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“Eternal Love”

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“Lasting Care” Horn Bros. Edition
An exclusive interview by Nathakorn Khunthong “We have been very careful with our spending; every yuan we spend will strengthen the ability of the project communities to take care of themselves. I have seen many projects that come to an area with a given problem, and the prevailing attitude is that throwing enough money at the area solves the problem. But, when these projects run out of money, the problems return. That‟s just short-term problem solving and that‟s not what we‟re here for.” Leo Horn “I believe there are many ways of giving. We have to be sure that the things we plan to give are of real use. I think even a little money can change one‟s life. Just 450 yuan can support a school kid for half a year.” Joe Horn **Article** Joe and Leo Horn-Phathanothai are sons of Sirin Phathanothai, a daughter of Sang Phathanothai who was foreign policy advisor to the former Prime Minister Field Marshall Por Pibulsongkram. Sirin and her older brother were sent to China from Thailand in 1956 as a sign of friendship, and were there placed under the care of Premier Zhou En Lai. Sirin‟s two sons were raised in a multicultural environment. They have spent most of their time in China and Thailand but their work has also taken them around the world. Joe Horn is the CEO of Strategy613. The company offers consulting services in cross-border investment between Thailand, China and Europe. Leo Horn is the National Coordinator of the UK-China Sustainable Development Dialogue. Joe and Leo are recognized in both Thailand and China as having a profound understanding of China, and they maintain strong networks there. Though they rest very little, due to their busy work schedules, they still manage to care for others through a project dubbed “Chang Ai”, which means “lasting care” in

Chinese. So what exactly is “Chang Ai”? Joe and Leo told us about their project at their new home in Ekamai. Their home sits on a 2400 sq meter plot of land, and consists of two houses constructed in a Thai-Chinese-European style, that their mother designed and had built. They took D-life on a tour around the house before settling down in the living room, under a massive photo taken by Joe of lights and shadows under a temple roof in Angkor Watt. Joe‟s skills in photography are well known to his friends, who receive his beautiful photos as new year cards every year. This year however, the scenery was substituted with beautiful pictures drawn by children from the Chang Ai Children‟s Project. Chang Ai means eternal care in Chinese. It defines a type of care that the Horn brothers and their lovely girlfriends continue to build to help people in a distant prefecture in Yunnan province, right on the border between China and Burma. Joe elaborated, “When I was 30 years old, we came up with an idea that we should do something long-term and good for society. The first thing we thought of was to build a school. But when we made a research trip, we realized that even in distant areas of China a shortage of primary schools is not the major issue. We could have helped a little by improving existing schools, but that would not significantly increase the children‟s ability to learn. We could buy more computers, but when we were young we went through school without a single computer. So we started thinking of doing something different” His idea was supported by his younger brother, Leo, who has years of experience in development work. ”We both are interested in this, and pooled our resources. We knew the leaders in Yunnan, and in Dehong prefecture, and Leo knows many development specialists. I also knew many influential people in town and friends of mine are living in Yunnan, too. Moreover, Leo‟s girlfriend, Libbet, had relevant experience and could be recruited to manage the project, so everything fell into place.” Leo explained, “First of all, we wanted to help the children, especially those who were the poorest: children who didn‟t have a choice in their future. Emphasis was placed on giving these children tangible hope. I used to work as

