The Pattaya City Expats Club at their meeting on Sunday 29th October gave a very warm welcome to Margaret Grainger, or Margie as she prefers to be called. It was evident that she is the incredibly caring driving-force behind the Hand to Hand Foundation, which helps to feed, clothe, house and provide medical assistance and education to children so that they can remain with their families.
Founder and Vice President of the Foundation, Margie gave a very thought-provoking presentation outlining the fantastic work that Hand to Hand does behind the scenes for Pattaya’s disadvantaged. It was a humbling experience to be in the presence of a genuine modern day Mother Teresa doing unbelievable work.
Originally an elementary school teacher from Brisbane Australia, Margie came to Thailand to teach at an international elementary school in 2000. Whilst volunteering at the orphanage in her spare time, she said she was dumfounded to observe that children were being abandoned by parents who would leave crying. Further, 80% of these parents said they would love to keep their children if only they could provide them with three basic human needs – things that most of us are lucky enough to take for granted: sufficient food, adequate shelter and money to educate them. Margie could find no organization willing to help to keep such families together, which was the reason she founded the Hand to Hand Foundation to meet those needs.
She was told that it would be impossible to take the next step while working full time and so she went from a salary in excess of 100,000 baht to zero.
Being an incredibly motivated, thoughtful and resilient person, she started the Hand to Hand Preschool for slum children aged between 3 and 8. That was 7 years ago. At that time without sponsorship, the school lacked the most simple of resources and relied on donations. Seventeen children attended on the first day. Margie collected contributions of tables, chairs, clothes, toys – in fact anything and everything was, and still is gratefully accepted.
Of course, she had no idea at that time how important or huge Hand to Hand would become. Within 14 months, it had grown into something extraordinary and she applied for full foundation status, which she received in record time.
Today, English and Thai languages are taught in the school, with a plan to add Japanese to the curriculum from January. Margie urges everyone to consider becoming a volunteer because the more volunteers there are, the more she can enrich the curriculum with life skills such as cookery and computer studies.
Success is coming in droves. Margie was tremendously proud that one of her pupils is now working in forensic medicine at the new government hospital in Pattaya, bringing her and her whole family out of the slums. Margie said, ‘…an investment in a child today builds the leaders of society tomorrow.’ There are currently 88 children in their scholarship program, all of whom are fully supported by sponsors. So, come on Pattaya, if you can, help.
Never one to admit a project is too large or too difficult, last year deaf children were accepted into the school. Margie proudly reported that they now have a signing vocabulary of about 120 words.
When Hand to Hand outgrew rented sheds, she rented more and when it outgrew these she decided it was time to buy land and build. She sold her house, she sold her car and she put everything she had into the pot. With the help of the Thai government, she bought land. A kind builder agreed to erect housing units on the land for a fraction of the cost. The first units will be ready soon, but they will all need kitting out, so she asks anyone who can help, please donate.
How can people help? Margie says you can sponsor a child, volunteer or donate. No donation is too small or too large. It can be new or second-hand clothes, toys, towels, bedding, any household items, money, or your time – if you can fix a puncture, you are needed!
There are 6 donating bins around Pattaya or you can take your donations directly to the Hand to Hand Foundation and see the fantastic work they do for yourself. So, Margie urges you to come on, clear out those cupboards and even donate something new; every little bit helps.
The Foundation will continue to protect those who are marginalised, regardless of race, age or religion. She concluded by saying now it is up to us all to help. Remember the key DSV – Donate, Sponsor, Volunteer!
Well, the PCEC is doing its part as several attendees brought items to the meeting for Margie to take back with her. Also, many in the audience that didn’t bring anything noted they would bring donations to next Sunday’s meeting.
After the presentation, MC Ann Ensell brought everyone up to date on upcoming events. This was followed by the “Open Forum” portion of the meeting, where questions are asked and answered and comments made about expat living in Thailand.
After the meeting, member Ren Lexander interviewed Margie about the activities of the Hand to Hand Foundation. To view the video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Futp-13i8LE .
For more information on the Club and their activities, visit www.pcec.club.