Kids are capable of “thinking big” and making a difference in the lives of other people. This is clearly demonstrated by the work of Kids Action for Kids, a small Norwegian organisation working to help less fortunate kids in Thailand.
Founded in 2007, Kids Action for Kids has engaged with young people in Norway, mostly students, who come up with their own fund-raising initiatives. The money is then passed to the organisation, which works closely with two main partners in Thailand, mobile-phone giant DTAC and Operation Smile Thailand.
Haakon Brekke, 17, the organisation’s chairman, says the main focus of Kids Action for Kids is raising money to finance surgery for 100 Thai kids with facial deformities, cleft lips and cleft palates.
According to Operation Smile Thailand, one out of 500 babies in Thailand is born with a facial deformity, cleft lip or cleft palate. This means thousands of babies are born with this problem every year and they suffer many problems – physically, emotionally and developmentally.
On average, surgery for one child costs Bt15,000. Unfortunately, many children born with these deformities are in families that cannot afford the operation.
“I am very fortunate to come from Norway, a country where healthcare is free and where any medical condition is treated immediately,” says Haakon Brekke. “But in Thailand – my other home – it is not so. I feel that with the opportunities I have, it is my duty to help the less fortunate in the country that has been so welcoming to me.”
Brekke spent eight years in Thailand as a student at the International School, Bangkok.
Over the past two years, Kids Action for Kids has financed 80 surgical procedures for Thai kids with cleft lips and cleft palates, in Chon Buri in 2009 and in Phitsanulok last year.
“Our close cooperation with DTAC has been of great help. For everything we collect, DTAC matches the amount. The close cooperation has not only doubled the total amount spent for the projects, but has also provided certainty that the money raised all goes directly to the selected cause,” Haakon says.
This year, Kids Action for Kids plans to sponsor another 50 operations at Sappasitiprasong Hospital in Ubon Ratchathani, from May to December. About Bt750,000 is needed to complete the mission.
In Norway, students are running many activities, including arranging flea markets to sell used clothing, toys and books; organising drawing and biking competitions where people have to pay to take part; selling Thai crafts; and arranging lucky draws to raise funds.
Thais can offer a helping hand by sending an SMS to 1677 at Ruam Duay Chuay Kan radio station. Every message sent to 1677 will attract Bt1, donated from DTAC’s corporate social responsibility budget. The calls are free for all DTAC subscribers.
The head of DTAC’s CSR Division, Perapong Klinla-or, said the company had decided to support the project on a continuous basis after having seen the results of operations that had already changed the lives of many kids, who were now able to smile very happily.
Haakon admits that the connection with DTAC was first arranged by his father, DTAC’s former chief executive Sigve Brekke. However, the entire project was initiated and managed by Kids Action for Kids.
The organisation recently launched its first official website to promote the campaign in Thailand and in Norway. The website (http://www.kidsactionforkids.org/) is also a new donation channel for interested individuals and organisations.
“The most important lesson I have learned in setting up an organisation like Kids Action for Kids, is that kids can do it,” Haakon says. “You do not have to be a top politician or Bill Gates to get something like this done. If you want to help, you absolutely can. With the right enthusiasm and goals in mind, kids can take actions that make a difference.”