Your Name: Rosalie Tieges
Job Title: Founder of the Forest School of the Thai Child Development Foundation
What is your nationality and background?
Dutch with a Thai family living in Thailand for almost 20 years!
What is your profession?
Founder of the Thai Child Development Foundation (TCDF), located in the mountains close to Ranong. One of the programs TCDF runs is a forest school that offers year-round outdoor learning through programs aimed to stimulate awareness of nature, culture and health. Visitors are most welcome!
What are the key skills and responsibilities of this role?
As a founder I built TCDF so that the project would create jobs and become self-sufficient on a local level. We started almost 15 years ago, so I no longer really have a hands-on job. However, I live on the property with my family and am still involved, mostly concerning the educational programs and support of the Thai team. I am always in the background.
I guess my most important job these days is to keep focused on the bigger picture, planning small steps in the right direction towards improved education and self-development. I also ensure that all joint ventures and programs create win-win opportunities for everyone involved; not only the Foundation’s students, but also visiting families and our amazing team of (only) local woman, whom we train step by step. I maintain a high respect for the environment whilst ensuring we make enough of a profit to donate to the foundation each month.
I don’t have an actual job – the place runs without me and after more than ten years of experience our local team does everything far better than I could! However, in answering this question I now see why I always seem so busy!
It is a lot like my number one job of being a mom: I’m a 24 hour on-call nurse, driver, teacher, cook, personal shopper, manager….. And yet I recently wrote on my daughter’s school form: “Job: none”!
How did you get involved in your profession?
I came to Thailand helping to set up educational camps for another foundation. I worked for them for outdoor education programs and volunteering camps in many provinces and fell in love with Thailand, her people and especially the children. After two years I decided I wanted to stay and start my own foundation and I asked another Dutch participant to join. She went back to Holland, quit her high-end job as an educator in the corporate world, sold her house and came back to stay. She is still living next to us in the jungle, now officially retired with her Canadian husband, but supporting the foundation with all her experience full time!
Even though we live very secluded lives off the beaten track, I am blessed to be surrounded and supported by many wonderful people who keep coming back or even decide to stay.
How does your role enhance the well-being or experience of children?
We have developed outreach programs for children with special needs; we opened a special school and occupational training center for them. We also welcome children and their parents from all over the world to enjoy the outdoors.
I grew up in the city but always found a tree to climb in. Children nowadays have a different life: they have extra classes after school – language, music, sport, tutors. Any time left is spent in front of a screen. This is a huge difference and one we cannot avoid because it’s simply an important part of life for this generation and the next.
Children get amazing opportunities but there seems little time left to play and be in nature.
At TCDF we give children and their parents the chance to get away from the concrete jungle and reenergize in nature, to connect by disconnecting. Our family programs include Family Yoga & Mindfulness holidays; Fun @ the Farm weekends; and Tarzan in the Jungle camps.
The most meaningful part is that 100 % of profits go to the charity and support medical care and education for children with special needs. Children and their parents can share the wonderful impact of making a difference for others less fortunate.
What challenges do you face in this role?
We seem to be a little too well hidden…
Even though we are only a 15 minute drive away from Ranong airport we are off the beaten tourist track and hard to find, and we have no marketing budget or office staff. It’s hard to find sponsors for the foundation, but also hard to attract visitors as there are a lot of fancier, more high-end outdoor destinations to compete with closer to Bangkok.
The medical and educational support for children in need depends on people finding us, visiting us and spreading the word. It’s a challenge. So special thanks for this opportunity!
What do you hope to achieve within your industry?
To make a difference by being a one-of-a-kind outdoor education and family holiday destination in Thailand.
I would also like to see TCDF’s Recycle Bank implemented in every school in Thailand and for TCDF Youth Leadership skill trainings to have a lifelong positive effect on many young people in Thailand.
Who or what inspires you?
Our special needs students, some of whom have severe disabilities but who take life as it comes. They don’t sit and complain and they really try their best and enjoy the small things life has to offer!
Only a Bangkok local would know… A great way to support charity AND create a meaningful experience for your own child is to visit the Thai Child Development Foundation and stay in our one million star riverside family bungalows.
For more info on visiting the Thai Child Development Foundation, their family camps, and/or how you can help, please visit their website.