Situated in the verdant jungles of Thailand’s Phang Nga province, two hours north of Phuket, Yaowawit School is home to as many as 150 underprivileged children from the surrounding areas. Either orphans or children whose families cannot take care of their upbringing, the children of Yaowawit live at the school until they turn 18. Different from other establishments, the school focuses on holistic education and experiential learning to help break the cycle of poverty. It proudly claims that quite a number of its graduates have gone on to university and the older ones have even begun successful careers.

Founded in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Yaowawit is an impressive operation. Dedicated mentors work tirelessly to care for the children and teach them important life skills. While the school generates its own income from several small enterprises and is working towards being self-sustaining through the use of permaculture, it is grateful to receive help from individuals, small groups and corporations that share the school’s vision.

The Elite Havens Phuket team decided to head to Phang Nga for a day of fun with the children of Yaowawit. On the way, Elite Havens Thailand Country Head, Femke Beekers, shared, “As a responsible company, we must also think about the community. So, along with the villa owners, we find out the needs of the community and help out as much as we can. In the past, we have supported the children of local prisoners in Baan Lung Pitak prison and the abused mothers in Good Shepherd by donating food and gifts on Children’s Day and Christmas. And we are always looking for locally-sourced products we can use in our villas. One such product we use is a beautifully scented soap made by abused mothers. We give this soap as gifts to our guests on their birthdays or in special gift baskets and we include a note about the women who make the soap and what they’re doing to make their lives better. We heard Yaowawit has a really good organic farm and that they also make products like detergent, so in addition to giving gifts today, we’d like to look into buying their produce or products for our villas. That way, our assistance is more long term.”

When the Elite Havens team arrived, a group of children rushed to meet them. “The children here are used to interacting with volunteers from all over the world. So, as you can see, they’re not shy,” beamed Yupayong Chankham, a representative of the school. The school welcomed the Elite Havens visitors with a specially choreographed musical number in English and a traditional Thai dance performance. A delicious meal of Pad Thai, which the children had prepared themselves, was served for lunch. The team enjoyed playing with the children, some of whom were eager to practice their English skills.

In the afternoon, the students went back to their classes and Yupayong gave the Elite Havens team a tour of the extensive school grounds. She explained that the school welcomes any form of help. Volunteers from many countries visit the school and teach here, and the children benefit greatly from this cultural exchange. Meanwhile, others donate for the upkeep of the school or towards the scholarship program which helps the students go to university. “We’re so thankful for all the help we’ve received over the years and we’re so happy that you’re here today,” she confessed. Femke mentioned the company’s interest in buying produce from the organic farm. Unfortunately, a recent storm had damaged the vegetable farm but the livestock were doing well. Yupayong shared that Yaowawit also produces dairy products.

When it was time to head back to Phuket, there were hugs all around and cheery waves from the children, many of whom were proudly holding up the presents the team had brought with them. The team went home with full bellies, even fuller hearts, and heads full of plans for working with Yaowawit in the future.

To find out more or to help Yaowawit’s children, send an email to Elite Havens Marketing.