Some of Maine’s longest-standing and most loyal supporters of Trevett-based nonprofit Friends of Thai Daughters flew out especially for this month’s grand opening of the organization’s new Sunflower Farm in Mae Chan, northern Thailand.
Topside Inn owners Buzz Makarewicz and Mark Osborn and former BHYC Commodore Marianne Reynolds and her son, Ian, were among more than 20 U.S. guests who joined 200 others for the much-anticipated opening of the fabulous new home.
Twenty years on from founders Patty Zinkowski and Jane McBride’s initial impulse to help a handful of unfortunate girls they found sheltering in an abandoned school, one of their most ambitious projects is about to bear fruit. Over the past two years the hard work of many, plus the generous support of many more, has transformed an idea on a drawing board and a field in northern Thailand into the amazing facility it is today. But the Sunflower Farm is not only home to 16 girls who were in danger of being trafficked before being helped by the nonprofit - thanks to its surrounding organic farm it will be a self-sustaining farm-to-table learning center for the whole area and a support for generations of Thai Daughters to come.
As well as going to school full-time, the girls will learn to plant, grow, harvest, cook and sell their own organic produce, providing a local income which will help support both the Sunflower Farm
and its sister home, the Sunflower House in nearby Chiang Khong.
“What an amazing trip to Thailand and an opportunity to see the Friends of Thai Daughters Foundation’s hard work in person,” Makarewicz said. “For the ribbon cutting ceremony, we were greeted by many happy faces, entertained by the children with song and dance performances and treated to incredible local food. During our time in Thailand we had the opportunity to visit the villages where some of these girls were born. Visiting these villages and the girls’ homes was both eye-opening and humbling. FTD gives these young girls an amazing opportunity for a better life, but it is these girls’ courage and fortitude that ultimately change their lives and enable them to give back to their communities.
“Some of the young ladies who are in college or have graduated are now volunteering back at FTD homes and in their villages to improve conditions for children, especially young girls who
are often neglected and mistreated, and are providing them with education opportunities,” Makarewicz continued. “It was so nice to see these young adults paying it forward and helping to improve the lives of other children. We also met some of the girls’ mothers; we will never forget the looks on their faces and the gratitude in their eyes showing that they know how very lucky they are that their children will now have a much better life because of FTD.”