By Adam Swartzbaugh, Founder and Executive Director of The GENESIS Network
As you may have heard, I am in Thailand this month visiting our newest schoolhouse construction project. Three years ago I was sitting on a mountainside in Chiang Mai, Thailand looking down from where we would later build our first school. Seeing the children impoverished, without education, and at extremely high risk of human trafficking, prostitution and slave labor, I found myself asking the question: “Can we do anything about it? Can we really change anything?”
Today, three years and three schools later, standing on the same hilltop, the answers are clear. Yes, we can do something about it; Yes, what we do will change things – we can change everything. Inside the school that now rests on this hilltop, the village’s youth have become students. They are studying Burmese, Thai and English, reading and writing, science and mathematics. They are learning the basic vocational skills that will earn them jobs in the local economy. They are gaining the knowledge that will allow them to pursue higher education in other parts of the country.
For these children, education is not just a means to an end, but a means to any end they can imagine. It is opportunity and it is hope. It is creating freedom and building the capacity to escape any condition.
The GENESIS Network that built this first school encompassed only a handful of people. Now, the Network is made up of volunteers from America, Singapore, England, Brazil and several other countries. It encompasses students in schools from Brown to Shanghai University. It is supported by organizations like Amnesty International and the Australian Embassy Direct Aid Program. It is made possible by companies like Menotomy of Boston, Massachusetts and Sumitomo of Tokyo, Japan.
Today, more than anything, the GENESIS Network is you. You, who believed that we could make a difference. You, who helped pour foundations and lay bricks. You, who volunteered as an English teacher. You, who threw a wild college party to raise money for books. You, who contributed a portion of your sales to buy desks. You, who offered your experience and advice which in turn made our projects more efficient and sustainable.
Today, I see it. I know it. In these places, everything has been changed…by you.
Adam’s development career ranges from disability rights policy development with USAID and the UNDP in Vietnam to tsunami disaster relief and reconstruction in Thailand. He also is an active duty officer in the United States Army and received both his BA in International Relations and MA in Social and Economic Development from Brown University.