Thailand: Community – Culture – Creativity

IMG_1122The Family Tree: “We are committed to Fair Trade.  Our shop supports over 30 social and environmental initiatives including crafts cooperatives, women’s groups, ethnic minorities and people with special needs.”

What a treat when our new found friend in Hua Hin , Brian Arthur Solomon, himself a socially and spiritually conscious coach and community activist, introduced us to a very special shop run by very special people!

We had the pleasure of visiting Dtor and Peter at The Family Tree located in the crowded tourist district a few minutes from the famous Pier in Hua Hin. The passion and commitment of these young social entrepreneurs is contagious. They are on the leading edge of connecting sustainability to community based art and culture via a socially oriented business here in Thailand.

We discover that they are taking many things into consideration in this project.  A big part of their vision is to help plant trees.  They are part of a team that initiated a project called Greener Tomorrow and continually contribute money from the shop sales and personally arrange tree plantings with members of their own family and volunteers (including visitors to the area).

IMG_1112Dtor comes from a province in north-eastern Thailand and grew up in a society where natural dyed silk and weaving was part of her culture.  It is easy to see that she loves beauty and nature which is reflected in the shop and in her shining personality.

Her husband, Peter who is from the UK, bubbles with enthusiasm for social enterprise and his little Thai family.  His background is working with Thai colleagues to help local Thai communities to set up community based tourism and cultural exchange programs (see more at this inviting site). I still have to investigate this myself ! Just have to stay here longer!

He is very happy to have this shop to bring together all the things that he is passionate about in one place.  He is full of ideas and future projects that are exciting and novel. Networking and social consciousness are key in his plans.  I am turned on by his ideas and have already said that I would like to contribute at least with his planning and brainstorming process and perhaps more – who knows!

IMG_1120I think these people are courageous and committed to dare to put their savings into this tiny shop in such a competitive area!  But the place is buzzing and the word is spreading.  This little experiment is catching attention. The Family Tree have been invited to present at the LIKHA ASYA Philippines Art Festival in February in Bohol. Dtor will make a presentation about the Family Tree and run a workshop on communicating the value of community products!

And Peter was asked to develop a “Green Map & Local Compass” of  the Hua Hin area highlighting sustainability.  This is a wonderful contribution to developing consciousness for both visitors and the Thais themselves as they can become more aware of the potential that already exists in their country.  I was thrilled to get a copy of this little map and become familiar with the certified green hotels, as well as tips for how we as tourists can contribute to a more sustainable and culturally enriching travel. It is great to be able to leave it around where we visit.

The tip about bargaining is very important for us tourists: to be sensitive when bargaining and not try to push prices too low because this keeps down local wages and encourages the use of lower quality and less sustainable materials and makes it more difficult for principled local traders to earn a decent living.  It is easy to forget this in our desire for a good price.  We tourists have a lot to learn here – as being on vacation has a tendency to make you forget about these important issues.

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I also really appreciate that Dtor and Peter work deeply with the principle of cooperation and sharing.  They showcase other examples of green business and eco-tourism on their blog.  I have gotten many good ideas by just following them here.

In addition to all these great social issues, I must put a word in about the products themselves. It is difficult not to spend hours deciding which of the many original, unique, modern and colorful items you want to purchase!  While we were there a woman came in for the fifth time because there are new items arriving all the time.  I came away with a bag full and plan to go back for more! The prices are a little higher than on the street but way beyond in quality, originality and sustainability.  I particularly like the jewelry and sculptures made out of recycled paper.

Their website and video below will tell their story and show their products in more detail.  Enjoy and if you see something you want – let me know!

Mara Senese

About Mara Senese

Mara is a transformational explorer and guide in the field of personal, leadership and organizational development. She has worked in this field for almost 25 years in Norway and around the world. She is also an painter, sculptor and writer. These days, she is semi-retired but busy working with various projects that support the aims of this website.

