Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Laos Day 7 - Corporate Generosity

After completing my walk with the Monks in the mist, I returned to the hotel. Rather than wake Duang from her sleep by entering our cottage, I stopped at the reception/dining area first to have my breakfast.

As I ate my breakfast, I was joined by Khun Thone. We talked about our stay and discussed Duang and I returning at some time in the next year. Duang and I had enjoyed all aspects of our trip and look forward to coming back at another time of the year to experience a different perspective. Mr Thone indicated that he wanted to take us to two different area that we had not visited to photograph some of the other minority peoples of the region.

After awhile, we were joined by Khun Kreiengkrai Nakapong from the Thaioil group that I had played volleyball with the previous night. He was the leader of several Thaioil employees that were traveling together through Laos.

My last project in Thailand, was at the same refinery in Sriracha where Mr. (Khun) Kriengkrai is a Shift Manager. Even today, three years after I left that project, Duang surprisingly and peculiarly in my opinion when she introduces me to Thai people proudly points out that I had worked at Thaioil. Just as surprisingly and peculiarly are the people's reaction. Invariably they are very impressed. I can not imagine a similar reaction in the USA if a person was to be introduced as having worked on one of the major oil company's projects. I would expect that polite people would ignore the comment and less polite people might comment as to the major oil company's performance in regards to "corporate responsibility", "environmental stewardship", "social responsibility", and so forth through the litany of today's politically correct issues. Admiration for being associated with such a major corporation would be a definite shock.

During our conversation we were joined by the Village Headman of Ban Khone. He had arrived for a special ceremony outside of the hotel. I found out that the Thaioil employees were not on a holiday but were actually on company business for their travels through Laos. Thaioil, through its "Thaioil Group Without Borders" campaign had donated school supplies, treats, and sporting equipment for Lao school children. The Thaioil employees were distributing the items to the preselected villages.

As our conversation was wrapping up, I noticed many small children arriving at the hotel grounds. Most of the children were walking organized by class groups but some arrived in small farm wagons that are so common in the area. The children were bundled up in heavy jackets to ward off the morning chill of 60F (16C). The children were well disciplined and had an air of expectation about them. Khun Kriegkrai invited me to join in the ceremony. This was an opportunity that I did not want to miss. This was an opportunity that I wanted to share. I raced back to our cottage , a short ways away to fetch my camera and to bring Duang to witness the event. After getting dressed, she joined the celebration and enjoyed watching the children's joy at receiving some much need items for the school life.

After the formalities were completed, candy as well as some other food treats were distributed to the children. The children then went up to the tables heavily laden tables to inspect the school supplies and sporting equipment. The children were just as excited at receiving notepads, pencils, ball point pens, crayons, and erasers as they were about the edible treats that they were busy eating.

The sporting equipment - volleyballs (one slightly used, futbol balls (soccer balls), kataw ball, badminton birdies, and badminton rackets were divided up and hauled away by representatives from each school.

Duang and I said goodbye to the Thaioil people and wished them a safe return back to Thailand when their work in Laos was completed. They still had school supplies and sporting equipment to distribute and kilometers and kilometers to travel as well as promises to keep before they could sleep - back in Thailand.

I now had an insight and appreciation for why people in Isaan as well as other parts of Thailand are impressed to learn of my former association, as minor as it had been, with Thaioil. I had seen a corporation help improve the lives of children. I had witnessed the generosity of a major corporation - a generosity that transcended national borders and political divides.

I left Laos proud to have worked with Thaioil and perhaps a little disappointed that I had not actually worked for them. I now understand that their widely held esteem and reputation has been well deserved and earned.

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