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The wives of ambassadors to Thailand are hoping to ensure a brighter future for the musically gifted children of Klong Toey slum

The spouses of heads of missions (SHOM) is organising a charity music dinner with a difference—the performers, the Immanuel Music School orchestra, which is made up of children from Klong Toey slum, are the ones set to benefit from it. The concert, which is set to take place at the German ambassador’s residence, will begin at 6pm on Saturday February 4. A ticket will set you back 4,000 baht per person or 36,000 baht for a table of 10. Juri Drofenik, wife of the Austrian ambassador to Thailand and the former president turned adviser to SHOM, tells us more.

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Juri Drofenik, wife of the Austrian ambassador to Thailand and SHOM adviser

What is the inspiration behind this event?
I think one of our tasks is to try to better understand Thailand—its culture, history and shared values. During my time here, I’ve learned that Thai people are very giving and have a very generous mindset. As ambassadors’ wives, we are here as guests and we have been warmly welcomed and treated very well. I thought that we as a group have to give back to society.

The music school and these children really need support. They need scholarship money and a full-time teacher. We really wanted to contribute to a brighter future for these children. But instead of simply raising funds and giving them money, we thought, why not invite them in a participatory manner. We aim to raise about one million baht and we want to give as many scholarships as possible through these funds. Moreover, through charity events, we can identify society’s needs firsthand.

What can we expect?
There will be a symphony orchestra performance. The 20-30 children participating are aged between three-20 years old, all children from the Klong Toey slum. As it is a dinner event, there will also be food and drinks. The uniqueness of this event is that all the SHOM members are going to contribute. While the food comes from outside catering, all the wine and dessert will be donated from the different embassies here. So there will be plenty from each country.

What were the challenges in planning it?
We are not event organisers so this required a lot of work. It took about one year to plan everything. We also needed to find a lot of sponsorship but we have already successfully raised cash contributions from the private sector, both international and Thai. But the uniqueness of SHOM is that none of the members are only housewives. Each member has a professional background, be it in journalism, education or hospitality. We have all contributed our competencies into making the project work.

Are any other projects planned?
We are currently working on a children’s book project aimed for the summer. We asked all the SHOM members to contribute their countries’ old folk tales. Now with 25 stories in English, we are in the phase of getting them translated into Thai. The book will contain these 25 stories in both English and Thai and the idea is we want Thai children to listen to them and then draw pictures, which we will then insert into the book. Eventually, through partnership with the owner of Water Library, Pote Lee, these books will be published. Though not yet confirmed we hope that, through partnership with the Ministry of Education, we can then target schools in need and donate these books to them.