People Inspire People - About Social Business
a portrait, ideas, thoughts and guidelines
by Raimund Wagner founder of Volunt2Thai based on an interview by Patrícia Assis
November 2020, in Austria
I believe that you should always do something that you have never done before, get out of the comfort zone, and if you don't know how to start, then you should just start with what is possible, then you give yourself a chance to develop, because we learn along the way.
“here is my life, my work, my challenge”
The question is what skills I have developed through the implementation of the Volunt2Thai project in Thailand and how traveling to other countries has helped me to improve and become a better person.
First of all I want to say that creating, building and running the project Volunt2hai was the best decision I ever made in my life. I would also like to thank Khun Deng, the former mayor of the village of Ban Nong Kung in Thailand, who sadly is no longer with us, who challenged me 7 years ago to think about how I could do something for society and thus laid the foundation for Volunt2Thai.
Starting a social business has enriched me a lot, it has given me the opportunity to work intensively with people of all ages, backgrounds and professions. This has certainly helped me to get rid of my professional blindfolds from earlier days, when thinking about myself in the age of 35 or later at the age of 42. And believe me at that time I really was absolutely sure that I knew something. Well, today I call it professional blindfolds.
Now I am 52, honestly I am still not sure what I know and what I don't but the project has pushed me forward to broaden my tunnel view and to improve my social competence as a person. I think it’s half, half, consciously and probably unconsciously. I also have to think of all the people I have met and helped me in their way to change my perspective. After all these years of not standing still, I have developed and continue to develop.
When asking myself: did I changed positively? And, have I been able to pick up and learn a lot more? At least some people told me so. I hope it is true, I think I am more at peace with myself. Probably now I am more sensitive and less superficial in my dealings with other people. And since there is no limit to this, I can still improve...
“over all I am a project manager”
Whereby traveling has always been part of my job, I have been working worldwide for more than 25 years. In my profession I am trained to offer solutions as a one-stop shop. I am trained to think in scenarios. I try to think through different levels and options as best I can, right down to the deepest possible level. I survey things, I calculate and check complex correlations. I mean - I try to consider all possible influences, taking into account all my experience whether it is a go or a non-go.
This is how I identify needs and niches, weigh up possibilities and feasibility. I work out solutions and strategies using the existing structures and tools available. Depending on the facts, objectives, means and circumstances I create a concept. Having already a concept, later then I realize the projects, locally and internationally. This is what I understand under “one stop shop” from the idea, to the concept to the realization, implementation on all levels.
Project management means also problem solving. When it is about to solve a problem, I first check the problem to see if it is a problem at all. It often happens that a problem is not a problem at all but can also be a solution. If it turns out to be a real problem then I check the cause.
If the cause can be solved, the cause will be solved. If the cause cannot be solved then I think of an alternative. If there is no alternative then you have to either live with the problem or eliminate the problem. This depends on the problem and the impact of the effect on other areas, it is always about the whole picture. It is important that it also considers all involved people.
I myself I always try to do the things I love, and love the things I do. I think that is a good goal for a working career. If you achieve that you can work even more hard.
“Social Business and travel”
No Pain No Gain, sure doing Social Business means a lot of unpaid work and a lots of responsibility but it has a positive side. It is about love, good vibes, wonderful people, it is about community and friendships. It is about sharing, experiencing and developing beautiful things together. If you think about to create a social business, I recommend you to start to travel when young.
If you are not young, you can start anyway, your future is not over yet. Walk attentively through the world. Observe and learn, you get to see the world as it is. There are people around the planet and people have ideas of various kinds. Get your mind free to make space for new information.
For me, every work and every single travel experience in other countries was important. I always like to compare this with the journeyman years. In a certain tradition, the journeyman years (Wanderjahre) are a time of travel for several years after completing apprenticeship as a craftsman.
Well, man-made buildings are geometries, we understand the structures. But just as I was interested in cultural heritage and nature, I have always been interested in people, in social community structures in foreign countries. Yes, I am interested in people.
