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Alasdair Forbes turns to teddy bears and social mapping

Happy Endings for Real Phuket Fairy Tales

Saturday, June 6, 2009
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ONCE THE addictions to deadlines and grammar have gone, ageing news hounds are supposed to sink into grumbling cynicism and double-scotches.

Alasdair Forbes, for eight years the managing editor of the Phuket Gazette, has chosen instead to renew his friendship with teddy bears and other toys.

In the process he is helping to discover new ways of making life on the island easier for those in need, as well as developing his own new and now-public passion.

The hectic newspaper life, reporting the island's highs and lows each week, has gone. Times are different.

Shock Horror Probe, there are even some days now when AF, as former Gazette staffers know him, no longer even wears a necktie.

Journalists have a knack for gleaning what's going on so AF's knowledge of the many intricate networks on the island is helping him to guide the development of the Phuket Community Foundation.

While he's the first to admit many others behind the scenes have achieved much, he has somehow ended up as the PCF's spokesperson.

In plain, simple language, the PCF's aim is to take good ideas and turn them into action.

As a brokerage for good works, the PCF provides the means to achieve charitable aims and deeds that benefit communities of all kinds.

And here's where the teddy bear comes into it.

AF has been busy introducing a couple of toy libraries at schools, an idea borrowed from Australia that will enable many island children to develop that all-important gift: imagination.

While the island's children invariably look neat and proper in pressed uniforms, many tourists probably don't realise that lots of Phuket working families cannot even afford toys.

Nor, it seems, can they afford motorcycle backlights.

The other PCF project of note has been to give away hundreds of 20-baht backlights so motorcycles carrying two, four, or six at night can be seen and not splattered over the road.

Both these projects are designed to shed the spotlight on the main aim of the PCF: as a centre for community ideas and action.

''More schools are lined up for toy libraries, and we will give away more backlights,'' AF says. ''But ideally, we'd like someone to come along and manage both these projects for us.

''They are just good examples of what can be done with the kind of investment in all types of resources that a community foundation can conjure up.''

The foundation's main aim is to act as a sort of marriage broker, where people with good ideas can be helped to meet others capable of making those ideas work.

More often than not, this involves expertise, skills or simply contacts. Data lies at the heart of what's being attempted: it's the silky nose on the teddy.

For this reason, some sizeable PCF funding is going into a study that will provide a ''social map'' of Phuket's education facilities.

''We need to know how many schools there are, how many teachers, which schools are falling down etc, because education is the key to everything,'' AF says.

''Next the researchers will go to local communities, talking to village leaders about informal education, so we get a kind of a map of what skills are available everywhere.''

This information will be available to anyone who wants it, so they can tell with pin-point accuracy what's needed and where.

It's a deep and meaningful scientific study that should prove the worth of statistical analysis in helping those in most need, rather than those who make the most noise.

And as AF says, projects organised through the PCF should be ideal for companies large and small the world over who want an outlet for corporate social responsibility (CSR) in different ways, at all levels.

Meanwhile, the future for Phuket's needy seems as bright as a shining backlight.

If you have an idea, a special skill, a network of people who can help, or a spare teddy bear or two, contact AF and his colleagues through www.phuketcharity.org

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" double-scotches " Good grief laddie, we canna have that. IT'S a bottle or noo, rigggght ? I'll bring me bagpipes over Na?

Posted by Graham on June 6, 2009 19:30


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