Child's Dream is a charitable not-for-profit organization founded by Daniel Siegfried and Marc Jenni in 2003. The foundation is dedicated to empowering marginalised children, youth and communities in the Mekong Sub-Region of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia. The primary goals of Child's Dream are to enhance healthcare to reduce child mortality, construct educational facilities to provide basic education and higher education, and provide scholarship programs and employment opportunities to families and communities. By addressing health, basic education, and higher education, Child's Dream works to minimize poverty by providing socioeconomic opportunities to help improve the future of each person's life. In order to work in different countries, the organization has legal entities in Switzerland, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Hong Kong.
History and development
In 2003, two Swiss men, Daniel Siegfried and Marc Jenni, founded Child's Dream. Before they started to work in the non-profit sector, they were successful bankers, earned a lot of money and enjoyed their lives of luxury. Nevertheless, they were not fully happy and had the feeling that something was missing. According to Jenni it felt like living in a gilded cage.
While working, living and travelling in Asia, Jenni and Siegfried got to know the Asian continent and its cultures. During that time they also learned about the problems people outside the banking world face in their daily lives. The more they travelled and got to know the other side of Asia, the harder it got to motivate themselves in their daily jobs. It was time for a change. In 2003 Siegfried and Jenni resigned from their well-paid jobs in banking to pursue their idea of building up an NGO.
Jenni and Siegfried decided that the work of Child's Dream should focus on the Mekong Sub-Region. This region is popular for its opium production, corruption, drug traffic and people smuggling. Therefore, the people living in this region are exposed to poverty, disease, sexual exploitation and political persecution. In 2003, Siegfried and Jenni rented the first Child's Dream office in Chiang Mai and the Child's Dream Association was registered as a Swiss charity in Zurich, Switzerland. Only two years later, in 2005, Child's Dream was also registered as foundation in Thailand. Siegfried and Jenni soon noticed that it is very important to understand the language in order to be able to communicate with the communities and the people they wanted to support; therefore they started to take Thai lessons. Now both of them speak Thai fluently.
Although Child's Dream is a not-for-profit organisation, it was and still is very important to them that "its administration and financial aspects should be as efficient as possible". Therefore the different tasks were split, based on the individual strengths of Jenni and Siegfried; Siegfried takes care of all aspects of the project planning and implementation and Jenni of the financial issues. As the amount of donations and implemented projects increased, the number of employees also augmented. In 2007 they only had four employees, for which was the workload too much. In a short time, the number of employees increased and more projects could be realised. Only 2 years later, in 2009, there were already 30 employees; since then the number has been stable.
Child's Dream believes that "children are the future". Therefore the best way to break the cycle of poverty is to educate children, as education enables them to get better job opportunities. The overall goal of Child's Dream is, according to Siegfried, "to enable every child to attend school. But Child's Dream's work does not only focus on improving the lives of children and helping them to develop into responsible community members: for sustainable development it is important to help the whole community to build up the skills they need to shape their own future.
For Child's Dream gender, ethnicity and religion are not important; hence "a child is a child".
The work of Child's Dream is still very coloured by Jenni’s and Siegfried’s former careers, which strengthened the financial and administrative side of the organisation. They aim to be the most efficient in their work and also be very transparent to the outside. Consequently, the decision of which different projects to support is according to the greatest promised social benefit relative to the amount of invested money.
Therefore, the ability to listen carefully and to identify the needs of their customers, which they developed during their time as bankers, comes in handy. Child's Dream expanded the traditional philanthropic philosophy of, "not just giving a man a fish, but also teaching him how to fish", to, "ask the man if he even wants to learn how to fish". For that reason, it is important for Child's Dream to know whether the community even want their help and are willing to work together with them. Only when the whole community really want to change their own situation and are willing to work together with Child's Dream, will the communities be supported. To prove their commitment, the villagers have to provide 1/5 of the overall costs of a project, mainly in form of labour. Consequently, it is essential that the relationship between the Child's Dream staff and the communities is based on trust and respect. To ensure this, the Child’s Dream staff visit the projects and the communities on a regular basis. The good relationship with the community is also key to implement Child's Dream's mission to provide better socioeconomic opportunities for whole families and communities.
Before Child's Dream implements a project in a community, there is a due diligence process. In the context of the due diligence process Child’s Dream analyses the different stakeholders (communities, government, students and their families, etc.) and their impact on the work. After an infrastructure, school building or boarding house project is implemented, Child's Dream stays in contact with the community and monitors the condition of the building regularly. Child's Dream also provides them with additional services such as playgrounds and water systems as especially water systems can improve the life of a whole community.
In general the work of Child's Dream can be separated in three different focus groups: health, basic education, and higher education.
One-fifth of the donations are spent in the context of improving basic health conditions: children get dewormed, immunised, and given vitamins. These interventions help to reduce childhood mortality, which is very high in the remote areas.
Especially in Laos and Cambodia, children are still considered to be a source of cheap labour and parents see no need for their children to go to school or to get a proper education. In this case, a lot of patience of the Child's Dream staff is needed to convince the parents of the importance of education.
This group focuses on educating students after they have finished their basic education. In the context of higher education, vocational training and high schools that prepare students for university are supported as well as university scholarships for around 150 students from Myanmar and Laos. The support of Burmese students has a great impact on Myanmar itself as some of the graduates now work in government offices and, through their studies, have the instruments to drive the process of democratisation.
An example that shows the Child's Dream way is Akha Ama Coffee, founded by Lee, a former employee of Child's Dream and beneficiary of the social entrepreneurship grant. With this grant, Lee built up his own coffee business, from which his whole community can benefit as they get fair prices for their coffee.
In Mae Sot, where many migrants from Myanmar live, Child's Dream built the biggest education facility for migrants in Thailand. The school has 32 classrooms for about 1,200 students. Thanks to this school the Thai government has started to accept migrant schools and to provide financial help to them. This helps to improve the lives of many migrants in Thailand.
The movie about Child's Dream Child's Dream – Zwei Banker auf Sinnsuche by Urs Frey was aired on Swiss television on 30 December 2012 and 2 January 2013. Child's Dream was featured in the 4th episode of Wheel2Wheel, which was shown on National Geographic and on the entertainment programme of Cathay Pacific and SBS.
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