February 25, 2015

How Much is a Person’s Drive Determined by Education?

What makes a person strive, push and reach higher, has always been a mystery to me.  The moment in which a person touches their limit and they know all of a sudden than they can go just a little further. That is sheer human beauty. My throat tightens and my inner voice shouts “YES!”  My reaction is so visceral that it still surprises me.

Two years ago, I met a young Thai man who triggered that response within me. Just about to turn 18, tall and shy in private, he exuded confidence as he addressed a crowd of senior municipal officials, corporate donors and individual sponsors. The occasion marked the 15th annual celebration of FORDEC’s work feeding, educating and helping thousands of destitute children and their families in Thailand.

Top – his English nickname for Sukrit Ratanadachasakool – looked intently at the parents as he spoke. He knows them, he is one of their children, he is a FORDEC alumni. His early story unfolded, too predictably, like that of millions other poor children around the world. Fatherless since the age of five, his mother ill, they struggled to eat, find shelter and survive in a country without a social net. His Mom’s autoimmune deficiency disease attacked what little “healthy” part of her life remained. She needed expensive medications. FORDEC hired her, trained her as a teacher and supported Top’s education for over fourteen years.

Top and Mom

Photo courtesy of Sukrit Ratanadachasakool.

The conditions in which they subsisted have become clichés in our media-hungry society saturated with newsbytes of terrorism, school massacres and natural disasters. We all have our own tragedies and dramas to live and heal. Ask any child, spouse or parent of an alcoholic, someone diagnosed with cancer or the perpetually unemployed. Lack of education and lost dreams have become commonplace casualties which know no borders.

So what makes Top different?

In Thailand, where only a few, even among the emerging middle class, make it through high school; he studies international business at Suansunandha Rajabhat University (Bangkok). He collects achievement certificates the way most people crave to earn online game badges.

Certificates for: Greatest youth of Thailand from Ministry of education, Greatest youth to promote moral & integrity from Political Development Council, Youth ambassador of Thailand and others. Photo courtesy of Sukrit Ratanadachasakool.

Like his peers, he loves to listen to music – Britt Nicole is among his favorites at the moment. He enjoys playing football with his classmates and romancing his first serious relationship. He works part-time as an emcee at weddings and department stores to help cover the cost of his education.

Photo courtesy of Sukrit Ratanadachasakool.

Top Emcee

Photo courtesy of Sukrit Ratanadachasakool.

But in the quiet of a conversation with me, he divulges that he dreams of a future career with the United Nations to fight against child poverty and develop Thailand’s economic power. Idealistic, you might respond? Maybe not.

A few months ago, as I surfed my Facebook news feed, I felt that “YES!” choke me up. There was Top in a suit at Bangkok airport waving the Thai flag. It took me a moment to realize that he was about to get on a plane to Singapore and Malaysia. He was selected as the country’s one and only representative to attend a youth conference to promote race relations in the region (www.onepeople.sg). He looked so excited! His first trip abroad fully sponsored by the government.

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Photo courtesy of Sukrit Ratanadachasakool.

He delivered a speech setting out his university activities to raise awareness of and combat corruption in his country. On his return, he was interviewed by Lightning Talk, Bangkok’s Channel 3 TV talk show. He handled himself with grace and humility in the face of such an achievement.

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On February 14, 2015, I saw Top again at FORDEC’s 17th anniversary celebration. He patiently translated as Moo and Sayam, two 7 year-old girls my husband and I sponsor, peppered him with questions for us: “You like spicy food?” “How long you stay in my school?”How cold is your country?” His voice was gentle and his attention entirely focused on them, in the manner of a protective older brother.

As I observed the exchange between them, I could not help but wonder: To what extent does education contribute to a person’s determination to reach for the stars?

 

@ChantalJauvin


26 Comments

  1. kulravee chitangkool says:

    ท็อป เป็นเพื่อนร่วมชั้นเราเอง เป็นคนน่ารัก นิสัยดีมากมาก เรียนหนังสือเก่งและคอยช่วบเหลือเพื่อนๆเรื่องเรียนตลอดคะ

  2. Modern says:

    สุดยอดไปเลยพี่ท็อป☺️

  3. Patinya says:

    It’s look interesting story of this guy and to follow his life ,Look forward to his success.

