The FERC - Impacting Rural Education Across Northern Thailand.
Since its formation, the Foundation for the Education of Rural Children, or FERC, has had a significant impact on children all over northern Thailand. This non-profit organisation has been truly instrumental in reshaping many children's futures, forever changing the course of these kids' lives. Through numerous fundraisers, generous donations and hardworking volunteers, FERC has been continually giving back to schools throughout northern Thailand, and improving the lives of children in low-income families'.
FERC started in 1999. It all began with a foster programme at the Baan Vieng Ping Orphanage in Chiang Mai. The orphans had never lived in a family and the orphanage was beginning to arrange programmes for them to be fostered by families before being adopted. The problem was that there was no transport for the volunteers who would do welfare checks on them. So one of the orphanage volunteers decided to organise a fundraiser, to help pay for a vehicle. It was decided that a charity gala was to be held at a large private venue, during which ended up raising a total of 500,000 baht.
'I went to Marc because he ran a hotel [Marc was then-general manager of the Amari Rincome Hotel]. I went to Margi [Badoungzong] because she ran a magazine at the time. I went to people that I knew would be able to get the fundraiser out there,' explains Celeste Tolibas-Holland, another founder of FERC. 'It was the first ever of this kind of event in Chiang Mai,' said Marc of the fundraiser. 'Sure there'd been others, but not on that scale.'
FERC blossomed further after this first fundraiser, run by a core of dedicated volunteers, many of whom have since left. The organisation evolved overtime, starting more community projects and initiatives including scholarships, all through its constant fundraising which culminated into the annual gala, a coveted affair attended by hundreds of Thai and expat residents. The non-profit was first called Give Love, but the name was eventually changed to the Foundation for the Education of Rural Children, and officially registered under that name by the president of Payap University in 2002.
One of the organisation's very first projects was in a small town near Mae Cheam called Sadosa, and involved rebuilding a preschool. 'We built them a two room preschool building,' explained Marc. After the school was finished, FERC's charitable projects and work progressed further, with different projects each year. The second large charity project involved building a new dormitory for kids at another school in Mae Chaem.
These building projects were often daunting though, as the volunteers were unable to be on hand to oversee each detail of construction. This led FERC to turn their focus more on education. Today, FERC offers scholarships to children from low-income families, allowing them to finish secondary school. Instead of dropping out and not getting a high school diploma, The scholarships ensured the kids remain in school. By doing this, numerous doors are opened for the children later in life. A multitude of new opportunities soon await them, ranging from higher-paying jobs to even obtaining a college degree. The scholarships, each of 12,000 baht, are selectively given to students between the ages of 15-17.
FERC continues to impact local communities all over northern Thailand. The hard work of the volunteer committee has brought joy to many people, and given children opportunities that they never would have had otherwise had. What began as a fundraiser evolved into something bigger and much more influential than the initial founders could have ever imagined. The Foundation for the Education of Rural Children has been changing lives and giving back since its formation in 1999, and will hopefully continue to do so for years to come.