“An important part of Corporate Social Responsibility is that, by doing business, we're actually able to do good,” says Trond Tønjum, vice president and head of South-East Asia at WWL, who has been involved in the project from the start. “Progressive businesses these days don’t exist purely for the sake of turning a profit. We also need to find ways of ensuring that what we do has a positive impact on the world around us.”
Before the project began, the children’s home, which opened in 1992, was essentially two run-down houses on a busy street in the outskirts of the resort town of Pattaya. The houses housed around 80 orphaned or abandoned children, from newborn to age 18, and were set up by Khun Pingta. Ms Pingta has a background in child psychology and acts as ‘mother’ to all the children. What started as her helping a handful of local children soon turned into the larger charitable initiative it has become today.
Even in this older home, Tønjum notes, “Ms Pingta and her team’s strong commitment brings structure, family feel, schooling, food, activities and, not least, love to children who, if not for Baan Jing Jai, would have ended up on the streets.”
When WWL was presented with the challenge to fund a new home, employees from around the world started to donate money, which the company matched. To date, WWL has raised 9 million Thai baht (250,000 US dollars), which is more than a third of the total building cost of 24 million baht. The other donors consist of private individuals and some small and medium-sized Scandinavian enterprises.
Runhild Persensky Giving, a former WWL manager who now works full-time on sustainable projects, has also played a huge part in maintaining engagement and support for the project.
“By running this outside of aid organisations we knew the money would go directly to the home, and we would be able to have more of a personal involvement,” she says.
For the last few years, work has been under way to finish the building, which will now house around 100 children and includes the facilities of a modern home such as bathrooms and a large kitchen. WWL has also donated a water purifier.
“The children will have access to a library, and our Australian colleagues have donated children’s books for the kids to learn English,” Persensky Giving says. “The old home was a different world and quite basic, but without this the children would likely be on the streets. Seeing the joy in all the kids, even though they don’t have much, was just amazing.”
WWL is also sponsoring some of the children through school and university. Khun Beer is one of those to benefit from this support. She came to Baan Jing Jai at age 16. Both her parents had passed away, and she was very close to dropping out of school.
“The staff of Baan Jing Jai encouraged me to continue my studies, and they told me that they would support me through university,” she says. Today, Beer, now 20 years old, studies medicine and nursing at Bangkok University, but she still returns to the home on the weekends to help out with the smaller children.
“I'm very glad that my little brothers and sisters finally have a proper place to live with bedrooms, sufficient toilets, playrooms and a beautiful playground,” she says. “No words can describe my feelings. This new house will bring a lot of happiness, and I’m extremely grateful for everything it has given me.”
Runhild Giving adds, “The sponsorship of some children in the home really gives them a chance to reach their full potential in life, as education is one way to escape poverty.”
Tønjum says employees of WWL will continue to support the home and sponsor the children’s education. “I am honoured to represent the WWL employees who have believed in this project and never stopped supporting us through all these years,” he says, “We are not going to stop now. Baan Jing Jai is close to our hearts, and we will continue to help them in the future too.”