March 2014 – In November 2013, World Education (WE) sat down with the Wide Horizons (WH) coordinator and teachers in a tight circle in the coordinator’s bamboo hut for the regular weekly meeting to discuss school business, community projects, and that perfunctory category: “Any Other Business.” At that point, the meeting became anything but regular, as the WE staff member revealed that WH would be asked to provide $20,000 in cost share funds for the next school year.
Wide Horizons is a 10 month intensive study and field work course for community development followed by a one year internship with a civil service organization. The program brings in young adults from a wide variety of ethnicities to live and work together while learning the skills to build community services in a collaborative way. Now into the eighth year of the school, Wide Horizons has trained hundreds of young adults who are now community workers and leaders.
Since WH was founded, the WH team had rarely thought about the funding required to operate the school. The coordinator, Too Mai noted, “We never did fundraising in the past because we never had to.” The request came as a shock, but the team was not dismayed. Within the next ten minutes they were brainstorming ways to raise money for the school.
In no time at all, Wide Horizons was organizing a fundraising event and raffle. The students designed raffle tickets that they mailed to their networks of alumni from Bangkok to Moulmein to Shan refugee camp. When asked how they sold so many, one student answered: “We simply used the persuasive speaking skills that we were taught in class.” The fundraising efforts surpassed expectations, with students and staff selling $8,000 worth of raffle tickets and bringing in direct contributions from donors in Thailand and abroad. In total, WH raised $21,172 through the raffle and other efforts, more than enough to cover the remaining operating costs needed for the 2014-15 academic year.
This fundraising success shows that with every challenge, the WH team has found a way to turn it into a learning opportunity. As WH teacher Kristian noted, “It’s a good opportunity for us to grow as a project. As our students like to say, ‘It is time for us to stand on our own two feet.’”
To see more pictures from the raffle and learn more about Wide Horizons, visit their Facebook page.