  4. supawadee says:

    He is very smart and diligence. I think he have to be successful in his future

  5. Ruttanaphorn Songsaengtham says:

    เป็นเรื่องที่น่าสนใจมากค่ะ จัดว่าต้นแบบที่ดีและมีประโยชน์ต่อวัยรุ่นมากเลยทีเดียว

  6. Chitsanupong Karmked says:

    เป็นคนที่ดีมากๆเลยครับมีความคิดสร้างสรรค์และเห็นแก่ประโชยน์ส่วนร่วมมากกว่าส่วนตนตลอด ที่ผ่านมาถึงจุดนี้ได้ก็ต้องผ่านอะไรเจออะไรมาเยอะเป็นกำลังใจให้นะครับ สู้ๆ

  7. Aj.Nalin says:

    Please continue your fight to reduce the poverty problem. Go for it! Top.

  8. Wuttichai says:

    that’s great on his story. he’s a teen who fight with destiny to be successful. Some teen has a problem but they going to bad way but he did not.
    thank you for shared.

    Wuttichai

  9. Parisa Buapetch says:

    Good boy and good friend

  10. onprapa vipapan says:

    ขอแสดงความยินดีด้วยนะ ไปไกลแล้วนะ ทำให้เต็มที่ละ พี่จะคอยเป็นกำลังใจอยู่ข้างละ น้องสุดที่รัก สู้ๆๆนะ

  11. KITTITUS CHAIMONGKHOL says:

    awesome friends keep do it well , support u guy.

  12. Radchapon Jinda says:

    In Thailand have many problem but big problem is honest

  13. Radchapon Jinda says:

    In Thailand have many problem but big problem is honesty and it causes other problems as many.Even through many hands that more cheat.So it’s hard that we want to develop country but we don’t have honesty.

  14. Radchapon Jinda says:

    so good way to solving this problem is to provide the best education for the youth. To grow up to be a force for the good of the country.

  15. Patima Saiswasd says:

    Thank you for sharing such an interesting story.
    Top seems to be a very strong willed person and I believe that he will become successful. Also, I teared up a little bit because I know that he faced a lot of hardships.
    In addition, I think young people these days should learn a lot from Top. Fighting TOP!
    Best,
    Patima Saiswasd

  16. Thiparpa says:

    Keep fighting!! I will support your successful

  17. Chantal Jauvin says:

    Thank you to the people who have sent comments in Thai language. I have just discovered that my WordPress account does not support Thai alphabet. I will need to research this. Please do send your comments again in English.
    I would love to hear what you think about education as a way to fulfill your dreams and what motivates you to follow your dreams.

  18. Jane says:

    This is a great story. The importance of education is the way to born a new life , but a lot of yung who cannot to study because many factors such a budget , broken family etc make them cannot to study and less knowledge. So the issuse of eduction in Thailand has a lot of this is not only duties’s government , it’s duties of all Thai people that should realize of the issuse

  19. William says:

    Top’s story illustrates the power of education to transform an individual. Imagine what could happen if all children in Thailand were given the opportunity of an education, and through government grants the possibility of a university degree.This could transform a society and a country.The real power fueling Top’s drive is he came from poverty as all FORDEC children do. His vision is about social change even beyond himself and Thailand.He is a leader and will have significant influence in the future. It all began with sponsorship of a child through Dr. Amporn’s foundation.

  20. sresuree says:

    We are proud for the university to have such a smart and great student.

  21. werachai says:

    the issues of education in Thailand is the one of barrier to suscess of the youth. that mean the education has the power to change many things

  22. Incredible and heart-warming story. Top will be in my thoughts and prayers for years to come. I pray he will achieve all of his dreams and his example will give other children the will to exceed.

  23. Monique St Amand says:

    It takes a village to raise a child, so they say. The place to begin is within our-self. This is not a cliché. Top is an example and I hope that a lot of Thai children will follow in his footstep. Top is one of the young adult that with courage and determination will be moulding the future of his country. Dr.Amporn’s foundation should be applaud and should entice more foundation to help the education of children around the world.

  24. Thanatchaporn says:

    In the university he helps us to complete all of gruop work. I did read his story this’s amazing he come from poor young to be the cleaver man so i very realize of eduction and his effort. Now i knew the poor young in the past is our leader in university , he is changes his fate.
    Thx for nice story

  25. Wil Colón says:

    Top’s reaction to being invested in, being trusted with an education, shows that he understood its value. He’s now giving back as early as he can, showing that he understands he received a precious gift. That’s a lot of wisdom in a young man. Thanks for sharing his story.

  26. FORDEC would like to thank you very sincerely for both of you for your always assistance, advice, volunteer spirit and also continue support our work. If FORDEC without kind people like you, so FORDEC is very difficulty to service and helping poor children and their families like Top and his Mom.
    We wish everyone, donors very much happiness and good health without illnesses always. (Sumalee J.Julie)

    A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Two Hands Together… Can Help Build Society

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