Honestly I love people and I really love to invest my energy in Social Business projects. In the past years, because of Volunt2Thai I have met hundreds of good peoples and I know such projects are good for people. Not only for young but also for the old. For me life means, building positive experiences and memories for others. Yes that's right I do it for the others, my pleasure is to see the positive results for all the people involved. I don't expect any answers from life, and nothing is for sure, but one thing I can do is to try to create good conditions for beautiful things.
In fact I wish that all young people would be able to travel to complete their personality. It is so important for the international understanding of the coming generations. It has to do with respect and recognition of cultural values, exchange, as well as mutual learning. Tolerance arises from understanding, understanding is the basis for mutual respect.
Traveling was essential for my personal development and also for all the challenges that had to be solved later in in everyday life. I can tell, without knowing other countries, cultures, believes, values, nature, how people live together, how they organize themselves, what trouble they have, how they share their happiness, but also their sadness, and, and, and…
Without all my travels and the experience gained I would miss the structure, the approach to get close to the necessary ideas to create a social business. You need the basis, the manifold experiences and memories which give you the idea to start a Social Business. With me, for example, it was what has made Volunt2thai possible, oh yes, and in this context, also my wonderful family, my lovely wife and children.
I think that all human and interpersonal experiences from all around the world are very important, because besides the technical, legal and financial obstacles of a project, there are all kinds of human obstacles to consider, no matter if they are cultural or situational.
“You really have to make an effort”
I also know that many people want to participate in social projects abroad, but they lack the financial means. In General there are some opportunities like crowdfunding, student jobs, and online jobs to safe funds and in some countries also government support is provided.
V2T is a Campus & Cultural Centre in Thailand but has started mainly as an aid project with the focus on children but in parallel with a teaching assignment for adult education. We are limited in our offer to support scholarship to project participants, but what we can offer is the support of lowest living costs at our facilities with the highest possible standard of care on site.
Actually we can enable project participants to complete a two-month internship in Asia, in combination Thailand and Vietnam for the lowest possible fee. However, a clear distinction must be made here. Being helpful is an attitude to life, a philosophy. One can always and everywhere be courteous and helpful. Initially, a volunteer can also be active in his own country at first, but once he or she becomes active, this often opens up other opportunities, and he or she does not have to go abroad to do so.
If one wants to go abroad, one has to have some assurances, security and financial means. The organization, the project abroad can in most cases not provide volunteers any or only very limited guarantees. Therefore the main responsibility always lies with the traveler himself. Thinking back about myself when I went abroad 30 years ago I had saved money.
I myself I had a clear goal when I left Austria. I wanted to make a career, so I went abroad to advance professionally. Working abroad is always connected with education, unless you go on a beach vacation. Education is expensive, there is no education without investing, that is the rule and one mustn't fool oneself in this case. Also a project like Volunt2Thai serves project participants with necessary environment for training, which in parallel also has advantages for the local people.
“I really love to invest my energy in such projects”
When you want to do a social business project you should put the people and their needs in first place. But always make sure that that what you want to do is feasible and possible in order to implement something new.
First the need must exist, it must actually exist, and then you have to develop a concept. Be prepared to accept that the necessary work is often associated with extreme pressure. Time and money, human and material resources play a very important role and everything must be kept under control and in balance. It is likely that you will be working when starting the project 18 hours a day for many months without pay.
I can still remember going to the lawyer to ask what it costs and how much effort it is to register a foundation. The lawyer had answered: "It is not necessary to register a foundation, it is only necessary when everything is in place”. He asked: What is your idea? I explained Volunt2Thai to him. He said if you want to create a volunteer project you have to be the first volunteer yourself, so start, go to school and be a volunteer. That's what I did, later more volunteers joined in and participated.
"First you start by you own, later when you have your concept you will learn that you need to fulfill your defined milestones under very limited conditions"
You are the one who has to lead the way with all consequences according to the project plan and the defined milestones. As initiator and project manager you are the number one, you are the one who has to make all the necessary efforts to get started and create the basis for the project. To less sleep to much work.. Stay on the ball, don't forget the goal. It will be difficult to keep your energy, your drive up, you need to bring the things forward but you also need to take care of yourself; I call it: take care of your "state of mind" keep it under control.
