I once worked for an incredibly inspiring individual… I will go as far and say that most of my good professional and ethical qualities in me exists today because of the motivation and guidance he gave me during the few years I had the privilege to work for the regions most creative thinker, Stuart Cameron.
Coming from working in one of the top 3 PR companies in the world, I was spoilt and very narrow in my thinking. With this company, octOpus, I was forced to run the entire PR department on my own – from client relations, writing stories, media relations, analysis reports, radio deals etc and I was flustered.
But seeing that I could work hard, my ex boss, Stuart Cameron pushed boundaries and made me realise that I couldn’t just write and issue press releases and that I was capable of doing so much more – we handled some of the best PR clients competing with agencies that had 30 odd people and we still delivered more than they ever could according to some very delightful clients.
Stuart also introduced me to CSR and told me that while it was ok to make money, it was far better to encourage clients to become socially responsible and that if one day he will become a millionaire, he will run an orphanage or help children get education and develop positively.
He stayed true to his word. Today, I am proud to say that apart from going on to become a millionaire (He is a marketing and advertising genius so how could he not), he has put his time and effort into helping provide education to Burmese migrant children in Mae Sot.
Mae Sot is a border town on Tak Province in Thailand, which is the major land gateway between Thailand and Burma. There are more than 30,000 stateless Burmese children in Mae Sot. This is only 10% of the 300,000 estimated children living on the entire border area. These stateless children are recognized by neither Thailand nor Burma and thus have no access to state services or schooling. They rely on financial help from non-government organisations to get a decent school and education. As a mum who struggles with the rocket high cost of school fees in Dubai, I refuse to make compromises on my child’s education at any cost so I can imagine how difficult and unfortunate it is for these children who don’t get any education because they don’t have the means for simple school education.
“Every bit helps.” This is why big Stuart (as he is fondly called since we were surrounded by Stuarts in the office) has gone out of his way to support one of the schools on the border called “Good Morning School.” For more than three years now, Stuart has been actively involved in promoting sustainable education for migrant children.
He has visited Mae Sot more than twenty-five times and with his team in tow, they have achieved a lot of remarkable projects on ground. Applying Stuart’s management acumen, he assisted in the restructuring of the grassroots organisation that manages the network of migrant schools on the border called BMWEC (http://bmwecmaesot.org), by putting in a reliable accounting system and a process that ensures checks and balances.
In a town, where resources are scarce, sustainability is key. Stuart has made it his mission to achieve this at Good Morning School. With the help of the local community, the school has now evolved from a small bamboo hut into a proper concrete building with 10 classrooms. It also boasts of a pigpen, a fishpond, a crop garden and a deep well. All these are learning tools for the children and income-generating projects that lower the running costs of the school. Stuart’s only hope is that this model of sustainability will be replicated and applied to the rest of the migrant schools on the border. Stuart did not stop there.
He went ahead and set up a charitable organisation aptly called ‘All you need is Love’ (AYNIL). AYNIL, unlike other charities, has a “dollar for a dollar” policy. This means that no administration cost gets deducted from each dollar you donate as it goes directly to a specific purpose, which you can choose as a donor. AYNIL is now a recognized as separate charitable organisations in both the UK and the US, widening its reach and ability to put up fund-raising activities to support the children. Everyone can help in their own way via http://allyouneedislove.org.uk/ or http://www.allyouneedislovecharity.com/.
Both are information portals that deliver a channel through which individuals can donate their time and/or money or, support the delivery of an evolving educational program for Burmese migrant children. If you are more of a hands-on person, you may help support the community by spending time in Mae Sot. AYNIL aims to match volunteers with real skills to real needs in community-based organisation AYNIL is partnerships with.
You can never do enough good…so on top of all these, Stuart went ahead to direct and produce a documentary called “All You Need is Love” too. It aims to provide funding to the charity for the years to come as half of the profits will go directly to the charity. All You Need is Love will feature the children of Mae Sot. It will not only highlight their plight but more importantly their resilience amidst the political conflict and civil unrest on the border. If you watch the trailer through this link: http://youtu.be/LOQu7z3fwPk, you will surely feel the power of the positive and of the human spirit.
As a mother I feel for these children in Mae Sot and I am sure there are many people out there who do as well. If you want to know more, check the documentary site on http://www.allyouneedislovedoc.com. You may also visit their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/aynildocumentary or follow them on Twitter @allyouneeddoc for updates.
One day, when NJD is out of school and on her own, I hope to make time and get resources to make a difference to these children together with her as well.
If you are interested in helping through All You need is Love, get in touch with me and I will arrange for you to meet up with Stuart and his team.