Helping those less fortunate

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“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Chinese Proverb.”

After Master of Ceremonies Roger Fox welcomed everyone to the regular Sunday meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club on January 2, 2011 at Amari Resort’s Tavern by the Sea, he called on fellow member David Garmaise to introduce the guest speaker.  David reminded everyone that several members had formed the special interest group, Friends of PDA, and raised funds to participate with the Population & Community Development Association (PDA) formed by Mechai Viravaidya in their Village Development Partnership program. He then introduced Paul Salvette, personal assistant to Mechai, to bring everyone up to date on the latest works of the PDA.  Paul joined the PDA in June 2009 after serving on active duty as a US Naval Officer.

David Garmaise of the Pattaya Friends of the PDA introduces Paul Salvette of the Population and Development Association, to brief members on activities of the PDA.David Garmaise of the Pattaya Friends of the PDA introduces Paul Salvette of the Population and Development Association, to brief members on activities of the PDA.

Paul began by noting that the final report on the village the Friends of PDA partnered with, Baan Kok Klang Noi, Buriram Province, showed the village is doing very well and can be expected to continue on without the need for additional assistance from their “partners.”  Paul said that the effort was so successful, that the PDA uses the village as a showcase on what the Village Development Partnership (VDP) program can accomplish.

Paul describes progress at the Pattaya Friends of the PDA’s sponsored village, Ban Kok Klang Noi, as well as the effects of the flooding of late last year.Paul describes progress at the Pattaya Friends of the PDA’s sponsored village, Ban Kok Klang Noi, as well as the effects of the flooding of late last year.

Paul then highlighted the primary areas that the PDA carry out, which cover health, philanthropy, education, and poverty eradication.   He mentioned that in 1974, Mechai through the PDA worked to promote contraception in Thailand to reduce the high birthrate and not long thereafter to protect Thais from the HIV/AIDS virus.  Subsequently, the PDA branched out. They built a school in Buriram Province to promote education by teaching students to think, analyze, and create instead of just parroting information learned by rote. Initially they established a primary school and are now developing a secondary school on the same principals.  The children are selected using a lottery system, which allows everyone an even chance of being accepted rather than having people of influence gain preferential treatment for their own children.  Paul showed several pictures of the secondary school’s campus, which is still under construction using mostly bamboo wood that should allow the structures to exist for about 80 years.

Paul pointed out that the school uses mostly the Internet rather than written texts in its curriculum. Also, the students are involved in many aspects of the school’s operation and are taught to give back to the community. For example, he said that each student must give an hour of community service for each lunch they receive. Further, after normal school hours, the buildings and facilities are available for community activities and meetings. Also, in the area of education, the PDA is in process of developing a Teacher Training Institution whose function will be to acquaint public school teachers with the methods and techniques to allow them to go back to their schools and teach students how to think for themselves.

Member Richard Silverberg presents the website of the week, ‘enjoythaimovies’ which provides extensive information for fans of Thai cinema.Member Richard Silverberg presents the website of the week, ‘enjoythaimovies’ which provides extensive information for fans of Thai cinema.

As a result of the recent floods in the Northeast, Paul said that they are working with villages in the VDP program to look for solutions to mitigate the damage that can result from such floods.  He cited Baan Kok Klang Noi village as developing ideas in this area and their approach to their local government officials with their ideas and suggestions, as it will take government resources to accomplish many of them. Paul also said one of Mechai’s latest ideas is to create a foundation for a geographical area that can work with several communities directly like a “super tambon.”  Further, they can then bring in representatives from other non-governmental organizations to learn how the process works so they can use it to accomplish the similar goals.

He also said that PDA has expanded their efforts in the VDP program into Cambodia where it has been well received by the government.  He pointed out that because of culture differences and history, they must go slower than they did in Thailand. Another activity they are working on is philanthropy – getting business people and others to donate funds so that the goal of eradicating poverty can be achieved.  For those desiring more information, he provided the PDA’s website, which is www.pda.or.th/eng/

After Paul answered several questions from the audience, Roger Fox updated everyone on upcoming events and called on Judith Edmonds to conduct the always informative and sometimes humorous Open Forum, where questions about living in Thailand and Pattaya in particular are asked and answered.