For me self-control and tolerance towards myself is important, but I don't let this tolerance go so far that I lose sight of the project and it is always important for me to question myself "am I still on the right track? What was the basic idea, and where am I now?” Any adjustments necessary? I have to keep it all in balance and also check my own "reality bubble" from time to time, because I know I am influenced by situations. There are many triggers for influence, maybe it’s the reality in which I am currently moving, maybe my native culture where I come from, the people I meet or I have met, the news I hear. It is a fact that I cannot deny. There are a thousand things that can influence you, some positive some negative.
We are influenced every day by the reality that surrounds us. Whether spilled coffee, news, social contacts, professional life, politics, everything influences us in our daily thought patterns, which in turn influence our thoughts and therefore our lives and decisions in the various phases and stages of the processes. All this influences the decisions we make in the end. The question is: How does the world, the world as we realize it, present itself to everyone personally, right now, in this moment? What is today what is tomorrow what is short-term what is long-term.. this is only a small extract of what has to be considered. Also think about how life presents to the young and to the old …
“It’s all about working with people”
This brings me to the project participants, but also to the beneficiaries. When I think of all the "project participants, but also the beneficiaries", I ask myself: what is the piece of reality that the participants can see. How long will the project participants stay and work on the project, weeks or months? What will be the informative value they take away with them? When I think about the beneficiaries, what part of their reality we create can have a good influence on the beneficiaries and the project? How can I help that the project participants, but also the beneficiaries, can see things in the right way? Do they understand the purpose of the project and all the good opportunities that the project offers to each individual? But I also observe myself, what do I see, what do I overlook, do I react correctly?
Even if I think I have enough experience myself to recognize this "matrix", the patterns. But to see more clearly through it, I always have to remember that other people involved in the project have to deal with the same problems. It’s all about human being, it is not so easy to look beyond my own reality or to understand the reality of someone else.
As a human being I am under constantly changing conditions, as are the others. In general I try to keep track of these changes and also try to pick up the project participants where they are in their own reality. Sometimes I see people who are real artists in this discipline and know how to inspire everyone.
This is great, because if you find a common understanding, if you can inspire others, then people within a group can create great projects, "a project by people for people". A project where everyone can take something helpful, something meaningful and a lot of good memories with them. This is very important, because together people can make great and exciting things happen. As I said before, I think that life makes sense if you try to create beautiful memories for others every day and then share joy with them...
To create a project that can help everyone in personal development, not only the children but also the project participants and everyone involved is a very enriching work. But remember it is also an experience that requires a lot of effort for all involved. For the project manager but also for the project participants. The positive part of creating a social business is that everyone taking part has the opportunity to concentrate on creating constant and lasting joy. It is something personal, as a participant at a social project you are also surrounded by friends. You can create beautiful memories for everyone, a positive reality.
Additionally, wonderful friendships are formed, I know that many former project participants still visit each other intercontinental. If you have friends around the planet, be sure your world gets in the one hand larger but also smaller and smaller with the time and number of friends around the world you have. It is because you are connected with the people you ever have shared a time together. Of course, I am still interested and follow up in what happens to each one of them, to the people to my friends. I am interested in how their life develops. You are connected via your friends to the part of the world where your friends live. And this part of the planet moves into your reality rather than being just another geographical destination.
“it is nice to be involved”
Just think how nice it is to be involved, to do something good together and to experience and learn something completely new. People work together, people are in a joyful mood. After work, in the evenings, and the following days, people start to get closer, they observe, recognize and share their mutual experiences, their mistakes and their success together.
One thing is for sure, at a social project you work with like-minded people from all social classes, professions with different histories and you pursue a common goal, a common project. This is also a great chance for every participant to practice tolerance. If you manage it, you can learn and break out of old patterns. If everybody comes together to achieve something, to do something good, then you have a common goal, a good motive that unites the project participants very much.
“Social Business is different to normal Business”
OK let’s talk about normal business. In normal business life, you are also dealing with many people. Thinking about work live, in most cases, it probably applies to many that they come just focused to do the JOB, which is working time but not a "quality time". Work when it is a paid “job”, is usually done under the pressure of the responsibility to cover the cost of living.
