From A Believer to a Youth Capacity Builder

"I've always believed in the TFT alumni network's dedication to fostering the capacity building of children and young people. They simply require the space and opportunity to put it into action.” The response above is from Book-Big, Termphong Kitchanulaks, a Teach For Thailand cohort 5 alumnus, discussing his initiative to involve other Teach For Thailand alumni in his youth capacity-building project in Hat Yai, Songkhla province.

     Recalling his passion for youth capacity-building, which he cultivated before joining the Fellowship Program, Book-Big recounted his involvement in organizing skill-building activities for students while serving as a Mathematics teacher at Matthayom Wat Dao Khanong School in Bangkok. This passion persisted beyond his completion of the program.

     “After the Fellowship Program, I continued seeking ways to enhance youth capacity and improve their lives. That’s when the idea of creating an incubation space emerged.”

     Currently, Book-Big serves as the co-founder and project manager of ‘Youth Plus,’ a social enterprise dedicated to building the capacity of new generations to adapt to a rapidly changing world. This is achieved through tailored learning experiences that cater to participants’ contexts.

     A significant milestone for ‘Youth Plus’ occurred when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) offered to subsidize a youth capacity-building program, to empower youths to initiate development projects in their communities.

     “We named this funded project ‘Youth SDGs,’ with a requirement to engage youths from marginalized groups, promoting the theme of ‘leave no one behind.’ This includes Muslims, ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people with disabilities.

     “We designed a learning process that enabled youths to collaborate with marginalized groups, fostering understanding and reducing inequalities. The outcome was 35 youth-led projects implemented across Thailand.”

      Apart from the positive impact on the youths, ‘Youth SDGs’ served as Book-Big’s initial initiative to involve TFT alumni in the project. This led him to collaborate with ‘Fon’ — Chanakarn Chucheepchuenkamol, a TFT cohort 2 alumna, and ‘Prim’ — Nichaporn Paphol, a TFT cohort 8 alumna who was still teaching at the time.

      “Fon served as the project’s supervisor, overseeing ‘Youth SDGs’ operations, including human resources and overall youth capacity-building to prepare them for their community projects.”

     “As for Prim, she mentored youth leaders in the northern region and supervised youth teams with ethnic minority members.”

      In addition to these two alumni overseeing operations, Book-Big collaborated with several TFT alumni who joined as facilitators, speakers, and many Fellows whose students participated in the program.

      “TFT alumni possess a strong sense of possibility and resilience. Fon and Prim exemplify this,” Book-Big noted, recalling the skills TFT alumni brought to the project’s success.

      “They also demonstrate excellent listening and empathizing skills, which facilitated our collaboration. Moreover, they are passionate about improving Thai education.”

     Organizing numerous projects in various areas, including Hat Yai, and Songkhla, sparked Book-Big’s idea to amplify the alumni network’s impact into a youth capacity-building sandbox.

      “Through our initiatives in Hat Yai, including ‘Youth SDGs’ and others, I began seeking like-minded individuals among TFT alumni who share the vision for youth capacity-building. This process revealed that many of us are eager to realize more activities for youths.”

     “I’ve always believed in the TFT alumni network’s dedication to fostering the capacity building of children and young people. Given the space and opportunity, they can execute activities benefiting youths.”

     Throughout the two-year Fellowship program, Fellows gain firsthand experience with educational system challenges, enabling them to devise solutions based on their expertise. Despite the diversity of Fellows’ interests, the TFT alumni network is united in its goal: ensuring all children in Thailand have equitable access to quality education, empowering them to shape their own futures.