Baking for Change
Published on: April 13, 2022
From the outside, she looks like an average ten-year-old, but a sit-down with Chloe’ Wittebrood revealed that there is more to her than meets the eye. Here she tells us about her purpose and passion to improve the quality of life for impoverished people in Bangkok.
As told to Sanam Rahman by Chloe’ Wittebrood and Christine Russel-Wittebrood
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Chloe’ Wittebrood and I’m ten years old. I was born in Thailand and I’ve been involved in charity work with the Bangkok Community Help Foundation (BCHF) since I was nine. I share all my fundraising experiences on my Youtube channel.
My goal is to reduce inequality and improve the quality of life for the residents of the Khlong Toey slums. Life during COVID has been particularly hard for them and I’ve been trying to help them by fundraising and volunteering with the foundation.
Describe your journey so far. When did you start? What do you do?
When I learned how hard life was for people living in the Khlong Toey slums, I started baking cakes at home and selling them to people in my condo. My parents posted on their social media pages to spread the word. I sold each cake at ฿2,000 and from each of the sales, ฿1,500 went to charity.
I actively volunteer with the BCHF and raise funds to buy food such as rice, noodles, and sauces to prepare care packages and hot meals for the slum residents. I think being able to feed people—some of whom haven’t eaten in a long time—is a very important thing to do. I’m happy that by doing this I can help make sure that many of the slum residents can have at least two meals a day.
The idea of organizing charity bake sales came to me when I went to K-Village with my mom and sister for lunch one day. I noticed a farmers’ market taking place, and thought it would be a good way to raise some money. So I spoke to my mom and she made it happen. My very first bake sale was in November 2021. I had a lot of support from my parents and other volunteers from the foundation. My dad made a photo frame prop and BCHF volunteers helped make the food. Thanks to everyone’s help, I raised ฿55,120. That first bake sale was so successful that I had another one at Christmas, and a third one this year in February. At both of these, I raised ฿126,110 in total.
How do you feel about all the work you have done?
Normally I’m not allowed to go inside the slums as I’m not vaccinated, but after following the rules to keep myself and the residents safe, I was able to go and see who I was helping a few weeks ago.
I was shocked to see people living in such cramped, unhygienic and unsafe quarters. A family was living in a house where the roof had collapsed, and because it had rained the night before, there was slimy, rain water everywhere! Their mattress was wet, and a little child was sleeping on it because he had nothing else to lie on. The sad part is that these people haven’t had the opportunity to learn about health and hygiene standards. There were dirty dishes on the floor and a horrible smell everywhere.
I felt sad and frustrated about their living conditions, and think it’s unfair because all people should be able to live equally. They have so little compared to us. So when I think about the things I’m doing for them, I feel motivated to do more. The foundation gave some toys to the four children that lived in the house and they were so happy!
Do you do all the planning and organizing yourself? Who forms your support system?
Either my mom comes to me with an idea or I share mine with her, and she makes it happen. My mom makes all my dreams come true. I also get a lot of support from the BCHF volunteers, my school, and my family and friends.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How have you overcome these?
Just before the first bake sale, my mom and I were worried that we wouldn’t be able to bake so many items, but some of the BCHF volunteers helped us pull through. The special thing about a volunteer community like BCHF is that the people who get involved all have different skills and backgrounds. So when you have an idea, there are always people with the right skills to help you.
Also, my school has been very supportive in promoting my work within the school community. It really is about whole communities coming together in partnership. Together we can make a big difference.
What/who motivates you to do what you do? Where does your passion come from?
Most of it comes from believing that the slum residents do not deserve to live the way they do. They are humans too, and it’s sad that they don’t have the same chances in life that we do. Everyone should be able to live equally. I want to end the differences between us and them. I think every small change can make a big difference, and it’s as simple as paying ฿20 so that someone can have a decent meal.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from all of this?
My visit to the slums made me realize that the things we have in our lives don’t come easily. You have to work hard for them, so you shouldn’t take them for granted. I also realized that I’m luckier than many other people, so I should always count my blessings.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now I’m focusing on a housing project. After seeing the state of a house in Khlong Toey, I’ve been trying to raise funds to build and renovate this house. So far I’ve raised ฿81,000. This money will go towards buying all the raw materials needed for construction to be done by BCHF volunteers including myself.
Any word of advice or tips for other kids who’d like to take a step in your direction?
If you have a dream that seems too big to be achieved, don’t worry about how it’s going to happen. It won’t happen in a flash, but if you believe in it and keep trying, one day it will happen. Also, small changes can be powerful. If every person does just a little bit for the community, it can make a huge difference.
We also spoke to Chloe’s mother, Christine Russel-Wittebrood, who plays a very important role in Chloe’s philanthropic activities.
As a parent, how do you feel about Chloe’s achievements? What were your thoughts when she first started?
I feel extremely proud that she’s found a passion in something that really matters.
Chloe’s journey started at the height of COVID. I’d heard about the BCHF and made a donation to support their work. I spoke to my kids about the importance of giving back to impoverished people in our communities. Something struck a chord with Chloe’, and she wanted to do her part. I thought to myself then that I will always be the enabler. If she wants to do something to help these people, I will always try to find a way to make it happen.
Were you ever concerned that Chloe’ wouldn’t be able to balance her fundraising and volunteering activities with school and other extracurricular activities?
No, because all the activities and events that took place were on the weekends, so we never felt that it could hamper her school activities. The school also recognizes the work she’s been doing and how much effort goes into it, and has always been very supportive and understanding.
What would your advice be to other parents who’d like to encourage their kids to be active contributors to society like Chloe’?
Always have an open mind and try to support your childrens’ needs and dreams. Even if they sound challenging initially, never say no. Explore the opportunity together to see how you can make it happen. A little effort goes a long way. Also, open your childrens’ eyes to the harsh realities of the world. Our children live a very privileged life, and it’s up to us to show them the full picture. I feel if kids see this, many of them will want to take action to make positive changes.
Photos courtesy of the author.
About the Author
Learn more about Chloe’ and her fundraising activities on her Youtube channel, Chloe Bangkok.
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