Yes, don't be late for work, hopefully you won't lose your job. Work is work and leisure is leisure, your job does not mean that you can enjoy your private life while doing your job. That's what you are taught from the beginning, at least that's what I was taught when young.
In many minds a job is not connected with "Quality Time". For many, quality time comes after when everyone leaves the office, the construction site, the workplace. Perhaps many ask themselves: am I doing something meaningful, is the product of my work helpful for society?
Unlike, or different to the normal working life, working on a social project offers people the opportunity to leave the established system behind them for a short time. It gives you the ability to concentrate on yourself, you can watch yourself changing. This reminds me very much of the sentence “become like little children” It is real: The children show you the way. The project members at the V2T project are paid daily with joy and a smile from the children, and sure everyone can share that experience with their colleagues, which brings joy again.
Another interesting result is also that if you work long enough in a social project, over time many lose the insecurity that Western society has indoctrinated many of us since childhood. I am thinking here of all the influences of advertising, television and the internet, not only for the young, but also for the old.
“explore and discover your own social skills”
We came into the world and the world was already there. We start our lives, we are born into a world, a reality that others have created for us. Determined by the society in which we grow up, we are all influenced by the culture in which we grow up. Religions may shape our society values, then come the influences of radio, television and the internet. Since our childhood, constant advertising has told us what we need, and has influenced us in what we think, what we define as beautiful and harmonious.
In this created artificially reality, created by others, everyone is beautiful, perfect, fashionable, cool, clever, but everything just on the outside. All this has putted opinions in your head that are not your own. These are all just "acquired" social values we have learned from the “for us created reality”.
At some point, professional life begins, and we create again reality for the next generation. Starting already at school, yes, don't fall out of line, stay in line. Everyone want to make everything perfect and may you put yourself to much under pressure, there is this maybe fear of looking stupid in front of the others, or fear of “fail”, not passing. Things get really bad when bullying is added because you “fail” or cannot follow this regime.
I remember myself I was also very insecure as a teenager I just overdid it so no one would notice. People are forced into man-made thinking and working routines, living in the box, living in the system and this prevents some people from being natural, just themselves. In the end, as an individual you have to ask yourself who you are and what has been manipulated. Who am I, what is my true self.
My thesis is: in order to break out of the reality around you, you need just as many years of distance from it to see clearly again. Knowing your true yourself, to recognize what you really love is very important to find out because then you can build your career on it.
“a social project can help you to gain in confidence”
Your values will shift, and you are able to build your own independent values. Being social means talking, listening, exchanging and being supportive. Always think of others and then of yourself. We are all in the same boat and it is about communication, it is about questions. Talking brings people together. It's a pity if someone doesn't dare to ask, I've often experienced this with young people. Whether it is a request for help or information.
Questions are also the key to knowledge, and knowledge must be shared to help others. There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. The person who is asked should be happy and be dedicated to the person who asks a question and answer questions in a friendly and correct way. In fact, I can consider myself very happy when someone comes to me for advice. This shows that someone appreciates my information and experience.
The main rule is: "I'm OK, you're OK", nobody should be afraid of making a fool of themselves, not afraid of failing. There is always a "Thank you for asking me", and it's no problem at all if you can't give a correct answer to a question, even in professional life you don't embarrass yourself. You can always say: "Sorry, I don't know, but I can inform myself", I will give you the correct information later, be sure this is good enough...
In reality, in a healthy society, you are usually accepted positively as you come, trust it, it's all in your head, you just have to see through it. Participation in a social project can greatly help people to grow in their personality. And of course there is no doubt, any work you do for the society, for the children, or for people in need is meaningful. In helping others, you help yourself, and yes: wonderful experiences unite people.
“what I have learned from Asia”
When people ask me what I have learned from Asia, then I think first of my family. I have to admit that I have personally learned a lot via my family from Asia and Asian culture in addition to all the business years before In Asia. What I particularly liked is the family bond, the friendly nature and mutual courtesy and respect for the individual.
