Have you noticed how the nights are drawing in? It gets dark now at about 6:30 PM rather than 6:45 PM. The rain seems to be a little less frequent and the air-conditioning needs to be switched on less often. Winter, if you can call it that, is on the way. Calling it winter in Chiang Mai is laughable, the coldest it gets is like a perfect English summer day. However, up in the hills it does really get cold. Frost is not unknown and the nights, in particular, can be agonising if all you have is a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Sadly, many of the people who live in the Hills are very poor and have a very limited wardrobe. This is particularly so with children as they have not had time to build up a bank of clothing for use in all temperatures.
That is why, some years ago, we started to collect children’s clothing in order to give the children in the Hills a warm winter. Over the years the project has grown from a very informal, unstructured community service project to a major logistical exercise. We have to publicise the scheme, design, make and distribute the collection boxes, empty the boxes on a regular basis, sort all the clothes, parcel everything up, identify recipient villages, schools, et-cetera and then take the clothing up into the Hills in order to complete the job.
This last part can be very exhausting yet on return everyone who takes part is grinning from ear to ear having had a great day helping children.
Dylan and Viki Thomason, new members, have taken up the challenge and are organising the programme for this year. They are organising more professional collection boxes and intend to launch the collection mid-October.
A number of other Rotary clubs like the scheme and have indicated they would like to work with us in making this programme even more successful than it has been in the past. Perhaps we can eventually make this a district-wide activity.
This project is not the only one in which we are working with other clubs. The Rotary Club of Chiang Mai Wattana started a programme to improve the English-language skills of teachers in Chiang Mai. Our club has been helping them by providing teachers to teach the teachers. This programme is now in its second semester and looks as though it will grow larger in the third.
None of our many and varied activities could take place without the volunteer efforts of members. Recently we have inducted several new members, all of whom are already contributing substantially to our efforts. Members and potential new members are on the horizon and I am confident that the club will grow substantially over the next few years. This is despite the fact that many members are lost as they need to “go back home”. Luckily, we have many members, such as myself, who see Chiang Mai as home and who are truly grateful for the opportunity to live here with our splendid Thai neighbours.