My friend Dwight is slowly convincing me that I’m a philanthropist.

I’ve talked before about the impact Dwight Turner is making in Bangkok—making it easy for people to volunteer and contribute to charitable causes in Thailand. We have gone to hand out food to the homeless near Democracy Monument here in Bangkok, we’ve taken the great kids at Chonburi Children’s Center to the beach, we’ve volunteered with the infants and toddlers at Friends For All Children (F.F.A.C.) nursery, we’ve held events to raise money for an urban garden installation project here in Bangkok and for medical aide for refugees. Dwight’s hard work has even earned him the attention of CNN’s new local Asia site.

I’ve met incredible people with touching stories. I’ve made incredible friends with some of the other volunteers.

To commemorate September 11th this year, In Search of Sanuk hosted Bangkok’s Twestival celebration. Twestival is a Twitter-inspired social event where attendees can meet other Twitter users (much like our monthly Bangkok Tweetup), but also be a part of a global awareness and fundraising campaign for charitable causes around the world. We raised money for two orphanages near the Burmese border—Baan Unrak and Baan Dada.

The event was spectacular. Over 350 people came out to party on the Fraser Suites’ poolside rooftop bar and support our cause. People recorded and shared our social media-powered event live. We raised over $2400 US, which can go a long way in Southeast Asia. The founders of Digital Democracy even showed up to interview volunteers Jen, Danielle, and myself about emerging technologies in Thailand and about how the global Twitter event was helping make a social change:

So here’s the secret: Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had have been volunteering with children throughout Thailand.

A few days after the event successfully wrapped, Dwight and I took a 7-hour van ride to hand-deliver donations and visit the two children’s homes with our travel buddies Mark, Joel and Agnes.

Baan Unrak and Baan Dada educate and empower orphaned or otherwise impoverished kids—not only Thais but also Karen and Mon refugees who’ve been driven from their homes and persecuted by the Burmese military dictatorship. The children are instructed in playing musical instruments, sewing, fixing motorbikes, art, languages and technical skills. They’re taught to respect all people, creatures, religion and to practice vegetarianism. The homes also provide jobs for refugees and local families who help care for the children, assist with farming, construction and weaving projects.

Wandering through Sangklaburi farmland with the Baan Dada children

Hanging out with kids like these is a transformative experience. They are some of the poorest people in the world, often living in crummy conditions, many have lost their families, yet they are the most cheerful and gracious little people you’ll ever meet.

Words cannot describe, so I’ll let this video do the job for me. This is a montage of many of the great kids I’ve had the opportunity to share time with while helping out at Baan Dada, Baan Unrak, F.F.A.C., Chonburi Center, and more.

Whatever you do, watch this video.

Spending time with children in need will change your life. Once you begin to understand the loss some of them have experienced, the disadvantage they are at—and yet they still exude love—it should cause you to reevaluate how you look at your own life. You can’t help but smile around some of these kids.

The only activity I’ve found yet that is guaranteed to keep a smile on my face.

Find children in need (they are everywhere, unfortunately). Go and give generously with your time and any other resources you can share.

Some of the awesome kids at Baan Unrak
Some of the awesome kids at Baan Unrak

This message is dedicated to a gracious, playful little tyke who lost his life way before his time. Ali Baba lost a battle with disease on Thursday, September 17th, just two days after we said goodbye to him and the other children at Baan Dada. The loss was unbearable and affected a lot of us. Rest in peace, friend.

Cody with Ali Baba

If you’d like to make a donation on his behalf, the home is building a new medical clinic and needs your help. You can sponsor a child’s food and healthcare needs for three months for only $187. Donate to Baan Dada.


    27 replies to "My Secret Recipe for 100% Guaranteed Happiness"

    • Glen Allsopp

      Awesome, awesome stuff Cody, very inspirational. In fact, this is exactly the same kind of thing I want to do around the world.

      Sorry to hear about the death of Ali Baba, I’ sure you helped to make his last few days awesome.

      Tweeted!