The Thai people are good role models for me, but also many people I have met before from other Asian nations. Indeed I have a lot to thank them for, especially my career so far. Here I also have to admit that I often thought I knew a little better out of ignorance and western conviction. But the Asians are very friendly and only present you the "mirror". Whereby I finally made myself ridiculous in front of myself. If that happens to you, then you should have at least some sense of humor and be able to laugh about yourself.
I think it is good that in general, depending on the country and culture in Asia, generations still stick together as a family. Everything is shared, shared with others. Kindness and politeness is a question of attitude, being nice and showing a smile is always right and never a mistake.
Especially Thailand is a welcoming culture, you always get a positive signal from the people. Family life is important, the generations take care of each other. People respect age and love children, no matter which child, it doesn't have to be their own.
Thais do not want to annoy others, they are always looking for a friendly way. People always think carefully about what they are talking about, what they say, conversations between people should always be pleasant. Being overly cool, self-expression, matcho behaviour, which you very rarely encounter, that's not really the style here. Not for men and not for woman.
It is quite the opposite, fathers, whether of small stature or big strong men. In Thailand, men are not afraid to sing a lullaby to their children in public or cuddle their children. In Thailand but also in other Asian countries, all men are brothers and sisters, this is anchored in the language and the Buddhist culture.
People always accept others as the good person first. There is no prejudging attitude, there is no shyness, and basically every person has social accreditation, unless he or she shows that he or she is not worth it. And another positive point is that the society also forgives and gives new chances.
Brands, nice clothes play only a limited role. Fashion knick-knacks, is on the outside, it is also fun, but people do not identify themselves as a person through that, even if you are happy about being beautiful. People make many compliments to each other, simply because it brings happiness.
However, you have a name and a family. The Family comes always first, and is represented by every single member. Growing up in Thailand you should be a friendly, polite person, does not matter of your social status and how you appear, regardless of whether you surround yourself with expensive or cheap things.
People are authentic, advertising has little influence. A string remains a string, people in Thailand will not buy an expensive clothesline. After all, a clothesline is also just a piece of string. And a handbag remains a handbag, it is for putting things in and then having your hands free. It does not have to be expensive, it just has to be useful.
I have never met greed and envy, whatever you have you share everything to enjoy it together with others. People do not pretend, they do not imitate, and they do not identify themselves with things. Everybody is respected, especially by the individual’s actions and what one can create. People forgive each other ... even if something negative has happened once.
Sometimes people ask me what moved me to create V2T
To explain that, I have to think back 25 years. After completing my basic education, I was able to save some money and planned to go to Australia. By accident, however, I landed in Thailand, first in the south and later in Bangkok. I was always eager to learn, I was particularly interested to study Thai language, so I soon got assignments as an interpreter for various companies and projects.
Right next to the office buildings and the house where I lived laid the slums. I often stayed in these - on the one hand to learn the language in conversation with the people, on the other hand, to learn how life works in Bangkok. I found out how people of the same age where doing without education. I learned about the cares and needs of young families, young women and men.
Many already had children, the second generation, who would probably find it difficult to leave the slums behind. At that time, I sat together with the families of the slums, in tin-roof booths, where the inhabitants go to sleep with machetes and listened to their stories.
Above all this was the strong smell of urine, rotting garbage and moisture, the young girls nursed their children on stinking mattresses and the young men hired themselves as serfs for some underworld bosses.
Criminal business was the order of the day. Many young man had scars from punctures and other mutilations, visible at the bodies of those who had survived gang wars, stabbing and shooting. Often, young people lost their lives before the age of 15. Other went to jail because killing someone … Abandoned girls from the villages left their children with their grandparents then, as they still do today, dreaming of a better future. Many trying to get a regular, serious job and ultimately fail because of the lack of education. For many, and also today only prostitution remain.
“skills necessary to implement projects”
When one ask, what are the skills necessary to implement projects, especially social projects and what are the skills of a social entrepreneur. I would tell that the requirements are the same as in normal profit-oriented business. One should have a profound education. It requires a wide range of experience. Professional skills are a must, but you need to have or acquire many more soft skills. It's a bit like being a sportsman, he has to work on himself every day. You yourself as a person also become part of the project on which you have to work very hard.
