Raffle for a cause

Raffle for a cause
Susan Renaud, Calila Tardif, Loic Arguin-Mercier, Mary Purkey, Graham Moodie, Stephen Stafford, Felix Duplessis-Marcotte, and Gary Retzleff (Photo : William Crooks)

Local hotel propels Mae Sot Education Project forward

By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative

In a blend of local generosity and global compassion, the Mae Sot Education Project (MSEP) continues its mission to educate Burmese migrant children in Thailand, propelled by the innovative fundraising efforts of the Townships community. Spearheaded by Stephen Stafford’s initiative, a raffle for a luxurious stay at his Hovey Manor—including a visit to its new spa—has raised $7,500 this season.

This heartening local support comes at a crucial time as the MSEP grapples with post-pandemic challenges and an increasing refugee influx from Myanmar’s ongoing conflict, reaffirming the community’s commitment to making a life-changing impact on the lives of these children and the volunteers who teach them. The MSEP has been committed to supporting education for migrant and refugee youth from Burma/Myanmar since 2004. Its volunteers are mainly Bishop’s University and Champlain Lennoxville students.

“It started a year ago, we did it last year as well,” MSEP Coordinator Mary

Purkey said, referring to the raffle, “it was really Stephen Stafford’s initiative.” There are many faithful donors like Stafford in the local community. Stafford proposed doing something different – raffling off a room and meals at his five-star North Hatley hotel, Hovey Manor.

The idea worked well last year, selling tickets was “a piece of cake”. This year, time at the Hovey’s new spa was added on to the prize. The price of the ticket was upped $5, which did not discourage participants in the slightest, she said. This year they made $7,500, selling the tickets beginning in early November. “It was very much slated as a holiday raffle.”

The recent pandemic had a profound effect on the organization’s operations. Parents of the children in Thailand were unable to work and the focus was taken off education and put on maintaining the basic necessities of life. Related rising transportation costs, to get the Thai children out of their villages to school, were also a problem. Purkey noted another organization, Inclusive Education Foundation, helped the MSEP and other institutions teaching in Thailand to work through that difficult time.

In Covid’s aftermath, schooling has regained its priority, but the nearby fighting and coup in Myanmar has led to an influx of refugees of different ethnic backgrounds. The prospect of them returning to Myanmar and having “secure and happy lives” there is low, so the education system has been called on to adapt.

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