Fundraiser marks tsunami anniversary

ENCINITAS — In the wake of the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Sasha Bilar founded Toys for Thailand. Sasha and her friends collected 700 pounds of stuffed animals and hand delivered the toys throughout the tsunami zone to children who were orphaned or abandoned in the disaster. Thai Airways International provided complimentary cargo shipping. Toys for Thailand (T4T) is a voluntary team that has been providing tangible goods and services for disadvantaged children in Thailand since 2005.

The group is hosting two fundraising events this fall, beginning with the Tribal Fashion and Gift Bazaar from 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 8 at Seaside Center for Spiritual Living, 1613 Lake Drive. They will host another in Northern Thailand Dec. 24.

The Encinitas event will feature a Hill Tribal fashion show, ethnic handicrafts, tribal embroidery and holiday gifts. A variety of noodle, rice, salad and curry dishes prepared by Chef Saranya will be available for purchase. Thai tea and Thai Chang Beer, will be offered, as well as. There will also be Thai massage by Pure Life Thai Spa. The proceeds from the fundraiser will support an eye clinic for children in Northern Thailand.

Toys for Thailand has forged powerful partnerships to stretch resources and build a support network for the children and schools they serve including the Maehongson Education Association, US Navy Project Handclasp, Childline Foundation, Chiangmai International Rotary, AmigoVisionThailand and San Diego Lions Club.

For more information about Toys for Thailand Web site toysforthailand.org or facebook.com/toysforthailand.org

In 2005, T4T founder Sasha Bilar and friend Judy Eberhart packed up and delivered 700 pounds of little fuzzy stuffed toys to children in Thailand’s Tsunami zone. Hundreds of toys were handed out to children to hug at night when they felt afraid.

In 2014, Bilar revisited Tubpla, one of the villages where she and Eberhart distributed toys. The girl (who was a baby in 2005, displayed the T4T toys, preserved in a glass cabinet in her humble wooden shack.

Toys for Thailand now orchestrates The Small World Maehongson Festival to bring together hundreds of isolated village Hill Tribe school children to the city to celebrate their cultural traditions and bring awareness about their needs. In December, 40 Tribal schools will come together on Jong Kum Lake in Maehongson, Thailand for its fifth Small World Festival. Scholarships will be awarded and the ChiangMai International Rotary will be hosting an Eye Clinic for the children and their parents. For more information about the festival contact Maria Miller at mmiller@palomar.edu or Mr. Bundit Ninudomsak, koonohm@yahoo.com (Thai/English).

Bringing “toys to Thailand” began in 2005 as a quest to give comfort to Thai children but the vision quickly expanded. The group evolved from providing toys to children in the southern Tsunami zone to supporting underserved Hill Tribe schools in the rugged North: Maehongson Province is the poorest area in Thailand where 70 percent of the population are Hill Tribe people. These Tribal children face overwhelming difficulties and risks, including HIV/AIDS, sexual exploitation, child labor, drug and alcohol abuse, malnutrition and erosion of cultural traditions.

During the past 10 years, T4T volunteers have made 20 humanitarian trips to the “land of smiles” providing more than $200,000 in resources to Hill Tribe Schools in Northern Thailand. The resources included rice husking and soy milk machines, agricultural supplies, water systems, solar panels, vocational and instructional tools. School Playgrounds and Barber Shops are among the most popular donated items.

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