There is always work you are constantly confronted with problems. You really must have an extreme will to work very hard and love challenges. You should have a strong will, courage and trust in yourself. You must be able to rely on yourself. The more experience you have the better.
You will always find yourself in situations where you feel you have too little experience, you can be sure of that. You have to be flexible and very creative, you have to learn to constantly come up with something new with very little resources. Nevertheless, an effort that has brought good things at the end of the day, a positive result and creates joy for all involved.
You have to love people, don't be afraid to make many mistakes, mistakes are OK. You also have to be willing to let other people help you. And very important, you have to be willing to ask other people for help, invite them to help, give them a chance to help.
Even if you start with something at your own, doing anything big you will need the help of others. It is also very nice to be asked for help personally by someone else, or to be invited to help. You can make a positive difference. It is also a nice compliment, because it shows that you are needed. You can collect positive points, and afterwards you have something to share.
No one can build a whole car by himself from a block of metal. Without machines created by others, by a multitude of people. You have to differentiate clearly between monetary and non-monetary profits. You cannot get rich from such work, but you can win. In the end, in old age you can't take anything with you anyway, but many people can profit from your life and your work. It is nice and it is really nice that you will have many friends, negative things you can leave behind, that is also a part of our life.
“a social entrepreneur can keep motivation every day”
As a social entrepreneur I can keep motivation every day by thinking on my family and the people around me. But also the great stories that arise from the project. I am not a person who can be alone. I am a family man, I also I see the best form of business in a family business. It is very valuable to be closely connected with my family. I really enjoy that we live three generations in one house in Thailand.
It is also the deeper insight that real, lasting experiences cannot be bought for money. You don't need most of the things that the consumer world offers. Of course, we can't do without a washing machine, or a car, etc., otherwise we can't keep the family or project related businesses running.
But it is also good, and educational for my children, to find ways around and get by with the things you have. You can fix a lot, you don't always have to buy something new. I don't worry about my children. My children they learn from me, from the project and from the volunteers every day. One day, with all these experiences, they will make their own life.
No matter what you have and do, you can achieve nothing more in life than love and happiness and this is what I wish for them as a father. My children will have the chance to travel around the world, visit friends and project partners and they will find their place in society with a profession of their choice. I believe that there is no certainty in life.
I encourage people to educate and train themselves as broadly as possible. Academic knowledge is no less important than craftsmanship skills, and vice versa. Focus on creating good things for people, and it is very important to have the right people around you. We are all comrades in life in our time, Life is a Journey. When “traveling” with the right friends, you and your friends can make everything possible.
Sure, my children too will have to fight with all their strength, but that is good, out of the comfort zone. By fighting for the profession of their choice, they will gain additional important life experience, just like me. A very educated man once said to me "people pay for solutions and not for school certificates" If you have experience you can offer solutions. For me this has proved true, I still believe in it.
“social change concerns us all”
Life is short and it takes a large part of your life to gain experiences that can be helpful for others. When you are finally able to support, you have already reached a “higher age”. In the last third of your life there is not so much time left. Now you know the concept of time and if you have learned something valuable, you also have the duty to pass this knowledge on to the younger ones. We must not forget where we ourselves once stood when we started young.
If you want to initiate a project for social change, and here I can only speak of my experiences with Volunt2Thai. When working with children, you have to plan the milestones in very long time periods. The basis - the entire environment and planning must be right. I started writing the concept and I quickly learned that I had to think in decades, so I designed our project for a period of 20 years. I mean, only then I will see the real success, it is like with your own children. You have to think for the next generation, I hope I will be old enough to see the results one day…
“Volunteers are important”
Volunteers represent people who want to do something good, people who want to make a positive contribution to society, and they are special and selected people. Children, need role models, children need mentors to orientate themselves by. We are all the role models, all of us who are alive. Within the project these role models are the project participants, the volunteers, mostly students, veterans, teachers, pensioners or people who need orientation for a new job, for example for training for a social profession.
I want to remind you that most of the parents of the children we look after are not, or cannot be with their children. So, at Volunt2Thai together with the volunteers, we create a basis, something that the children trust, and something that they can use later as a basis for orientation. This foundation is primarily based on the general knowledge we provide through lessons and games, and the existing environment we have built up. Now, not to forget the other side of the coin: all the positive lessons and experiences that all project participants take away with them for their own personal development when they leave the project.