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11 Responses to Thailand: Community – Culture – Creativity

  1. Ella Hayward February 21, 2013 at 1:42 am #

    Dear Mara,

    Thank you so much for writing this wonderful article. Your enthusiasm for The Family Tree and all the hard work Dtor and Peter have put towards celebrating sustainable crafts and grassroots itiniatives shows through in your words.

    Peter is my brother and I am always so proud of how hard he and Dtor work to keep their business thriving. Many people do go travelling looking for cheap bargains but the satisfaction of buying something from The Family Tree comes with the added bonus of knowing that those items promote the hard work of the people who made them. I have also been fortunate enough to go tree planting with my husband when we visited Thailand last summer. It was truly awe inspiring to see the first set of trees Peter and Dtor had planted several years ago, which are now taller than them! They really are planting the forests of tomorrow!
    I know my Mum and Dad will be so proud and happy to read your article when I show them tomorrow.

    Ella x

  2. Mara Senese
    Mara Senese February 21, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    Dear Ella,

    How wonderful to get your reply and to hear how proud you are of Peter and Dtor’s work! So fulfilling that you joined them in planting trees -such important work. I hope that we can be involved in planting trees with them some time. It has been our pleasure to meet them and to be able to write about The Family Tree! And how lucky that your parents can also be proud and happy of their work. Thank you for taking time to reply and for showing them the article.

    Warmest,
    Mara

  3. Per-Christian Endsjø February 25, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Dear Mara,

    What a nice story. Next time going to Thailand, I shall sign up for tree planting. Eager to learn more about how the trees/forested plots are integrated into the local landscape and the choise of spieces.

    Warm regards,
    Per-Christian

    • Peter Richards February 25, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      Dear Per Christian,

      I’m replying on behalf of the Family Tree :-)

      First of all, great, if you would like to join in tree planting that would be wonderful. You are very welcome. Please write in advance and tell us when you will be in Thailand. You can simply hop in our car and share a little petrol. You are also invited, if you wish, to raise a little money from home to put towards tree planting and buying land for the trees.

      Regarding forestry, honestly, our team are not forestry experts. The project started in 2009 as a simple activity to make a new, small Buddhist meditation center greener and more beautiful by planting trees. Everyone had a great time. We also had discussions about the Buddhist idea of ‘Metta’ which means love and compassion to all living things. We also discussed deforestation, climate change, etc and agreed we wanted to do something concrete. Planting trees was seen as good from all perspectives.

      A small group, including Dtor (my wife) and I volunteered to start a project to plant lots of trees around the temple, to be compassionate to animals, birds, etc; contribute towards the environment and in the future create a space for peace, quiet, meditation, etc. The project was dedicated to the 84th birthday of HM the King of Thailand.

      For an idea of the activities, please take a look at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZhX56nK1u_4#! In Thai, but you can see the activities.

      The Family Tree team and many other friends are donating money to the temple, during special events which are specifically focused on the tree planting project. In addition to donating income from the Family Tree shop our family liaise with a network of friends to buy land. This is genuinely disused land, where the young generation have moved to the city to work, and the land is not being used. As well as businesses, even people who are themselves poor, but have faith in the project are joining in and helping as they are able,

      Our team coordinates with government organisations and local businesses to donate trees. Most of the time they send saplings to us and we plant them. In most cases, the trees are local species. However, it’s not at the level of real planned forest. We are really interested to learn more about what kinds of species could combine to make a good ecosystem, so if you have this kind of knowledge, please do come and share.

      The good news is that, since 2009, at least 85% of the trees we have planted have survived, and are now growing well. There is an amazing story here. In 2011 we organised big tree plants for World Environment Day, in the rainy season.

      The trees were planted on gentle hills which had been farmed before, but the land was sold (some donated) to the new Buddhist meditation center. There was no water and everyone was worried about the trees. First, we were lucky and there was good rain. However, during the winter (Oct-Feb) and summer (Mar – June) the weather was very dry.

