1. Congratulations on your recent appointment to the President of the Rotary Club, Patong. What exactly is the Rotary Club, how long have you been involved?
Rotary is one of the oldest service clubs in the world, founded in 1905. There are currently about 1.2 million Rotarians spread throughout 166 countries.
These members represent a cross section of a community, but are usually successful business professionals who have two things in common: They share a desire to help improve their communities, and they share a desire for camaraderie with other like-minded professionals within their community.
I have been a member of the Rotary Club of Patong Beach since it was founded in 2001.
2. What have been the most significant projects you have worked on as a Rotary member?
Our most significant projects took place after the tsunami in 2004.
We rebuilt about 25 houses for tsunami victims, repaired or built over a hundred boats for fishermen along the Phang Nga coast, and established a scholarship fund to enable children who were victims of the tsunami to continue their education.
Over 300 children were helped by these scholarships and there are still almost 200 currently receiving our financial help. In total, we distributed over US$1 million in tsunami relief, most of which we collected from other Rotary Clubs around the world.
3. Now that you’re the president, what do your duties involve?
My personal objective is to keep our club focused on service projects throughout Patong, Phuket, and the Andaman coast.
My biggest challenge is to build a club which accommodates the very diverse make-up of our membership. We currently have members from 11 different countries with about as many different ideas on how the club should be run.
4. Which areas of Phuket society do you think are most in need of assistance?
In the experience we have gained over the past 11 years, I would have to say the Burmese workers, the Moken (chao lay, or sea gypsy) people living in our area of concern, and the many children of families struggling to provide for their education.
For example, in one Moken village off the coast of Ranong, the mortality rate among children under two years of age is one in three. To me, in this day and age, this is not acceptable.
This is why we scope our activities beyond just Phuket.
5. How did your philanthropic side flourish? Were your parents charitable?
My parents were pretty much average in terms of charitable activities. They contributed to the Red Cross, United Way and so on. My mother worked for the Red Cross in America for several years.
I guess I realised right around the time I retired, how very fortunate I was to have had the benefit of a good education and professional opportunities, and that I owed something back to my community and those people who were less fortunate that I.
And I also realised that I could actually make a difference in other people’s lives.
6. Was there a defining moment in your adult life that prompted you to help others?
I think the most profound experience that probably gelled my feelings was the tsunami. Seeing so much devastation and trauma in other people’s lives around me was what we call ‘my Rotary moment’.
7. Aside from your Rotary duties, what do you do for enjoyment?
I enjoy having a beer, or maybe a couple of beers with my friends, sailing, golf, and generally just enjoying living on this beautiful island.
8. How and why did you end up moving to Phuket?
I retired from a multinational company in Bangkok, then got involved in a start-up tech firm, then a consulting company, all in Bangkok.
Then one day, while sitting in one of the daily traffic jams in Bangkok, I calculated how much of my life was spent doing just that, sitting in traffic. We moved to Phuket about two weeks later.
9. What aspects of Phuket life do you find most irritating?
The lack of a master plan to develop the island in a more sustainable way. And, the traffic here is getting a little annoying.
10. Do you think Phuket residents are generally good Samaritans?
There are seven Rotary Clubs on the island, several Lions Clubs, Child Watch, The Phuket Has Been Good to Us Foundation, GOMS, the International Women’s Club, and many, many more organisations, all trying to make a contribution to various charitable causes. Even the local motorcycle clubs are contributing.
That’s one of the things I really like about living here.