The Princess Mother’s Charities Fund Foundation, under the Royal Patronage

by Vanasobhin Kasemsri
Nurse Scholarship Thailand

A continuing contribution to the health and wellbeing of Thailand and the Thai people….

About 20 years ago my mother was working as a translator and had the privilege of working on an English version of a book written by the Royal Palace to honour HRH Somdet Phra Srinakarindra Boromarajajonani. The book ran to over 1000 pages, but she enjoyed reading every page of it. She felt it was her duty and obligation to tell word by word, exactly how it was written and therefore help all International readers understand how much HRH The Princess Mother was loved and respected for the contribution she had made to Thailand and the Thai people. She was well known to all Thai people as the mother of the late King Rama the 9th and most importantly, she had done so much for the country while she was alive.

HRH Somdet Phra Srinakarindra Boromarajajonani

I remembered my mother enjoyed telling me tales of HRH The Princess Mother and I would listen with interest and wished that I could have had the chance to meet this remarkable woman. Having come from a very humble background, a commoner who had lost both of her parents at a very young age; The Princess Mother never gave up her aspiration to pursue her studies. At the age of 13 she became interested in nursing education and was sent to study at Siriraj Hospital School of Midwifery and Nursing until her graduation at the age of 16. She was the youngest to graduate and thus received a scholarship to study nursing overseas, where she met her Prince and the real life fairy tale followed, as she ultimately became the mother of two Thai Monarchs (HM King Rama the 8th and HM King Rama the 9th ).

During the reign of the late King, HM King Rama the 9 th, it was her wish to travel and help the communities in the distant provinces of Thailand. In many of these locations there were no roads or easy accessibility for travellers. She saw first hand the poverty, the lack of education and lack of medical help and introduced the Volunteer Mobile Medical Assistance programme, where volunteer doctors and nurses would travel to these remote villages via vans, jeeps or helicopters to help treat the villagers who lived too far from existing hospitals to provide essential healthcare. She initiated and pushed for the importance the country needed to place on providing good medical schools and nursing schools and initiated many proposals that led to the medical and nursing students receiving scholarships and the support needed to create more doctors and nurses so sorely needed throughout the country. Many of her initiatives were paid for out of her own pocket or from funding raised by her supporters.

In 1980, one of HRH The Princess Mother’s very dear friends, an American named Miss Betty Dumaine (The Princess Mother’s roommate during the time they both were attending the Edith Johnson School in Cambridge, Massachusetts) came to Thailand. She brought with her funds that she had helped to raise from her American donors and friends to help set up a local foundation in support of The Princess Mother and her important causes for the country. The foundation was registered with the Ministry of Interior on October 14, 1980 and was named The Princess Mother’s Charities Fund of Thailand, under royal patronage of HRH Somdet Phra Srinakarindra Boromarajajonani.

Nurse Scholarship in Thailand

In 1990, the foundation introduced a nurse scholarship fund and named it “The Princess Mother’s 90th Birthday Anniversary Fund” to commemorate HRH Somdet Phra Srinakarindra Boromarajajonani’s turning 90 years of age and to recognise her contribution to the medical and nursing field in Thailand. This education fund provided additional support to students who would like to receive nursing degrees from 30 approved universities under Prince Mahidol’s Medical Institute and other government supported nursing schools from all over the country. Since its launch, scholarships are still being awarded each year in October to coincide with “Thai Nurse Day” and in remembrance of HRH The Princess Mother’s birth month.

Sadly, I never had the chance to meet The Princess Mother and the closest I came was to attend her funeral at The Royal Cremation Ceremony, after her passing away on July 18, 1995. Years have passed and after many other jobs, I would never have been able to imagine how fortunate I am and how life works in many wonderful ways that I am now working as a volunteer for a The Princess Mother’s Charities Fund of Thailand. It has been a year now since I have started volunteering for the foundation and I have recently been appointed as a board member and Assistant Secretary.

To date, the foundation has provided over 4,500 scholarships given out to year 1 through to year 4 nursing students and more than 900 students have since graduated and are in the workforce across the country. I have had the opportunity to meet and speak to many of the students during the Scholarship Presentation Ceremony, who have travelled great distances to come to the event in Bangkok. Some from as far north as the Thai/Burmese border in Chiang Rai and some from down south from Yala province. All of the students I have talked to wish to graduate and to become nurses to help their villages.

A couple of students told stories to me and the other board members with tears in their eyes as their hearts were filled with gratitude for having received the funding. Though the annual funding of 8,000B per student per year may seem little to some, to the students receiving these scholarships, it means that they can now concentrate on their studies without worrying about their parents having to look for extra jobs or obtain loans when their average income of the entire household could be as little as 5,000B per month.

Thai nurse

One student from Yala province in Year 3, studying at the Boromrajonani Nursing College, Lateefah, comes from a family of 5. Both of her parents are farmers and rent land from the government to grow crops. The family’s average monthly income is about 5,000B. When she was young, she travelled to nearby forests to pick wild mushrooms with her father to bring home for her family meal. Along the way, the family would encounter villagers getting injured from the fighting in the Southern provinces. She wished she could have helped them and that led her to want to become a nurse for the village hospital. Students with similar stories are now getting annual provision from the foundation without any obligation, if they can keep up with their grades and continue their studies until graduation.

The board and its members would wish me to thank all those who have been involved, contributed to or sponsored our ongoing efforts to continue the initiatives envisioned by “The Princess Mother” – we are eternally grateful for your support.
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