the coordinator of an environmental development program for the British Government, while my girlfriend Libbet used to work for UNICEF, WHO and was also an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development working for women‟s rights and children, so we asked her to help out.” The two spent a lot of time planning their support, rather than just giving away money. Development must help the whole village through to a planned destination. In the end, they developed a plan to achieve sustainable development within five to seven years. “We planned „Chang Ai‟ as a project with a life of five to seven years and to be carried out in four villages in Yunnan – villages that bordered Burma. These areas are burdened with masses of problems including drugs, AIDS, poverty and particular issues faced by minority groups. We studied all the problems at hand, and decided that anything that would help the children could be considered in our scope.” **picure caption** Leo and Libbet talk to villagers and local government networks. They get to understand the real problems at hand, and analyze the issues before actually beginning to solve them. “Children without HIV-infected parents are often in as difficult a situation as those whose parents are ill, and the government does not have money to help them. We have been trying to figure out what the villages as a whole lack, and have some unexpected findings” Joe said. Leo explained “We brought in specialists, who studied the problems that villagers in the four villages have been facing. They asked their opinions. The core idea of this project is that we let them use their own capacity in solving problems.” Joe, Leo and their family prepared a start-up sum of money totaling US$ 150, 000 to be divided over the four villages. This amount is from their family savings. Joe said “The money that we injected into this project so far has been from us and our family. We haven‟t thought about reaching out to friends yet. I would like to try this first, so that we are able to show others that it really works. The idea of developing four villages within five to seven years was brought up because we‟ve thought about it and five to seven years should give the villagers enough time to adjust, and they should be able to stand on their own feet. They will not need our help anymore. Then, we will move on to other

villages. Examples of planned activities are art, nutrition and environmental seminars. We have also launched a microcredit programme – loans for animal farming and horticultural crops, and doing projects like OTOP in Thailand. In particular, we have proposed developing a chili plantation. We could help the farmers build a small chili industry, maybe even a small factory. Leo said “in a village, income comes from the ground, which means that they have to be able to secure the resources to consistently generate income. Generally speaking, in China, people have been using inorganic chemicals, soil quality has deteriorated, and water quality has also been affected. There is a role therefore for teaching them how to maintain the quality of soil and water, as many kids become sick because of contaminated water. We have to teach them about the environment.” We asked whether it is difficult to be strangers talking to the villages, Joe instantly replied “No. not at all!” Leo clarified “It is not that we barge in and tell them „Hey! These are things that we want to do for you‟. We build a relationship; a direct one with those whom we are going to help. It‟s not that we don‟t know them, we recognize their faces and we know their names. This is just a start. We might trial ten different ideas, while in the end we may only adopt three of them.” An example of this is the micro credit programme: some people have warned us that they may not be able to return the loan and to this thought Joe replied “Money that we have prepared is our own, and we have committed to give it to them anyway. If we get it back, it will be used for their kids eventually. In case we don‟t get it back, we didn‟t plan to use it for anything else. For now, we are trying different methods. Some might say that this is not going to work out, but we‟re OK with that. The amount we lend is US$200-US$500 per household, and if it turns that we did something wrong, then we would learn a lesson. We currently have 23 families under the program. They use it for growing sugarcane rice, pig farming, and sending kids to school - 17 of them for now. We started with the most-needy ones.” The interesting thing is that Horn Bros. manage this project with the same process as they would their work. They follow the modus operandi where they first consult with the higher authorities before acting at the bottom. This is the unique significant personality of this investment consultant. “Why do we have to go to the top first? Often a NGO comes directly in and

then directly out without consulting and if the central government, or even the provincial one, gets irritated, then the project will easily be shut down. China is China and whatever we want to do, we have to respect its core values. This is something we could do through our personal relationships and in business. We could just mention things that we are doing, and they acknowledge it, which is good enough. If we do things like playing hide and seek, there could be unintended consequence.” Therefore, Chang Ai project is a good model that returns good to the society. This is not always arduous work, Joe and Leo often meet at their beautiful house in Thailand to brainstorm about the micro credit policies and directions of the project and Leo‟s girlfriend is often in the villages. “In today‟s world, we can‟t just pay attention to our businesses and our lives anymore. It‟s not enough.” This is the Horn brothers‟ way to share their care and thoughtfulness, which is very touching. **photo box** Joe‟s hobby is traveling and photography. His 5 favorite destinations are 1. Jiuzaigou, 2. Bagan, 3. Sukhothai, 4. Angkor Watt, 5. Paris


				
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