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Congratulations, Tawee and Beth

August 30, 2011

Our Staff

Congratulations to SOLD’s Thailand Director, Tawee Donchai, on his recent marriage to Beth Crowe!

Many of you met Tawee in our film, The SOLD Project: THAILAND.  Before The SOLD Project was founded–and before our documentary had even hit the editing room–Rachel Sparks-Graeser was filming in Chiang Mai with a small crew to capture and expose the issue of child sexual exploitation in Thailand. While interviewing for a translator, Rachel met a Thai student named Tawee Donchai.

When Tawee heard of what Rachel and her crew were seeking to accomplish, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. Since leaving his village as a young man, he had always had the strong desire to return and help his home and family in some way. In the film, Tawee talks of so many of his peers leaving to “work” in the cities, only to come back a year or two later, dying of AIDS. Tawee told Rachel that an important part of the story of exploitation was to be found in his village just outside of Chiang Rai.  There, Tawee introduced Rachel to an at-risk girl named Cat. The rest is history.

Tawee’s parents worked as farmers and loggers in the foothills of northern Thailand, about four miles from where The SOLD Project is currently located.  When Tawee and his twin brother were a few years old, their family moved to the nearby village where SOLD is currently located so that the boys could attend the local public school. But Tawee’s father had to keep his job as a logger in the foothills, and he would camp at the site for up to two months at a time.

When Tawee was six, his father died from complications of the hard labor and travel; his mother was obligated to take her husband’s place at the logging site.  Being a single parent and working hard away from home, she had little time left to eat–or go to a doctor.  She died as a result of a medical emergency when Tawee was in second grade.

Tawee and his brother were taken in by their grandmother, and they studied at the local public school–the one where many of SOLD’s scholarship students attend.  But their teacher noticed how smart the twins were, so she found them a place at a more advanced school, where her husband worked.  Because of the distance from home, the boys lived on-site at the school in a dormitory for ten months out of the year.  In fourth grade, they began to work construction on these breaks to save money for their schooling. In fact, Tawee has lots of quirky stories to tell about the many interesting side jobs he held. He even grew vegetables and sold them to the school cafeteria!

Tawee’s grandmother highly valued education.  “She always told us that, without parents, education was all we had to take care of us in the future,” says Tawee.  He began receiving a partial scholarship through a Bangkok non-profit organization that would help provide for his education through college. Tawee earned a BS in Chemistry and then a Master’s degree in Biochemistry. While working for SOLD, he pursued doctoral work in HIV research.

Tawee’s journey has not been an easy one, and all of us here at SOLD are lucky to be working with him and learning from him. Since the organization’s founding, he has been an invaluable resource as we continue to grow. Congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Donchai!

Mr. and Mrs. Tawee Donchai, August 13, 2011


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