Charitable projects with Toshiba
Volunteering and community services have been a big, integral part of my life. I always make sure I do something to give back to the society or to help those especially children who are underserved. It all started from working with Toshiba (Thailand) Co. Ltd. where I met two ladies who were among Thailand's most accomplished businesswomen at the time, the company’s chairwoman, the late Thanpuying Niramol Suriyasat and her daughter, Khun Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul. They are my role models because they are not only successful professionally, but also are kind and compassionate, always launching charitable projects after projects and events to help others. And I was glad I was a part of it. To name a few of these projects are Sport events for Special Olympics Thailand, Charitable Concert of Midori (Violinist) and Robert McDonald (Pianist) for kids with vision impairments, Art projects for children all over Thailand, etc.
Jeannie Vogt Foundation
A while ago, I had a chance to hang out with a friend who had visited Thailand. When asked what his first impression was about my country, his answer was “poor.” That word struck me, hard, as I was expecting a different kind of answer, something that I always hear from foreign friends—“great food,” “friendly people,” or “lots of mosquitoes!”
But he was absolutely right. While I was sitting there munching on great food in a restaurant, a majority of Thai people were living in abject poverty. They went by each day with very little food and yet they still worked hard to make things happen. As a person, I am no better than they are. The only difference is that I was given an opportunity, an education. I felt a strong urge then that I would like to do something for less fortunate children in Thailand. I wanted to help them get an education. I searched the internet and stumbled on the website of Ms. Jeannie Vogt, a Thai lady who has dedicated her life to help raise funds for children in Isan (in Northeastern Thailand). Inspired by her work, I decided to write her a letter, asking her if I could sponsor some of the children, donate money, and help her with translation work. I have been working with her since then.
If you are interested, please visit her website: www.jeannievogt.org.
The Thai Cultural Center of New York
I'd taught at the Cultural Center for 6 years from 2002 to 2008. Students were mostly Thai-American kids growing up here, but still would like to learn the language and culture of their parents. There were some foreigners who were simply interested in the language and culture. For the first four years, I taught pre-K-leveled kids and foreigners (two separate classes) and for the last two years I taught six-graders which required a totally different mindset. The Cultural center follows the standard curriculum exercised in Thailand, using the same textbooks Thai students would use in classroom in Thailand. The students were great. They were confident like most American kids, never hesitant to express their opinions, but they also had the gentle and humble “Thainess” qualities as a result from their Thai parents’ upbringings. Not only I taught them, but I learned a lot from them as well.
For one academic year, I applied for a job as a classroom assistant and became a member of AmeriCorps - not knowing anything about it, only with good intention to teach and work with kids. It was a program established by Pace University in hands with AmeriCorps, and the site where this program was stationed is a middle school in Chinatown, called Dr. Sun Yat Sen Intermediate School (MS131), New York. There were about 12 to 14 of us with two supervisors on site and a Director who oversaw the entire program. Some of us were classroom assistant, some worked with guidance counselors, and some did both. I was lucky to be able to do both. I was helping two teachers and one guidance counselor.
With the guidance counselor, Liz Sheridan (who later became my mentor and friend as well), I had an opportunity to observe closely how she managed children with behavioral problems and helped her prepare some discussion sessions and researched to get information about programs that can help these kids. Most of the kids who saw the guidance counselor regularly were also in the other class that I helped which is a special class for kids who had reading problems. For this class, some of them had reading problems solely because they just didn’t care (behavioral issues), but some really involved cognitive and linguistic issues, varying from not being able to spell or read well, not being able to pay attention (ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder and others), or not comprehending anything at all. I sat and worked with kids individually, analyzed their reading problems and tried to work through them together, by encouraging them to read, associating reading with something fun, having taking assessment tests, etc. It wasn’t easy, but at the end, some of the kids told me they enjoyed reading more and their grades had improved. Nothing was more rewarding than hearing that.
The other class is an ESL/social science class, taught by Ms. Ann Marchant, whom I thought was one of the best teachers I’ve ever witnessed. The task she was facing was extremely challenging. Her class was overcrowded; she had a small size of classroom with over 35 children. A lot of them had just arrived from China and at that age, they were social and they loved to talk or shout - in another language. Yet, Ann managed to keep the class interested in her lessons. It was magical how she could keep them quiet and in order when she was teaching. And she did it with ease, grace, and total compassion too. She prepared all the teaching material herself, interesting lessons, always with lots of pictures, realis, learning aides, plenty of colors, symbols, body gestures and different kinds of props to keep the children engaged. The kids absolutely adored and respected her (and so did I.) It was a truly great experience for me to be able to help a great teacher like Ann.