The History of the
Chiang Mai Charity Calendar
We had often discussed how many of our friends on leaving Chiang Mai after a short visit had said things like: "Wish we could have stayed longer" or: "We'll be back again - didn't realise how much there was to see and do here"
Other conversations had covered how tourism might help those less well-off in the community, particularly the many rural children who lack the opportunity of a proper education and a decent start in life. We talked about the very lucky kids privileged enough to go an establishment such as Prem International School, and the stark contrast between such a lofty educational institute and impoverished villages, often with primitive classrooms, leaking roofs and pupils sitting on an earth floor.
It was not long before we thought how wonderful it would be if the lucky children could do something voluntarily to help the poor ones in a concept of "Children helping Children" Cash donations would of course help, but that did not fit the spirit of the idea. How therefore, to generate funds for poor children using the hands and the hearts of those much better off? We talked of the vision of children, and how differently they saw the world reflected in art.......so why not raise funds with their paintbrushes, and sell their creations? That sounded like a great possibility.
This idea however did not fit totally with our tourism ideal. We might of course sell canvases to tourists, but how to promote Chiang Mai effectively to bring more tourists - and encourage them to stay longer; see all the things that most people miss? And get this message out internationally, over an extended period? The desk calendar idea came in an instant - yes of course, already many calendars out there, but most had a commercial motive, and many were cluttered with sponsors. We envisioned a neat non-commercial, non-profit item which would promote our city in an elegant way, encourage extended lengths of stay, involve privileged children in its production, and raise funds through sales for poor kids. A 'charity' calendar. ......The Chiang Mai Charity Calendar.
So our main objectives were formed:
- Initially, to encourage well-off children to help poor kids in a 'create and donate' concept, using art pieces instead of money.
- To help put Chiang Mai on the world map as a prime destination in its own right for leisure, conferences, medical tourism, high quality purchases, sports, education, studies, and not a stopover, as many perceive it to be.
- To raise funds for disadvantaged Thai children through sales of a charity calendar featuring paintings done by rich children, who care about poor children
- To further motivate the kids who donated the paintings to continue doing worthwhile things - by letting them experience their own success, first hand.
Having an idea is easy. Realizing it is something else. We were just two inexperienced people with a sprouting seed, but nowhere to plant it. We needed children to volunteer, rules and conditions of entry drawn up, paintings to be produced, content to be written, artworks and layouts to be done, a printer to be found, a web site to be created, a large amount of cash to be paid in advance, and thousands of like-minded people willing to buy a desk calendar to make it a success.
Our first communication was sent to the Management of Prem Tinsulanonda International School in Chiang Mai, who shared our vision. As per the outline given, they agreed to propose the "create and donate" idea to their students in a painting project using a theme of "Why Chiang Mai is a Wonderful Place to Live"
It was made very clear to students that this was purely voluntary, that there would be no prizes, and that paintings submitted would not be returned, but offered for sale to add to the charity pot. Time was also short, it was exam time, and we worried that the response might be insufficient. Meanwhile, we had received an enthusiastic reaction from Khun Junnapong the TAT Director in Chiang Mai, who applauded the idea, as did City Life Magazine who offered to do the layouts, artworks and photography free of charge, and Chotana Print Company agreed to do the production at cost. Our concern about a slow response from the students proved unfounded. A total of 93 entries flooded in, and 13 were chosen by a panel of judges for inclusion in the calendar.
Thanks to all those who supported it along the way, offered
encouragement and advice, kept us motivated and cheerful when
inevitable problems arose, the vision is now a reality. That first
fragile seed of thought has produced 10,000 copies of the Chiang Mai
Charity Calendar, sending our colourful promotional into homes and
offices all around the world - and raising a meaningful amount of money for a deserving cause.
This simple creation, produced entirely by amateurs and school students, is not likely to win any global awards, or have its images displayed in the Tate Gallery, but its appearance has already attracted international media attention by virtue of its initiative, innovation and uniqueness, which is raising awareness of our beautiful city, to travellers and the Travel Trade alike.
That is already an achievement. But we must remember that the calendar
is not just a year-long promotional tool for our city, it is
a symbol of Children helping Children - and we hope an example which others may wish to follow.