Good afternoon everyone. First and foremost, I would like to thank all of you for being here this afternoon. I am overwhelmed by the honor you have extended to me simply by being here.
I am also grateful for Harrow International School for having made today possible for me. Without the inspiration from Harrow faculties, I would not be who I am. Rather than someone you see on stage right now, I would have been no more than an academically recognized student with little sense of anything else besides myself. However, Harrow teachers had given me a new way of looking at the world. I came to realize that academic excellence alone cannot make someone whole. One also needs to be aware of her social responsibilities as a crucial part of being a complete individual in society.
That was the starting point four years ago when I started doing community services at school. As I continued, my appreciation of social works grew more and more. In 2010, I established the Lionheart Society with a group of friends with the aim to carry out children-initiated community service projects. Under the encompassing umbrella of the LHS, there are numerous projects in our care.
These projects had given me wider exposure to the life of the rural poor, their plights and hardship which are obvious. More profound than that, however, I discovered that, despite their dire economic circumstance, there is almost no incident of starvation and relatively few cases of malnutrition in rural Thailand. The answer lies in their reliance upon locally available food and nutrition sources. These can be easily gathered and are available free of charge. This was the initial spark which led to my research called The Poor Land of Plenty: Edible Insects and Other Natural Sources of Nutrients. In that research, I had provided tangible empirical evidence demonstrating the fact that many of these foods are nutritionally richer than many of our conventional metropolitan food.
Realizing the fact that these resources are exhaustible, I also aim to promote their sustainable use, including cultivation where possible. These methods are found to be cheap and simple, easily replicated anywhere in the world where geographical conditions and climates are similar to that of Thailand’s.
As we are all aware, the global population has grown and continues to grow at an accelerating rate in this biosphere. The threat of famine and minor food shortages is ever present and is of particular concern in poor countries. When we come to appreciate the fact that insects are one of the most numerous organisms on earth, and the fact that they can be found almost anywhere on this planet then the answer is obvious: insects can indeed be a nutritional goldmine for the global community in the long run.
With the kind assistance from Nan Mee Books, I have written these little books you are witnessing today. They are simplified English and Thai versions derived from my research, The Poor Land of Plenty. These books are aimed at poor rural communities both in Thailand and abroad. Such communities may be diverse and may be located in the far reaches of the earth, but the utility of these little books are simple: if these food sources are available, there is no cause for starvation or malnutrition. The language used is simple; the illustrations are colorful and attractive for young readers. To promote a much wider distribution, I would like to solicit donations of these books. With your help, these books can be made available to poor rural families through different organizations and government agencies such as the Thai Red Cross, the Royal Thai Navy, Police Border Patrol Schools, as well as international humanitarian organizations. These books have now been distributed across Asia to countries such as Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Laos, Singapore and Vietnam.
I hope that this book will be a good example for other students within Thailand to follow, and serve as an inspiration for them to put the knowledge learnt in class into practical use. Therefore, I hope that my book will initiate the spark for students, like myself, to carry out their own research to benefit the community. Secondly, I also hope that this book will enable the rural poor to see the importance of natural resources available around them as well as realize that although they are in a poor land, it’s a poor land of plenty.
I would like to extend my thanks and heartfelt appreciation to Nan Mee Books, Mr Farley, Mr. Van den Berg, Mr. Forbes, Mrs. Brinn, Mr.&Mrs. Prout, Mr. Machin, and everyone of Harrow faculty who has always believed in me. Thank you Khun Loong Pichit, Khun Paa Jitr, and my family for the support they had given since the beginning of the project.
I would like to end with quoting a passage from the back of my book - “I believe that education is gained both inside and outside the classroom. Being able to apply in real life situations what has been learnt in school is without doubt a more effective way of putting this knowledge into practice. The future of the country depends on the present generation - its actions, ideas and decisions. By moving forward, embracing change and accepting social responsibility, Thailand may see a better and brighter future.”
Good morning, ladies and gentleman. It is a great privilege to be here today to talk about one of Harrow’s leading pupils, a young lady who has made a tremendous difference to many communities around Thailand. Pat and the Lionheart Society are the best example of sustained student-led projects that I have ever seen and her example sets the standard for others to try and emulate. Indeed, so successful and inspirational are the Lionheart Society, that Pat has been to Singapore and Hong Kong to spread her ideas and knowledge to other school children, encouraging them to have a look at the world around them, and to make a difference. We need today’s children to make a difference if the world of tomorrow is to be a better place; and Pat is a shining example of what the youth of today can achieve.
