Besides teaching English to Thai students to develop their proficiency, what else do you do to achieve a fulfilling moment in Thailand? Are you merely content with just doing the things stipulated in your contract? Will you leave a legacy? Or will you vanish without trace - without leaving your mark?
One Filipino teacher I knew and admired so much did something great for his school. His name was Salrich. When his director told him to beautify a 90-metre long concrete school-wall, Salrich hesitated for a moment. It was a huge undertaking.
After second thoughts, his belief that nothing was impossible when people put their hearts and minds into something, gave him the inspiration. Salrich got the idea to cover the wall with murals showing students, teachers and school activities. He had the artistic talent to draw outlines of all the scenes on paper, but he would need lots of supplies and many helpers to help paint the scenes. So he needed to raise money to make this beautiful project possible.
He said he knew very well that the school could not afford to finance the project. Certain teachers and staff already had their own ways to raise money. The teacher in charge of the store had to buy all sorts of things to raise money, the school cook had to sell food during breakfast, the kindergarten teachers sold snacks after school, and the students sold recycled things. In fact, the school even used a borrowed sound system during the morning flag ceremony.
The school was completely reliant on donations and handouts. One year, concerned students from the International School of Bangkok (ISB), some American teachers and their American friends donated two air-conditioning units for the library.
Although lack of money was Salrich's big problem, this did not dampen his spirit. But he couldn't spend his own money on the project. It was time to start organizing some collections. Salrioch already had experience of raising funds in a short time period. Once, a newly-ordained Thai Catholic priest from Chiang Rai sought assistance from church parishioners in Bangkok. Touched by the priest's cause, Salrich helped. In just two weeks he was able to raise 5,000 baht just from contacting friends by e-mail..
For the school project, Salrich turned for help once more from close friends, from English volunteers helping in his school, and from the Make a Difference Club (MAD) students of ISB. He was lucky enough to raise more than 8,000 baht to buy the materials needed.
Salrich did not have a hand in the painting of the murals though. According to him, he recruited several dozen student artists of the school, parents, teachers and donors - anyone with a flair or an enthusiasm for painting the wall. All you needed in most cases was the ability to pick up a paintbrush!
With such a large number of volunteers, the painting was finished in two days. Salrich stood back and admired the work. And even now, if you visit his school, you will see the murals there - like huge paintings in a gallery. They have been there for nearly three years now and even survived the great Thai floods of last year.
Through Salrich's experience, I am convinced that foreign generosity as well as Thai helpfulness comes together when there is a good cause. In addition to this, things that are seemingly impossible are not far from becoming possible especially when people with generous hearts are present. Thus, whenever we are confronted with challenging opportunities, like Salrich was, we should never be discouraged. Let optimism work because there are always eager hands to help.
Salrich's story is worthy of praise. He made a big difference. May there be more Salrichs in this world.