This is the second in a series of articles written by the Adventure in Focus team. While traveling throughout Southeast Asia, AIF is documenting the projects of several GlobalWA member organizations that are working on the ground in the region. Jesse submitted this article from Thailand, while working with Bill Taylor of SE Asia Children’s Foundation.
Bill Taylor, the energetic and affable founder of SE Asia Children’s Foundation, is retired. You wouldn’t know it by spending time with him, though. He spends three to four months each year in Southeast Asia, visiting the projects he works year-round to fund. His foundation, a long-time Global Washington member, is helping children – especially girls – break the cycle of poverty into which they were born and from which they are not likely to escape without outside assistance. Bill’s positivity is infectious and his love for his work is present in everything he does. A former management consultant, he uses the knowledge and skills that he’s accumulated throughout his career to help build capacity, train leaders and strategize for organizations in Southeast Asia that are helping at-risk children obtain a stable and nurturing environment.
We met Bill in the small city of Chaing Rai, Thailand and had the pleasure of accompanying him to a few of his projects. First on our list was Baan Saan Rak, a small orphanage in a village not far from the city. Jit, a small but determined woman, whom Bill has nicknamed “Mighty Mouse,” runs this “House of Love,” as the name translates in English, on her modest-sized property. SE Asia Children’s Foundation is partnering with the local Rotary Club to rebuild Baan Saan Rak’s main pavilion and volunteer guesthouse, which was damaged in a May 2014 earthquake. The project recently suffered a loss when the contractor passed away shortly after finishing the architectural plans for the two structures. Bill, along with Carol Acosta of the Rotary Club, must now find a new contractor for Jit and Baan Saan Rak.
In addition to spending time on their studies, the children who live in the orphanage work on small projects to help keep Baan Saan Rak mostly self-sustaining. Their art, produced on notebooks, cards and handkerchiefs, is sold throughout the community to locals and tourists alike. Upon each visit, Bill always buys a box to bring back to Washington state to give out. The children also help raise frogs and fish to sell locally. “I like to say, we help people to help themselves,” proclaims Bill. His goal for the foundation is not just to provide funds for physical capital such as buildings, but also to help with operating costs for the staff and materials needed to run an orphanage or school. These operating costs are desperately needed and so often overlooked.
Our second destination was the Chiang Rai chapter of Thailand’s Good Shepherd Sisters. A beautiful complex consisting of classrooms, residences, a kitchen and administrative buildings, it serves up to 60 at-risk hill tribe girls by offering them a place to live and a junior high though high school education. Sister Lena runs this chapter with compassion and efficiency. The Good Shepherd Sisters benefit from Bill’s foundation in the form of monthly administrative funds as well as from its partnership with Lantern Moon, a company based out of Portland, Oregon which enables them to reach U.S. markets to export handcrafted products such as bags and pillows.
SE Asia Children’s Foundation has had to draw a few lines in the sand when it comes to providing funds and resources. For example, a school’s enrollment must be made up of at least 50 percent girls. As Bill says, “I just think girls are going to change the world.” Bill is also unwavering is his distrust of organizations that require a religious conversion prior to providing services. One of the reasons he is so enamored with the Good Shepherd Sisters is their religious tolerance of those they serve. The Catholic nuns provide teachings of Christianity, Islam and Buddhism to their students, with their only concern being that they are safe and educated.