      The villagers, who supported the work of the local Monk who started the center had so much support for the project, that the villagers actually took turns carrying buckets of water up the hill every day to help the trees get through the dry spell!! The following year (2012), the head Monk was able to request a water pump from the local government, so now it’s relatively simple to look after the trees in the dry season.

      Please note that although this activity originated from Buddhist activities, everyone is welcome to join in. The project only requires faith in the importance of trying to do something good for people and planet :-) Christian and non-religious friends have helped us out, too.

      I hope that this information is useful.

      Warm regards and thanks again,

      Peter

      • Per-Christian Endsjø March 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

        Dear Peter,

        It is really exiting to learn about your reforestation program. I am a resource economist by training, but my knowledge about choice of spices are limited. But it is certainly a good start to use local spices and add fast growing trees which are relevant for local use.

        My pet idea is that Agri-Silviculture or a combination of forestry and labor intensive farming, is an optimal mix in most tropical countries. The trees provide shade (protect the layer of humus from extreme temperatures and intensive rainfalls) serve to control erosion and gives a more differentiated ecological system. Some 40 years ago I wrote about agri-silviculture in SW Nigeria for my Ph.D. at University of Michigan. Since then I have not been directly involved in forestry, maybe because it was difficult to “sell” the ideas. Things take time, but I found it very stimulating to see that Food and Agriculture Organization of UN, last year initiated a program called Forest and Farm Facility. I think they can be a source for stimulating ideas. You find more about it on http://www.fao.org/partnerships/forest-farm-facility/en/. They have also published a guidebook for building local partnership which you may find interesting: http://www.fao.org/partnerships/forest-farm-facility/35609-05b586aa7d9c0ba8d84abd8df52f310a6.pdf

        I see that Thailand is not among the pilot countries, however, your neighbor Myanmar is.

        Next time I have a chance to go to Thailand I certainly will make sure that I can join into your program. It is so right and beneficial to the great country.

        Very best regards,
        Per-Christian

        • Peter Richards March 11, 2013 at 3:11 am #

          Dear Per-Christian,

          Many thanks for your reply, encouragement and the useful information about the FAO program.

          It would be great to welcome you to join our activities. Thank-you.

          Please could you drop me an e-mail at peterinhuahin@gmail.com and I will send you information about activities and keep you up to date.

          Kind regards,

          Peter

  4. Mara Senese
    Mara Senese February 25, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Dear Per-Christian,

    That would be wonderful! We would also like to be involved with the planting. You can check on the site mentioned in the blog and I will also ask Peter if he can answer your questions in case the details aren’t there. We are hoping that many more people find their way to this shop and this project.

    Warmest,
    Mara

  5. Peter Richards June 15, 2013 at 12:29 am #

    Dear Mara and friends on HOPE Evolution,

    Just a note that the Family Tree team and friends from across Thailand are organising a tree plant on August 12th, 2013 in Chaiyaphum. Please take a look at http://www.greener-tomorrow.org/ for more information and how to support the project and get involved.

    We also have a Facebook page providing regular updates:https://www.facebook.com/84000trees

    Warm regards,

    Peter, Dtor and the team

  6. Mara Senese
    Mara Senese June 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    I hope many people support this worthwhile project! Those of us who can’t be there are sending some money their way. Keep up the great work, Peter and Dtor!

    • Peter Richards June 17, 2013 at 1:39 am #

      Dear Mara, Trygve and HOPE community,

      Thank-you so much for your generosity, solidarity and support. We sincerely appreciate your help and send our love and warmest wishes from Thailand.

      Onwards and upwards,

      Peter, Dtor, Family Tree and Greener Tomorrow :-)

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  1. Lessons from “Another” Thailand | Hopevolution - January 14, 2014

    […] engaged in creative work.   I wrote about this shop and their products in a blog last year to  (Thailand: Community – Culture – Creativity) .  This trip opened my eyes and made me really appreciate the dedication, time and effort that is […]

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