      – Glen

    • Colin Wright

      It’s great to hear about what you and Dwight are up to in Thailand…it’s been clear to those of us who keep up with your work online that there’s been a shift and that this shift has made you happier and more fulfilled…while at the same time making the world a better place.

      This, I would hope, is the goal of most nomadic folk to one degree or another, but it seems like you guys are really taking this idea to the next level.

      Kudos to you and Dwight, and if my readers end up sending me to Thailand, you’ll have another set of hands!

    • Gordie Rogers

      It’s great that you have found joy through helping others. You are truly rich! Keep up the great work!

    • Chris

      Nice one mate! Great to see you helping out the less fortunate!

    • Nate

      Wow – powerful stuff. I’m sorry for your loss Cody.

      You know, this really makes me think. What I like about you is that you are not just writing articles to help people, you are out there physically doing it every day.

      We all strive for happiness in life. When it comes down to it, I think that we want to leave this big rock with a feeling that we actually made a difference. No matter how little it is. Just the knowing that we somehow contributed to the betterment of society and the world.

      There’s no easier way to do this than helping people in need. To selflessly give of yourself to others who are less fortunate. In the end, we’re all equal. Helping people like this really brings that to the surface.

      Congrats to you. You’re doing good work! Keep it up.

    • Nate

      Really amazing and inspirational stuff. It’s great that you are getting out there and making things happen for these kids.

    • Diggy - Upgradereality.com

      Wow Cody 🙂 This is truly amazing!

      I have a friend who spent 5 months is Asia, and he showed me some pictures and videos, kind of like the ones you have on your post. I can imagine how nice it must be to be able to be able to help these people:)

      Like you say, a little can go a long way, especially if everyone contributes!

      Have an awesome day!!
      Diggy

    • Kirsty

      It looks like you’ve surrounded yourself with some amazing people and great causes. There are lots of great causes out there to support but unfortunately they aren’t always easy to find. Thanks for getting the word out on these ones.

      My cause these days is disaster response and I’ve found a great organisation in http://www.hodr.org. A team went out today to assess the damage in The Philippines and they will most likely send a team soon to Indonesia as well and hopefully set up programs in both. If you or any of your readers are interested in this sort of relief work, check them out. I am in love with the work they do in much the same way as you love the kids.

    • Alan

      “Spending time with children in need will change your life. Once you begin to understand the loss some of them have experienced, the disadvantage they are at—and yet they still exude love—it should cause you to reevaluate how you look at your own life.”

      You’re absolutely, wholeheartedly, ridiculously right. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Cody.

    • Dwight

      “My friend Dwight is slowly convincing me that I’m a philanthropist.”

      YES! Felt great to read that. Also, everything you wrote about the kids is heart warming. Those little eyes are teaching us something you can’t learn in the classroom.

      I love this! Thank you for putting this awesome video together of our thrilling heroics!

      -Dwight

      ps – I can’t stop watching

    • Dad

      I’m just very proud…and impressed. Great vid. Give Dwight a hug for me.
      -PoP

    • Carole Batcho

      It’s a very good thing, Cody. I’m proud, too. Aunt Carole

    • Carlos Miceli

      Cody, this is very powerful… I’ve worked with kids, although not in the same situation (that’s what makes your work so admirable), and I can honestly say that you’ right. It has been, without a doubt, the happiest job I’ve had, and I can’t wait to do it again.

      Cody, after reading about what you’re doing there, I have to say that I’m glad to have “met” you.

      I truly respect you. You’re a doer.

      Un minuto de silencio por Ali Baba. Rest in peace little friend.

    • rob webb

      Cody,
      All I can say is wow! You are making this world a better place and being forever changed at the same time!

      You are a great young man making a difference, 1 person, 1 experience at a time! You are in our prayers! God bless you. Rob, Ellen, Ryan & Ashley

    • Brandon Pearce

      Fabulous! You’re an inspiration to me. I’m going to do something like this with my family over the next few months. We’re not sure what yet, but are looking for opportunities in Central America. (We’ll be moving to Costa Rica in January partly to do volunteer work).

