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HS Students Help Australia Bushfire Victims

– An interview with Ching Ching, Risha, and Nampueng, Grade 10 –

Ching Ching, Risha, Nampueng, Opal, and Wha Wha are a group of smart, dedicated, and compassionate high school students. Earlier this year, they joined forces to raise funds to help Australia cope with its devastating wildfires. At the time of this interview, the bushfires in Australia had destroyed more than 2,000 homes, 65 million rai of land, and killed over one billion animals.

Ruamrudee International School Bangkok

These students have been at RIS since elementary school. Now Sophomores and Seniors, they are members of several high school clubs. Collectively, they represent RISing Coffee, Amnesty International Club, the RIS Red Cross Club, Student Council, National Honor Society, the Leo Club, the Ecomerits Club, and World Scholars Cup. Already very busy and dedicated young women, I spoke with Ching Ching, Risha, and Nampueng to learn more about why they decided to take action to raise funds to help people and animals in Australia. 

Ruamrudee International School Bangkok

What gave you the idea to initiate this project?
We had all seen the news about the fires in Australia on our social media accounts.

Ching Ching: I wanted to help, at least donate to help Australia, but I couldn’t find a way to get the money there. Almost half of the websites weren’t actually reliable; the money wasn’t necessarily going to help Australia. (We could tell from the comments.) Then I happened to see a post on Instagram from the Thai Red Cross that they were accepting donations from Thai citizens. I got the inspiration from the Laos project when the dam collapsed and also the Pray for Nepal project in 2015.

So did you all start talking about it? How did it start?
Ching Ching: I started discussing it with my sister but it was just a random idea. She suggested that I call some friends, so I called Risha and Namphueng and we talked about what we should sell and what we should do, and it became a project.

Did any RIS teachers help you or was this all student-led?
Risha: It was all student-led. However, we did need an advisor, so we asked Ms. Sabrena to help as she also contacts the Thai Red Cross and would be able to help us with the process of getting them the money. Ms. Shirley also helped us a lot, especially with the t-shirts. At first, we were thinking about selling t-shirts online. She basically told us how to organize it because she’s helped with all the projects that have been done before. She knows the best ways to sell and advertise. 

What motivated you to help humanity at large?
Ching Ching: I’ve never been to Australia but I dream of going there. When I knew the fires were spreading I got sad, but what made it sadder is that we can see the effects of global warming and that it is becoming more serious. Our generation, we children, have many more dreams and because global warming is getting worse I want to be sure other children grow up to achieve their dreams. I want to help our earth. Because of the fires, a large number of kangaroos and koalas are dying. I want to try to save these animals so kids younger than us, other generations, will be able to see them in the wild.

Namphueng: The fires were man-made because all of us have contributed to global warming. Every contribution matters, so I think we should all do something. Even if we raise a small amount of money, it will still help.

Risha: The Australian government and business were trying to help the environment somehow but it went wrong and now the fires have affected a lot of people and killed a lot of wildlife. Many species native to Australia could become extinct.

Ruamrudee International School Bangkok

How did you come up with the idea of selling t-shirts?
Ching Ching: Initially, we wanted to sell cookies shaped like animals (koalas and kangaroos). 

Risha: But cookies take a long time to make, are more labor-intensive, and typically don’t raise as much money. I suggested making t-shirts as I know upperclassmen have done that before. They are still unique because we made our own designs. 

Who designed the t-shirts?
Ching Ching and Wha Wha drew one of the designs. Pob and Risha designed the other. 

How did you come up with the goal to raise 50,000 baht?
We knew that other fundraisers had raised about this amount so it seemed like a reachable goal. 

Why did you choose to support the Red Cross, specifically?
Risha: The Red Cross was the only source Ching Ching found that was legitimate and reliable. It was also easier because we could easily connect with the Thai Red Cross in Thailand and we knew we could ask Ms. Sabrena for help. 

How many t-shirts did you end up selling?
We sold just over 250 t-shirts. We also got money from donations because not everyone wanted to buy a t-shirt, they just wanted to donate. We raised a total of 51,000 baht. 

What Principle(s) of Phoenix do you feel you reflected with this project and why?
Hands (by taking action to make a difference) and Heart (by helping others).

What takeaways do you have from this experience and this project?
Ching Ching: It warms my heart that everyone is willing to help the earth, after all, we are all living here together. 

Namphueng: Even if people didn’t have a lot of money, if they only had 20 baht in their pocket at milk break, they were still willing to donate, because every baht matters. 

Risha: Some people even came over from other sections to drop off donations.  

Would you do it again?
[Unanimous]: Yes! 

Thank you for initiating this fundraiser. As Mr. Jafferali said, “You truly embody the spirit of oneness with all humanity, with each other, and with the environment. You put the idea of ‘Thinking Globally and Acting Locally’ into action.” I agree: you are all wonderful examples of compassionate global citizens, and RIS is very proud of you!