The Lionheart Society is completely pupil-led and organised, with a focus on the under-developed and under-privileged communities in rural Thailand. Having worked in several areas over the past few years, they have come to understand the plight of those less fortunate than themselves and they remain determined to make a real difference. By helping others, they also learn about themselves. One of the key skills they have acquired is the ability to listen, to hear what communities need, and then to collaborate with the community to formulate a response. Collaboration ensures that the targets set are targets which benefit the community and this book illustrates how Pat has made this connection to allow communities to help themselves. The Lionheart society can help with the knowledge and the resources – the communities can then implement the advice and make subtle changes as best fits their needs.
Pat is an exceptional young lady. She is intelligent, insightful, witty and academically motivated. In today’s over-simplified, sound-bite world where words are tossed around and praise is too easily given, it is hard to find the right words to describe her. Passionate. Dedicated. Unique. They don’t quite hit the mark. She is all of those, yet more. Perhaps more fitting is the word “Sincere”. Pat is quite simply a genuine person. She cares about others and wants to make a difference. Take for instance this book. Consider Pat’s age. Throw into the equation the time and effort that it must have taken to research and develop. And yet, today we are here to celebrate the official launch of her remarkable book. It takes time to think of ideas – it takes longer to put them into practice – and very few of us manage to see such a project through to fruition. Ladies and gentleman, we have been outdone by a remarkable teenage girl.
At Harrow International School I have the privilege to be given the time and opportunity to work with students, to move them out of their comfort zones, to face challenges and to learn about themselves and others. We aim to provide experiences, whether it be in a hill tribe or in a sugarcane field, and then to ask our children to think about what they have done or seen, to reflect on themselves and others, and to draw conclusions. Because, ladies and gentlemen, the world needs more Pat’s. Tomorrow’s leaders must show a greater empathy and understanding of the needs and aspirations of the wider community, they must demonstrate a willingness to listen and then to lead. They must be able to work hard, be flexible, motivate, encourage, take bold decisions for all the right reasons, and provide the Leadership that the world so desperately needs. The right choices are not always the easy choices and we need to prepare tomorrow’s leaders with the skill sets required to make the morally correct and ethically unquestionable choices. These choices need to be articulated and explained, not hidden behind a veil of secrecy. And the solutions require a collaboration of ideas.
That is not an easy task. Too often societies look inward, and make the same choices as their parents. Take for example the state of Pakistan which just last month voted for the same failed leaders as they had before. The political elite, playing on the fears of the masses, have entrenched their power. There is nothing to suggest that they have the solutions, nor the desire to solve the country’s problems. The world is crying out for leaders who truly care about their people, who understand the predicaments that people face as they stare daily at the poverty line, and for leaders who dare to challenge and make change for the good. And so, we as educators face a daunting task to try and challenge the youth to make these wise choices in an increasingly complex world. But sometimes, we get lucky. Sometimes, we have a pupil like Pat in our midst.
Unfortunately, the Pat’s of the world are a tiny minority. To have accomplished so much, so young is remarkable; and to have done it singlehandedly – beggars belief. Her parents deserve credit for helping her, encouraging her, inspiring her and guiding her. They are always around to support her and I would like to personally thank them, and Pat’s aunt for all they have done to help Pat. Pat has also been so fortunate to have been guided by some teachers who allowed her to reach her dreams, and I think especially of Mr Monty, who is so proud of you, and who sends his best wishes to you today.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am very fortunate to have been able to watch Pat over the past few years. She has blossomed into a tremendous leader and the best years remain ahead of her. I know that she will continue to help others, and she will make a difference. The Harrow motto is “Leadership for a Better world.” There is no better example than Pat.
I came here today determined to say words that would nestle in your ears, that would capture in 5 minutes the essence that is Pat. I wanted to explain to you how inspiring Pat is, and what a difference she has made, is making, and will continue to make. I fear I have failed in my task. Despite this, let us be in no doubt how proud we are of her at Harrow, and how much her peers respect and listen to her.
Pat, you have done us proud. More importantly, you have done your country proud. And there can be no greater sense of accomplishment than that. Well done, don’t stop, keep smiling, and take others along with you on this amazing journey.