“success is measureable”
Social projects can make a huge difference and it is possible to measure success. Just imagine, seven years ago we started with Volunt2Thai to accompany the children who were that time five years old. Now the children are already thirteen years old. Most of them speak English and have grown up with us in an international environment provided by us. For those children the contact with volunteers from all over the world is quite normal and they have no fear or worries of contact. A lot of trust has been built up and now we should go on help this young generation building up a sustainable economy in their villages.
As a social entrepreneur you work with people, you fulfill your mission when you see that things change for the better. As long as I live, all these people are part of my reality this also concerns the volunteers. We create stories, memories and friendships. Yesterday’s Children, but also yesterday’s volunteers are the adults of tomorrow, and we will be friends.
Whether it's the children we are looking after on the project today or the former project participants. Many of today's children will marry and have children again when they grow up. Many of the project participants were young when they came to us and are now already married.
It is like evolution itself, a never ending story. The impact of the project on the reality of all those involved, whether children or carers, should not be underestimated. Many of the volunteers have also been abroad for the first time in connection with the project, which is very formative.
In life you draw from your own experiences and from the experiences of others. The experience gained in the project is significant for both groups, for the children cared for as well as for their carers at the time. Both generations will one day pass on their life experiences to the new young people until they themselves become grandfathers and grandmothers again.
Seen from this perspective, as long as there are people, there is always something to do. You can never be done as a Social Entrepreneur, just as you can never be done with your own children. All you can do is hope to have left something good behind one day. After all, there are always new generations to come and there is always the need to learn how to improve something for society.
I compare life to a buffet of all good things. The young in the back the older in the front. At some point in your life, when you have progressed so far in your life that you are at the front of the buffet and you have enjoyed all the good things, then you should clear the way to the buffet so that those behind you can come and enjoy the good things too. You shouldn't block the way for the others behind you and defend the buffet. But maybe you go to the front and fill the table, or you teach the young one how to prepare a good buffet.
Established structures have to be maintained, new structures have to be adapted, new structures have to be created to meet future conditions. I like the psychological quote "One cannot not communicate" you, me and everyone we influence the society, with everything we do, we talk, how we live our life’s and of course it gets more complex since people are individual and so diverse in their interests and abilities.
“social entrepreneur is a lonely path?”
To the question if social entrepreneur is a lonely path? Yes and no, but the first step must always be taken by yourself. If you are the one who have the project idea you may have to take the first step alone. Since you developed the idea, you are usually the one with the most information and experience. The others who join after can hardly share this with you and you need to consider to give the others time to follow up. But there is a positive aspect involved as well. The longer you are in social business, the less you are alone and the more support you can get.
When you do an aid project you usually do it on an underdeveloped place, where there is a real need. I remember the project start when starting Volunt2Thai. The local people also needed some time to orientate themselves, and it took some years before they were able to see the total impact of the project and the success it had with the local children. Today the people in the villages are proud of their grandchildren.
You have to understand the old people in the villages are not cosmopolitans. They don't know any books because it was not an issue at school when they were children. Most of them where only two years at school and they hardly learned to read. The old people in the villages were also never be able to get abroad to learn know the world. Now they have their lives behind them, they won't go anywhere anymore.
Different to the children they learn already to know today's standard requirements to exist in an educated world and to be successful. The children using internet and also see the comfort that the world, but also Thailand offers, with an appropriate education. They are eager to achieve something.
They will invest then their energy in the things they have available combined with their additional knowledge. They have many tools on hand, when knowing how to deal with it. There is nature, traditions, culture, food, agriculture. They just need some guidance. Now they are still children but a couple of years later when grown, they will be members the local village- and school council.
And certainly Volunt2Thai must continue to accompany them, our work must go on, we cannot leave the children behind alone now. Later, when they will be grown up, we will be able to see if all our invested work has led them to success. There is still a long way to go and it is exciting, but I am convinced that the children will be able to do better than their parents and grandparents.
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