Elizabeth Kolbe helps her neighbors in Thailand

Members of the Trinity Lutheran Church know all about the life and special project of former Youth Director Liz Kolbe in Thailand. Recently, she was kind enough to share her story with our readers as well.

Elizabeth (but I think “Liz”) Kolbe graduated in 2002 from Sleepy Eye High School and the daughter of Thomas Kolbe and Katelyn Mason. She told me that she was also a former editor for the Herald-Dispatch, when she was 16 (she didn’t say – maybe a summer intern? We had those).

Liz currently lives in Thailand with her husband Kim. She described their location as “our beautiful tropical, but economically disadvantaged island, Koh Jum, Krabi, Thailand. There are approximately 3,000 people living on our island, roughly the same population as Sleepy Eye. Just like Sleepy Eye, it is quite rural; while about 70% of the families make a living from sea fishing, Koh Jum also has rubber forests which support the needs of the remaining families here.We have three small schools, one for each village of island, but students can only complete the ninth year before having to move to the mainland if they wish to continue their education. Most students (if they have studied until the ninth year) choose to stay on the island and working in family industries. Although we have tourism on the island, our tourism is strictly limited to the high season (November to April), mainly due to the strong monsoon winds which are horrendous for the sunbathing and swimming, but great for fishing. “

“I was fortunate that my education (I switched from Sleepy Eye to get my BA from MnSU – Anthropology / Ethnic Studies in 2008, then to Mahidol University for my Masters in Human Rights in 2016) m ‘gave the opportunity to choose remote work, which helps to compensate for the lack of income from my tourism activity, “said Liz.” Thailand closed its doors to international tourism on March 26, 2020 and we are still waiting for the full openness. Others on our island have no external options for work and many have returned to traditional resource harvesting occupations such as small-scale fishing and rubber cutting. This has been difficult but we are fighting.

Liz said that during her tenure as Youth Director at Trinity, she tried to teach young people about the reality of young people around the world and how lucky they were to have grown up in a community too. great as Sleepy Eye.

“Now I live in one of these places,” she said. “Palm trees and turquoise waters often hide the real poverty situation on some of these Thai islands.

“I have been so happy and grateful for the level of giving that I have seen from my small community and inspired to continue helping those in need around the world – the epitome of thinking local, acting globally,” said Liz. “I am currently fundraising to purchase powdered infant milk on my island and, having been part of the Trinity Church system for so long, and knowing how much of the spirit of giving is alive in our motto: ‘the work of God’, Our hands’, I thought I would give the opportunity to some members of the church to be able to give directly to a cause, through someone they know and who they trust (in me) who was currently living in the situations we are trying to combat (extreme poverty). “

Members of the Trinity Lutheran Church and others with whom they shared her story responded to Liz’s story and her request for help. In a recent church newsletter, her note to the congregation was published:

“We have started receiving funds and purchased powdered infant formula for families in need on our island. We started the distribution on Monday May 17th and will continue to help those in need for as long as we can. On the first day, we were able to distribute this aid to 17 families with 23 children under 4 years old. Over the next few days, 8 other families with 11 other children under the age of 4 came to seek help. without fanfare, all in the hope not to affect the personal motivation of these parents to provide for their families.As a student of human rights, anthropology and poverty reduction, I am extremely aware of the negative impacts that can come from distribution and therefore wish I could provide this help without the need for inscriptions, photos or conditions. As is the Downtown Sleepy Eye Food Shelf. “

Residents of the island town of Koh Jum in Krabi, Thailand accepted a photo showing the results of Kolbe's efforts to help provide powdered milk formulas to infants of families in need on the island.

Liz said they are still distributing help to have a lasting impact on those in need and have set up a shelf of baby food, in her store, where mothers and fathers can. discreetly pick up products when they need them.

Liz told Trinity members: “I hope the donation I just received from Trinity will help this small project last at least until Thailand allows international tourists to come back and rejuvenate the economy. We will continue as long as possible. “

Liz said living on Koh Jum during the pandemic “really opened my eyes to the realities of the world I have only studied and gave me a new perspective on what it means to be” Our work, the hands of God “”.

Anyone interested in contributing to Liz Kolbe’s project can contact Trinity Lutheran Church to find out how to send donations.

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