      The tough part for us, though, is finding volunteer opportunities for families with young children (I have a 6 and a 4 year old) that don’t charge several hundred or thousand dollars per week to participate. Do you have any tips on how to find these people who need so much help?

    • Jon Cruz

      Cody, thanks for a great post and an important reminder to all of us. It’s so easy for much of society to get caught up in $600 purses, $70 sushi w/ friends, expensive drinking tabs, etc., especially w/ the media’s glorifying of the ‘celebrity lifestyle/culture’. So thank you for the reminder to let us know what is truly important. On a larger scale, what do you think is the best cause to give to that will have the biggest impact and help alleviate poverty and hunger the most (global)? By cause, I don’t mean a specific organization, but actual cause – such as water shortage, sustainable farming, schools, medical and vaccinations? Keep up the great work man.

    • @GotPassport

      Remarkable story! We admire your (you and Dwight) work as you know! You know we’ll be joining your efforts in Thailand in 2010, don’t you? We are really excited about us joining force. @Jackventures and I are working on some really exciting projects. The future is bright.

      Love the video and the pictures.

      Ta Ta For Now (TTFN)!

    • Cody McKibben

      Thanks for the great comments and the support everyone!

      @Kirsty, that’s fantastic work you’re doing in the Philippines.

      @Brandon, I’m not the expert on volunteer opportunities unfortunately. It’s a great thing that you want to do, but it can be difficult to find opportunities that aren’t out of reach financially (especially a big problem in SE Asia). Dwight has made himself a niche expert when it comes to charities & volunteer opportunities in Thailand…maybe he can chime in with some advice.

      @Jon Cruz, that’s a great question: “On a larger scale, what do you think is the best cause to give to that will have the biggest impact and help alleviate poverty and hunger the most (global)?” Again, I’m no expert, and for every individual I think you can give your time and/or money to the cause that resonates with you, but the first thing that came to my mind was empowering young girls. When you give girls education, suddenly population comes back under control, they start up businesses that fuel their economies and tend to give back to their communities in philanthropic ways. Check out http://www.girleffect.org

    • Mark Eckenrode

      fascinating and powerful stuff, man. and thanks for sharing the experience.

    • John Bardos - JetSetCitizen

      Very cool Cody!

      It is great to see you guys giving so much. The quality of life can only be measured by how much you give.

    • Dwight

      @Brandon Volunteering is big business now. If this is something you really want to do, I would challenge you to make it happen. It is very possible, but you will have the legwork yourself if you don’t want to pay the big fees. There’s a comment above from @GotPassport and I highly recommend talking to them about what you want to do, as they have been traveling and volunteering as a family. They’re also just all around cool people.

      @Jon Cruz another resource for you is on the impact of young girls is Plan international yearly report called ‘Because I am a girl’ Your question is difficult to answer, but that report makes quite a convincing argument that investing in girls, while often overlooked, will bring quite dramatic results in the fight to stamp out poverty. There is a larger discussion about this in many places on the web, I encourage you to chime in.

      What a great discussion. Keep people talking and getting connected Cody.

    • Robert Fitzsimmons

      Sad ending to a great post, keep up the good work it is inspirational.

    • Pauline

      hi!
      I just found out your blog by chance, I stayed a few weeks at the orphanage last year and I cant’ believe alibaba is dead! that was just the funniest little guy around 🙁 we always called him “alibaba no pants”, lots of good memories with him playing around. If you don’t mind I just would like to know what happened to him?
      thanks, i hope we’ll meet at baan dada someday 🙂

    • Darkmans Darkroom

      You’re killing me man. I just want to go ball my eyes out and hold my daughter and never let her go. *Sigh* Very inspirational, maybe I’ll see you there someday, and we can have a coffee or tea. and change some diapers.
      Darkman…

    • Chris Hughes

      this is awesome you guys. This inspires me to go out and do more and give back to the community in Buffalo. I love what you are doing and am sharing it as much as I can 🙂

    • anthony

      that bottom video is POWERFUL! Well done mate 🙂

    • Matt

      You are living the dream brother! I hope to be able to do the same down the road, while also giving back and helping others such as you are doing – inspirational!

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