American college student returns with more help for Ban Jing Jai

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An American university student humbled by a 2009 visit to Pattaya’s Ban Jing Jai orphanage again has returned to Thailand with even a larger donation raised through fundraising efforts in the U.S.

Now 22, Lisa Koenig of Palatine, Ill. presented Ban Jing Jai Manager Piangta Chumnoi and about 80 happy children with 250,000 baht May 28. The donations were raised through her “Thai Your Shoes” organization, which she started in high school as a simple shoe drive and quickly grew into something much larger.

Lisa Koenig (front, right) presents 250,000 baht raised through her “Thai Your Shoes” organization to Ban Jing Jai.Lisa Koenig (front, right) presents 250,000 baht raised through her “Thai Your Shoes” organization to Ban Jing Jai.

“It is so beautiful to see the eyes of the children come alive when you are nice to them, when you tend to them or bring them some little presents,” she said. “This home gives children what every child all over the world needs: a place where they belong.”

Koenig wrote that she first visited Ban Jing Jai while visiting her father, who lives in Pattaya. He and his Thai wife took her to visit the orphanage where she was overwhelmed by what she saw and had her father buy 15 pizzas for the kids.

She began the Thai Your Shoes club at her high school where students “adopted” each of the children at Ban Jing Jai. A shoe drive led to larger projects, culminating in the “Race for Sincere Hearts” in Nashville Tennessee named for the English translation of the orphanage’s name. The first 5 km race raised $2,500 for the orphanage and other sponsors donated the clothing and for shipping the goods to Thailand. Races and fund-raising has only increased since.

Piangta thanked Koenig for all of her efforts over the years.

“I am Christian and I believe that God helps those who ask him for help,” she said. “Sometimes, when I run out of money and get the feeling that I cannot go on anymore, I pray and all of a sudden – out of the blue – I receive some donations and help. This is always like a true miracle for me.”