03/28/06 — Local donations hit $11,000 for Thai orphanage

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Local donations hit $11,000 for Thai orphanage

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 28, 2006 1:47 PM

Two local boys had never held a yard sale before, but they were determined to sell their unused belongings to help orphans on the other side of the world in Thailand.

Unfortunately, no one came to the yard sale. Undeterred, the boys took their allowance, which they had been saving up for months, and gave it to Goldsboro resident Charlie Cooke so that a Thai orphan would have supplies to continue living a healthy life.

Charlie Cook and orphan

Photo submitted

Charlie Cooke holds one of the nearly 50 orphans at Baan Kingkaew facility in Thailand. Last month, Cooke presented a check to the orphanage for more than $11,000.

This is just one of many stories Cooke has heard or been involved with since he began helping his childhood friend, Jacqueline Kannan, raise money for an orphanage in the Chiang Mai province of Thailand.

Miss Kannan purchased a one-way ticket to Thailand in the hopes of being a teacher and learning about a new culture. Instead, she learned about Baan Kingkaew, an orphanage in the northern part of the country that needed volunteers and supplies. With her own money, she purchased diapers, toilet paper and formula on more than one occasion. Then, she called Cooke, told him about the orphanage's needs and asked if he could begin raising money for the children.

By talking to any person or group that would give him five minutes to explain why the children need money and support, Cooke said he was able to collect more than enough money -- more than $11,000.

"I could not have coordinated a project like this from inside Thailand without having someone in the States to help. (Cooke) is the center of the project and the reason why it thrived," Miss Kannan said.

Last month, Cooke went to deliver the check to the orphanage personally. Miss Kannan said the volunteers and staff at the orphanage were "incredibly excited" that people they had never met were willing to make donations.

"The orphanage could not believe that there was a group of people in North Carolina that were so willing to give. Since I was also volunteering at the orphanage, I was able to keep them informed on the developing project. The amount caused quite a buzz among the staff and other volunteers," Miss Kannan said.

This amount well-exceeded Cooke and Miss Kannan's original goal of $5,000. In Chiang Mai, sponsoring a child for one year costs 4,000 baht, which is about $100. The orphanage houses children from birth to age 5 and, with about 50 children, Miss Kannan thought $5,000 could help each child for the next year.

The money will go to provide clothes, shoes, food, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and other necessities, Miss Kannan said. Some of the remaining money will help to build a new fence at the orphanage and provide an air conditioning system for the baby room.

Both are hoping that generosity can continue to help the orphans after they leave the orphanage. Once a child turns 6, he or she moves on to another orphanage specializing in children up to 18 years of age.

Cooke said the needs are even greater for those children. He added that he hopes any extra funds will be used for those children. Since the 2004 tsunami that devastated a portion of Thailand, there are many other individuals in need and Miss Kannan said she has spent her time helping all of the children displaced by the natural disaster.

"I am living in the part of Thailand that was directly affected by the tsunami and I am looking at the orphanages in the Krabi Province to help children who have lost their parents. The Thailand-North Carolina orphanage project will continue to support the building of a new orphanage home in Chiang Mai and orphanages in the coastal regions devastated by the tsunami," she said.

Anyone who is still interested in donating money to Chiang Mai orphans can send checks to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 984, Goldsboro, N.C., 27533. Cooke said any donations should be marked "Thailand Orphanage" in the subject line to help the church differentiate between church donations and those intended for the children.

Donations are also accepted through the Web site www.thaiorphanagenc.org. The site also contains pictures and a history of the orphanage. Any other donations or questions about the orphanage can be directed to Cooke by calling 919-922-0737.