After moving here in 2012, he has slowly become involved in many fantastic local charities and fundraising efforts, and in the process, he’s proven that one open-hearted person can make a big difference.
Steve didn’t set out with some noble mission to help the poor and downtrodden, he simply saw people in need, realised that there was something he could do to help, and did it.
It all started one day when Steve was cleaning the beach in front of Ao Chalong Villa Resort & Spa. He saw some local kids playing on the beach wearing some rather ragged Manchester United football shirts. So Steve posted on Facebook asking any of his friends who were coming to Thailand if they could please bring some new Premier League shirts for these kids – and within a month, he had 500 shirts!
With so many shirts to distribute he approached Peter Lyons of the Grumpy Old Men’s Society (GOMS) for some advice, asking Peter which schools his group supported. Peter responded, saying the GOMS supported the Yes School, the Prison School, the Good Shepherd School and Holland House. So, Steve divided the donated kit between these four schools and delivered them on his days off.
But while he was distributing the clothes, one school that stood out for him was the Good Shepherd School, near Rassada Pier. The school helps kids from Myanmar aged 4 to 15 whose parents work as day labourers in Phuket, many of whom are undocumented, have nothing, and live in dire poverty.
The school helps keep them off the streets and provides them with an education in the Burmese and Thai curriculum that can eventually provide a pathway to work and better living conditions for their families. There are currently 200 kids in the program.
A private Thai school was previously donating rice to the school, but couldn’t do it anymore. So, the Good Shepherd’s Sister Lucana asked Steve if he thought his friends would like to help donate rice. Once again, Steve posted on Facebook calling for donations, and within five weeks, enough money was donated to enable Steve to purchase one metric ton of rice for the school.
The donations came from all over the world and from as far afield as Venezuela, Israel, Italy and Australia. The rice was soon delivered to Good Shepherd and Steve sent photos to all the donors along with receipts.
Good Shepherd then came back with a request for school uniforms, which would cost B30,000. Steve, together with his friends Andy and Annie Keating, promptly staged two charity karaoke nights. To raise money; people would bid on getting the performer to stop singing! For example, someone would bid B100 on the singer to stop singing, then another would up the ante to B200 for him stop to singing, and on and on, all good humour and with a spirit of generosity.
The events raised the required money, with B7,000 coming from the Grizzly’s Bar karaoke night in Kathu, B13,000 from the Pickled Liver Bar karaoke night in Ao Chalong and the remaining B10,000 from the Grumpy Old Men themselves.
Next, a request for new lunch tables for the school came in, so Steve once again took his campaign to Facebook, showing photos of the old tables. Before long, a friend said he would make the tables free of charge, but Steve would need to pay for the timber (B750 a table). Soon, he had sixteen new tables to give the school.
Guests at his resort have even starting to ask Steve if they can visit the Good Shepherd School and make a donation, and some have even made trips to the students’ homes to see how they live – a real wake-up call for many.
The resort’s owners have also been very supportive of the charity work that Steve is doing, donating themselves and giving Steve use of the company vehicles when he needs them.
The Good Shepherd School started as a wooden hut with 11 kids; a sister was travelling to the pier each day trying to give the kids a basic education. But luckily trustees of the Michael Matthews Foundation were made aware of the need for a proper school and allocated funding for it to be built. And built it was – opening its doors to students in 2013.
In May of 1999, Matthews became the youngest Brit to summit Mt Everest at 22-years old, but sadly he died while descending the world’s highest mountain. His brother James recently married Pippa Middleton.
By Scott Murray
For more information visit: michaelmatthewsfoundation.org. If you are interested in getting involved, you can contact Steve Kelsall at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Peter Lyons of GOMS: email@example.com