Toys for Thailand helps hill tribes kids
Some of the hilltribe dancers that go to school
in Ban Kah Han.
By Joseph Evans
This is the story of two women with a mission, and a magical
Christmas in Mae Hong Son.
First a little history of toysforhtailand.org. After the tsunami of 2004,
Sasha Bilar and Maria Miller from the San Diego area of California, USA,
came to Thailand with plush toys to give to the children as an expression of
their love and sorrow. It has since evolved into a charity that helps hill
tribe schools along the Burmese border with the tools to enhance their
ability to provide nutrition and improve the quality of there education.
terraced hillside students have made to grow rice and vegetables using tools
from the organization.
They do this by providing all that is needed to create fish farms, pigs and
chickens are supplied, while some add to the protein and others are sold or
traded with other schools, gardening tools to grow vegetables and create
protein. They donate rice husking machines which allow them to buy rice
directly from the farmers, who in some cases are the parents of the students
and they use the husks to feed the pigs and chickens. Soy milk and tofu
processing machinery for protein. Methane capturing tanks to capture and use
the pig excrement rather than costly gas. along with, barbering equipment
which the students use to generate income by cutting the hair of the
villagers for 6-10 baht and the students for 2 baht, , sheds, in some cases
buildings and last but not least libraries.
Evans with some of the students at the school’s barbershop.
One of our stops was at Ban Kah Han school with a petite, strong and
dedicated principal Chun Bun Jung, We visited the Fish Farm, garden and
barber shop, Sasha asked the children, what they wanted for Christmas and
they replied blankets. Upon our return to Chiang Mai, Joe and his friends
Jack Moerschbaecher, and Ronnee Fried along with Toys for Thailand, bought
60 blankets, Joe said that he he had a great nights sleep knowing that the
children got their wish and were warm that night. Another girl was worried
about continuing her education as she was stateless and Sasha made
arrangements with Khun Gay and Khun Wisit at Wat Don Chan’s fledgling
vocational school so that she could attend.
One girl was asked if she would not rather be home, she said she would but
there was little food there.The children put on a show for us and the fern
resort had a cancellation of their entertainment, so the headmasters brought
the kids to the resort and they entertained to the delight of the guests.
Schools helped by TFT are Mai Sapae, Ban Kha Han, Ban Na Pa Pak, Kings
school, and Ban Rut Thai.
Joe Evans 0857142550 email [email protected] gmail.com is Chief Elf for
Toysforthailand.org here in Chiang Mai and if you think that you would like
to help, please call him
Sasha Bilar and Maria Miller for Toys for
Village children enjoy the new supplies at their
The lights went off and the kids lit up
sparklers to celebrate the day.
Maria Miller joins some of the village children
Physics plays a role in Chiang Mai
The Thailand Center for Excellence in Physics
By Shana Kongmun
In a city a where art, culture and music reign supreme, science and
academics often get overlooked by the community at large. Chiang Mai
University is the site of a unique program run by the erudite and urbane
Thiraphat Vilaithong, PhD.. The Thailand Center for Excellence in Physics,
also known as THEP.
Vilaithong, PhD. Professor Emeritus and Director of THEP.
Dr. Thirapat came to Chiang Mai as a young lecturer in 1968 and today, finds
himself head of the THEP program. Abut 10 years ago the government set up 7
university graduate research centers in science and engineering. The goal,
to produce qualified manpower in science and engineering and to strengthen
research in applied sciences. “To drive technology you need knowledge,
without a solid foundation in basic sciences, you cannot expect to make much
progress in technology,” Dr Thirapat explained. HM King Bhumibol spoke to
the United States Congress back in the 50’s, laying the foundation for the
self sufficiency economy the doctor continued. HM the King explained that
according to the teachings of Buddha, you must be self-reliant and that
while the U.S. was a great help, the goal was to one day to progress
technologically without being reliant on the United States for education and
of the research stations currently perfecting hydrogen fuel cell technology.
THEP, set up 2 years ago, is the command center, the brain, of the research
units. There are 24 research units in 12 different universities affiliated
with THEP at Chiang Mai University with the goal to share knowledge,
research and advance technologically. There are 3 main criteria for progress
in THEP; the units need to make tangible progress; produce intelligent
scientific research for publication nationally and internationally and
finally the research should be in the interest of the nation. THEP’s
research units focus on thin film technology, particle beam plasma,
nanotechnology and computational and theoretical physics. Each of the units
specializes in research in these areas and has a clearly defined goal.
THEP hopes to promote the study of pure science in Thai schools and increase
the number of PhD graduates in Thailand, offer fellowships to graduate
students and develop the facilities for post-graduate students. The
organization also hopes to increase the cooperation between corporate
research and scientific academic research. Dr. Thirapat believes that
academic research can be used to work with industry in order to help
industry more innovative and move away from the strictly manufacturing base
and branch into new technologies.
Ion implanter in the Physics Department at Chiang Mai University.
As THEP enters its second year Dr Thirapat feels that the first year was
spent productively in enforcing accountability and transparency, organizing
and interacting with the departments from the various universities. THEP
sets goals for a certain number of students enrolled per year and a specific
number of students who publish each year. The government restricted overseas
training after the economic crash, but Dr Thirapat hopes to see that
reinstated as the economy rebounds. He hopes to develop partnerships with
scientific research organizations in the United States and other countries
with a hope to send graduate students for increased exposure to new ideas,
new methods and differing technologies.
He said that they have instituted what is called the “White Elephant
Program” where 60 gifted high school students from around the nation are
selected to attend special scientific programs and given scholarships for
university in order to further their science studies. The students are not
selected for this program but must apply and he feels that the system could
do better in informing rural students as to their opportunities as well as
provide them with equal opportunities for education. Dr. Thirapat feels that
the current system handicaps not just the schools but the students as well.
With everything centralized under the Ministry of Education schools are not
allowed or able to bring in outside expertise in order to help educate their
students, even when the expertise is available. Chiang Mai University is
autonomous and as such, has been able to hire foreign experts to help the
science and other departments advance. The Chiang Mai physics lab is the
site of a Thailand built electron beam accelerator, as well as fuel cell
technology, thin film research, and genetic modification of seeds. In fact,
they have produced unique flower seeds as well as superior strains of rice
with the varian ion implanter accelerating mutations that normal breeding
methods could take generations to achieve.
Dr . Thirapat pointed out that while Thailand has the basic infrastructure
in place for manufacturing, it lacks the innovation and ideas necessary for
research and development (R & D). The problems with licensing also hold
Thailand back from taking a place on the scientific world stage. But, he
added, Thailand needs to build a base with an emphasis on R & D. “ I think
that with appropriate support and good strategic planning we will be able to
produce in the next 10 years, these things do not happen overnight.” He
added that since politicians are responsible for the budgets, they also
usually expect immediate results, they need to be convinced that certain
research areas take longer and yet still need investment. “We, as
scientists, must show that we are accountable for our research and yet also
produce marketable products. Academics have to show the public and private
sector that they can do good work with funding but the public and private
sectors also need reassurance that scientists can produce.”
Finally, Dr. Thirapat stated that the issue facing physicists today are in
solving the energy problem and that the physics community needs to look
seriously into energy and climate issues. To that end, the Chiang Mai
University Physics lab is creating hydrogen fuel cells and is working on
further developing the technology to make it applicable to the world at