The rains were heavy and the roads virtually washed out, but that did not stop Toys for Thailand from reaching a dozen tribal groups in northern Thailand with more than toys last December. The Small World Festival in the northeast province of Mae Ho Song did come off – and with it the presentation of small stipends, or scholarships, to students from 30 schools who participated in the festival.
“Getting to these places, up in the mountains, is very difficult,” said Maria Miller, executive director and board chair of Toys for Thailand.
In the past ten years, since it was formed, T4T, as it is also known, has made over 20 trips to Thailand, most of them to the hill tribes of northern Thailand, providing basic resources, such as agricultural supplies, water systems, solar panels and even school playground equipment.
On Nov. 8, Toys for Thailand will mark a decade of service by hosting a “Tribal Fashion and Gift Bazaar” at the Seaside Center for Spiritual Living in Encinitas, from 1 to 4 p.m. The event will feature a fashion show of tribal dress, ethnic handicrafts and unique embroidery, as well as a variety of Thai food. Admission is free, and any funds raised from purchasing items or food will support the building of an eye clinic in northern Thailand.
In December, T4T will repeat the Small World Maehongson Festival launched in 2010 to bring together hundreds of children from northern Thailand’s isolated hill tribes, who will share their music, dance, handicraft and food. Forty tribal schools will take part in the festival and include some 1,200 children from the Shan, Karen, Lawa, Lisu. Hmong, Pao, Akha and Long Neck tribal groups. In partnership with the Chiang Mai International Rotary, T4T will award some 100 scholarships to be used by children to buy school supplies and other necessities.
The impetus for Toys for Thailand was the 2004 tsunami that struck Thailand, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Over the years, its founder, Sasha Bilar, expanded its mission from delivering toys to southern children orphaned by the tsunami to supporting underserved schools in the north. According to Bilar, director of Thailand Operations for the organization, tribal children face “overwhelming difficulties and risks,” including AIDS, sexual exploitation, malnutrition, drug and alcohol abuse and malnutrition, and erosion of their culture.
For more on the Nov. 4 fundraiser, contact Maria Miller at 760-529-3739.