’m not to blame for this one!
I had just finished the Twestival global event, when In Search of Sanuk supporter Lola Rainey said we had to learn the moves to Thriller. In true zombie form, I admittedly dragged my feet at first. Lola, however, took the reigns and round up a great group of dancers to not only participate in breaking the world record for largest simultaneous dance, but also perform in front of hundreds (zombies keep their cool even when the wrong music is played haha), raising over $1,000 for the Bangkok Refugee Center. A touching moment in this adventure was when another friend, Shimona Kee performed Michael Jackson’s Heal the World in front of a huge audience at Bangkok’s Central World.
Hindsight: Surround yourself with change makers and don’t pout too much if they put you to work.
#2 Booty Shaking
Confession: I thought my butt would be more famous by now.
The reason this one is ranked so high is because of the sheer spontaneity of it. I led a group of volunteers from visiting an elderly home to relax in the park. It was there that we stumbled over one man’s magic hips and captured what we still secretly hope will make us youtube stars one day (only 3,000 views so far). So it didn’t make my butt famous, but it is the one moment that has generated more laughter than any other this year.
Hindsight: Should have found the man in that video and invited him to some of our parties.
Confession: I couldn’t have done any of this without you.
In 2009 I beg, borrowed, and generally pestered people I’m close to. This really runs the gamut from convincing Cody to get involved, to asking Shimona to sing in front of hundreds, to getting an entire section of the arena reserved for our kids and volunteers. Forget the amount of money we raised. We have really challenged people’s thinking about what it means to give back and surprised some needy groups with funding that wouldn’t have otherwise reached them. People are beginning to believe they have something to contribute. That’s powerful. For that I thank everyone following along and on the ground here participating.
Hindsight: If you can’t convince your friends, who then?