small rural communities to Hollywood, the Give and Live USA tour brought
Thailand to America.
As Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans, the Give and
Live Benefits USA Tour began a few hundred miles away in Virginia. Seven
concerts in six states during August-October 2005 raised over a million baht
for charitable projects for less fortunate children here in northern
Thailand. Silent auctions of goods and services from local businesses and
Thai imports plus sales of CDs, Give and Live T-shirts, Karen silver, hill
tribe bags and handicrafts from the Children’s Garden orphanage made the
project an educational and financial success.
Give and Live board member Todd Pellizzero and Scott plan a charity
motorcycle ride for 2006. Give-Live-Ride-Thailand.
The funds raised will be dispersed through FERC
(Foundation for the Education of Rural Children) and used to purchase
educational and therapeutic equipment for children with multi-disabilities
at the Chiangmai School for the Blind; to provide all living, lodging,
educational and medical expenses for a year for the 30 orphans at
Children’s Garden near Doi Saket; to buy 50 mattresses for dormitories; to
give scholarships to 20-40 pre-approved children at vocational or
governmental facilities and to build at least two new schools at locations
to be announced.
A grass roots ecumenical tour, the venues were diverse:
the historic Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia; St. Timothy’s Episcopal
Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Edgehill Methodist Church in
Nashville, Tennessee; the Jewish Community Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota;
the Paul Bunyan Playhouse in Bemidji in rural northern Minnesota; the
Harrington Arts Center at the Accordion Museum in Superior, Wisconsin; and
finally at the elegant home of author/voice-over talent Ben Patrick Johnson
in the hills above Hollywood.
Holly and Scott Jones perform her original song “Calling All Angels” at
the Minneapolis concert.
The core of each concert was my multimedia show of
original music and comedy with photos of beautiful Thailand and the children
we’re helping, synchronized to songs about eating anything, driving
everywhere and sleeping anytime (“Living in the Thailight Zone”), loving
Thailand (“My Home Away From Home”) and losing your parents and children
to AIDS: “Grandparents and grandchildren left behind, alone together but
caught up in a bind. They’re too old to earn or learn something new and
too young to know what to do.” Guest artists graced the stage at most
events: Grammy Award winner Barbara Bailey Hutchison (who recently performed
here in Chiangmai at FERC’s 6th
Annual Gala in February 2005) in NC, VA and in her hometown Nashville;
singer/guitarist Derek Jacobson in VA; recording artist Jill Holly and
singer-songwriter Sara Wagner in Minneapolis; the women’s folk trio
Trillium in Bemidji; and the Celtic band Willowgreen in Wisconsin.
orphans at Children’s Garden will soon receive 200,000 baht but are
enjoying their new badminton set even before the poles are up!
Concert production, promotion and the logistics of
getting merchandise to each venue aside, the challenges were formidable.
Everyday America read hurricane headlines and watched destitute people
struggling to survive as contaminated waters and debris ravaged their homes.
On the night of the North Carolina concert, three Katrina benefits were
scheduled. Although last year’s tsunami put us on the map in some folk’s
minds, Thailand is not a household word in the USA. The six full pages of
travel ads in the Minneapolis newspaper listed only six fares to Asia with
none to Thailand. People from the Midwest and the South vacation mainly in
Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. But the hundreds that came to the events
gave generously to a new organization with unfamiliar causes. Many seeds
were also planted for the future. Most volunteers talked about “next
time.” Help with events was offered in Scottsdale, Arizona, in Madison,
Wisconsin, in New York, in my hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. A connection
with a long-time friend spawned the plans for a charity motorcycle ride here
in northern Thailand in October 2006: Give-Live-Ride-Thailand. 10 riders
will raise 100,000 baht each for Give and Live plus pay their own expenses
for a pleasure ride and some charitable service work at one of our projects.
Two have already signed up. It’s likely our fund-raising efforts will
double next year.
Scott Jones sings the
song Give and Live.
The heart-warming moments during the tour were constant.
Seeing family and friends, then working with them for a common cause.
Feeling the care and community at Barbara Hutchison’s church in Nashville
and watching those folks make sure silent auction items given by their
friends received sufficient bids to make the donor feel good. An impromptu
mini-concert for my 93 year old stepfather and his nurse, probably his last
concert and the last time I see him. Though one of the goals was
fund-raising, other essential goals were education and awareness. And to
take the first steps toward those goals. A choice moment was when eight year
old Matt, the son of dear friends, found me after the second concert, one
where he saw children his age on the screen, heard their stories through
music, and felt compassion for their lives. For several years I’ve always
thought him to be shy and reserved, but he looked me right in the eye and
said emphatically, “That was powerful.” Those three words made that
evening a grand success and helped me through the rest of the tour.
Give and Live, a registered non-profit in the USA, partners with FERC, a
registered non-profit in USA and Thailand, and the Dutch non-profit Samsara
Foundation to raise funds, present events, build schools and dormitories,
and provide learning materials, scholarships, and necessary living expenses
for needy children in Thailand. Please visit our websites for more
information and donation opportunities: www.give andlive.org and www.rural-thai-education.org.
auctions offered Thai exports, Karen silver plus local goods and services
auction volunteer Janie and Give and Live board member Judy with new Lahu
outfits from the Children’s Garden.
and voice-over talent Ben Patrick Johnson in Hollywood gave generously.
“Let’s build a school.”