Posted by Peter Barlow
Chiang Mai International Rotary Club's Annual Winter Clothing Appeal continues to grow in size, with three deliveries to high-elevation villages in Chiang Mai province so far this year, with at least two more remaining. We delivered the first collection of winter clothes on 1 November to Ban Muser, a hiltribe village 253 kms west of Chiang Mai city.  The destination was recommended by Philanthropy Connections, a charity based in Chiang Mai. The clothes were collected at a variety of shops, schools and offices in and around Chiang Mai, the most successful being the Rim Ping and Macro Supermarkets.
A delivery to the same area last year showed the roads to be extremely rough, and with recent rain it was decided to arrange two transport pickup trucks, one with 4wd as a potential "recovery" vehicle. In fact, on the day, the roads were very good and the weather beautiful. The journey to and from the village was just a scenic ride.
We were met by the school teachers and entertained for lunch. The school cares for over 300 children and has a teaching staff of 32, a much better teacher-student ratio than many in the west. The village appeared old; comprised entirely of simple wooden houses and dirt roads. The normal population of dogs and pigs roamed the streets.
The trucks were unloaded onto tables under a tree and after some photos the villagers were let loose on the delivery. The goods were most welcome and the teachers grateful. I asked the Head Teacher if there was anything urgently required by the school. He told me that they needed sports equipment like footballs, volley balls and nets.
So, our first delivery was a most enjoyable experience. Delightful children and staff and a feeling of accomplishment.
The next delivery was to Ban Nam Dun and Ban Om Pan Muser Tribe near Om Goi on 11 November. We departed Chiang Mai at 0745 in good weather, but a forecast of light rain.  This was something of a worry as we had been told that the road from Ban Muser to Om Pam was very bad. In fact, the worst road was a short stretch of 5 kms from the Route 1099 to Ban Nam Dun.  Not difficult but very muddy, whereas from Ban Muser to Ban Om Pam was a good cement road all the way.  It was none the less exciting because it was narrow, winding and very steep in places for 11 kms through the forest and over a mountain.  Ban Om Pam (left) was beautiful.
The delivery at Ban Om Pam Muser Village was very well organised by Khun Atcharee of Philanthropy Connections in Chiang Mai. We met up with guides at Ban Muser School where we had previously delivered.  We brought sports equipment this time by request from the Head of the large school.  Footballs, volley balls and badminton racquets.
Our guide took us a further 8 kms down the muddy road to Ban Nam Dun. Here we dropped off clothing at the small school for 50 children.
Our next stop was Ban Om Pam, an even smaller school with maybe 20 pupils in a lovely setting. My daughter Pang is getting much more confidant in her role as interpreter and local manager. She questioned the locals carefully about the previous week’s delivery to Ban Muser.  Particularly about the relevance of the clothes delivered. The responses were predictably polite and full of ‘’Kreng Jai’’.  However we did establish that everything was made use of and was welcome, but there were no suitable warm Jackets which is what most folk were hoping for. The young girls were naturally hoping to find a smart track suit top or similar.
Friday 23rd November 2018 saw a convoy of three fully laden vehicles set off from Chiang Mai to Mae Chaem, a distance of 110 kms. Mae Chaem is beyond Doi Inthanon en route to Mae Hong Song.
Our contact in MAE Chaem is Mme. Naat Lhoumeau who in turn is in contact with Khun Panachai the local representative of IMPECT (Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association).
IMPECT in Mae Chaem support a group of eight villages and through the local Tessabaan are in contact with many others. Khun Panachai is a real find. He arrived on time, and with Nat arranged the use of an enormous room in the Tessabaan (local government office) for our large delivery. At left, CMIRC members William Churchill is at left and President John Schorr is at right, with Mrs. Nan Barlow and Khun Panachai at the Tessaban.
Although Panachai does not speak English, he speaks three local dialects. He arranged for the villagers to send transport to Mae Chaem to collect the clothes. The villages are between 20 and 30 kms from Mae Chaem and the roads are all muddy unmade tracks. Panachai advised 4wd for any of us wanting to visit. He told us of a need for volunteer English teachers in the villages. Home Stay was available but no English was spoken and even Thai was only spoken by some of the younger folk. Any volunteers would have to eat the local food, be very confidant and self sufficient.
Khun Panachai said that he was very happy to arrange further deliveries as there was a great need. Nothing would be wasted. He also said that deliveries of cooking pots and pans, utensils etc would be well received.
Currently, we're removing collection boxes from many locations, with the last pick-ups occurring around December 1.  We anticipate final deliveries around 7 December to wrap up another successful year for the CMIRC Winter Clothing project.