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A Meal With... the Inspiration Tina Hall

‘Inspiration’ is a quality many in the Andaman region are seeking in these challenging times. Having recently returned from three months in the UK, my first impression of Phuket was a feeling of rather gloomy resignation to the current difficulties. While the pandemic seemed to be under control and had been officially ‘re-branded’ as a ‘communicable disease’, the touristic life-blood of the island is still very much a hoped-for dream.

By Baz Daniel

Sunday 23 October 2022, 11:00AM

In need of emotional sustenance, I decided to contact Tina Hall, the Director of Operations for the wonderful ‘Phuket Has Been Good To Us’ Foundation. Over the years I’d heard so much about their inspirational work helping and nurturing hundreds of underprivileged kiddies in Phuket and of Tina’s dedication.

Days later, as we tucked into fresh healthy salads and energy drinks at the excellent We Café, Tina explained that the foundation was the brainchild of legendary Phuket restaurateur, and owner of the Baan Rim Pa Group of iconic eateries, Tom McNamara. 

After the devastation and hardship caused by the 2004 tsunami, Tom went to the local Thai community and asked how he could help them recover. The Thai respondents were united in their desire for their children to learn English as the key to their offspring’s chances of a better life.

However, Tom knew that organising English teachers alone would not be enough. The schools that needed help could not afford fluent English-speaking teachers and it soon became clear that he needed to create an organisation that would make this education available to the children for free.

In 2006, Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation was launched as a charity and has since worked relentlessly improving the economic opportunities and life chances of local youngsters by funding and implementing high quality, practical English language education in government schools in Phuket.

The foundation creates vocational opportunities by developing English skills through a variety of methods, including formal education plus after-school and non-curricula activities. In 2015, an English Integrated Studies programme was introduced teaching Science and Maths in English, as well the language itself.

In addition to classes, the foundation’s teachers also run an extracurricular programme called Coconut Club for the 200-plus children who actually live at the Rajaprajanugroh School in Kamala. These students are resident there because they are orphans, or their families are unable to look after them. Monday to Thursday after school and on Saturdays, the kiddies enjoy activities such as swimming lessons, cooking classes, sports, and arts and crafts, and they all enjoy a birthday party, complete with cake and present, on their special day.

I thought that a truly inspirational story, which transcends the incredibly tough times we’ve all been through these past two years, and I wanted to see for myself the positive energy of the Coconut Club, so on a steamy September afternoon, I headed over to meet Tina at the gates of Rajaprajanugroh School overlooking the beguiling sands of Kamala Beach. It was 4pm and the time when classes are finished for the day and the kiddies unleashed their boundless enthusiasm into the supervised ‘play’ of the Coconut Club for an hour. That day’s activity was skateboarding and great energy, balance and expertise were on display in riding the boards coupled with laughter and excited screams of enjoyment. It was notable how many of the kiddies spontaneously came over to say ‘hello’ and introduce themselves, strong testament to the confidence-building and sociability which this form of play-learning engenders.

Ixina Thailand

After growing up in the lovely English county of Worcestershire, Tina completed a Business Degree with Honours at East London University, including a year’s work experience in Brussels, but it was her passion for scuba diving instruction and oceanography which took her to such exotic locales as Honduras, the Andaman Islands, the Great Barrier Reef and finally to Phuket.

She explained, “My husband and I had visited Phuket on holidays and in 2010 we decided to take an extended break on the island. I heard about Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation and I guess I’m the sort of person who can’t really say ‘No’ when I see that others less-fortunate than myself are in need. I got involved and ended up with the job of Director of Operations.”

I would say that it’s more of a calling than just a job, which the inspirational Tina has been executing with exemplary skill and dedication ever since.

I asked how readers of this article can help the many deserving kiddies being taught and cared for by the Foundation.

“The pandemic was incredibly tough for us and funding is the major issue at present, but I’m delighted to say that our Melbourne Cup fund-raising event is back on Tuesday, November 1 this year at the stunning poolside Firefly Restaurant at the Pavilions Resort, with sumptuous cuisine, fashion events, free-flow tipples, live-screening of the race and lots more.”

It’s inspirational indeed that this great island event is back on Phuket this year and truly a sign that the inspirational Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation and Tina Hall are leading us all back to happier and helping times.

Please book your tickets at kitchen.phuket@pavilionshotels.com

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