Lessons from Pimrypie
Government offices can draw lessons from the Omkoi district office of non-formal and informal education regarding the "drama" of a charity project by popular YouTuber and online retailer Pimrypie.
Pimrypie, or Pimradaporn Benjawattanapat, unleashed a storm of debate after she released a video clip a few days ago showing her Children's Day gift to impoverished children at Ban Mae Kerb in Omkoi district, on a remote mountain some 300 kilometres from Chiang Mai.
In the clip, the online influencer, who commands millions of followers and subscribers on her Facebook page and YouTube channel depicted how "underdeveloped" the village is, which she described as being one of the country's "most remote locations where education is least accessible".
People there have only plain rice, chilli and MSG powder to eat. They have never even tried an omelette. Children take showers with their clothes on, so they can do their washing at the same time. They walk around barefoot. None of the children have attained higher than primary school education.
What is really bad, according to the YouTuber, is that because of their limited education and exposure to the outside world, the children have no imagination. They have no idea what they would like to be when they grow up. They have "no dreams".
That is why Pimrypie said she could not just give them instant noodles or canned food. Instead, the YouTube user thought the children of Ban Mae Kerb should at least have access to television. To do so, she needed to give them electricity. So, Pimrypie dished out 550,000 baht to install solar cell panels and bought a television for the children. She also gave them shoes and helped set up a vegetable patch in the village.
Pimrypie's charity campaign sparked heavy debate among netizens and academics. Some criticised her solar cell project as a band-aid solution that ignores the larger, structural problem of economic and social inequality in this country.
The influencer also came under fire for imposing an urban middle class person's ideal of "development" onto underprivileged children. Others, however, defended Pimrypie as a do-gooder who helped with money out of her own pocket. Her solar cell project might not address the deep-seated problems of poverty, income distribution or social inequality, but it is practical and offers help where it is desperately needed.
Here is where the Omkoi district's non-formal and informal education office comes in. Following the debate, the office issued a statement on Jan 9 barring all teachers and personnel from soliciting or receiving any donations. The measure would prevent damage to the reputation of a government office, the statement said.
The result was the opposite. The Omkoi non-formal education office immediately came under heavy criticism. People lambasted it as not only failing to improve the children's lives but also trying to block help that was extended to it.
Two days later on Jan 11, the office withdrew its no-donations statement, citing a "miscommunication". The lesson from the Omkoi non-formal office is potent. Gone are the days when government units can sweep problems under the rug and prevent people discussing them. If an online personality can improve the livelihood of a remote mountain village with half a million baht, why can't a government office with more personnel and budget? The Omkoi non-formal education office should protect its reputation by answering this question. So should other public agencies.
Bangkok Post editorial column
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