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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Beyond Giving: The NIST Microcredit Bank
By Supranee Taecharungroj 30-Nov-16
Poverty and the cycle it perpetuates through generations represent an age-old problem that many view as a constant in life. A group of students and teachers at NIST International School Bangkok don’t believe that a solution is so unfathomable, and they are tackling the issue head-on through the NIST Microcredit Bank (NMB). Created as a student-run service group with the aim of supporting all members of the NIST community, the NMB offers debt relief, business loans, and scholarships for the children of the school’s support staff. This marks the fourth year that the NMB has provided such scholarships and also represents the largest number granted thus far: 33 in total. Based on the work of Mohammed Yunus, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work in microfinance, the NMB initially focused on providing small business loans with very little interest to support staff at NIST who sought to open their own businesses. This focus gradually shifted to providing education-based debt relief through scholarships for the children of those staff members, aligning to NIST’s belief in the transformative power of learning, and contemporary research in sustainable economic and social development through education, as opposed to simple philanthropy. Though basic schooling for all children in Thailand is free in principle, even extraneous costs in small public schools put it out of reach of thousands of families, particularly those with multiple children. In the words of the microcredit bank members, “It is unacceptable to be students of an academic institution that permits those who support our education to struggle to afford an education for their own.” They view caring for all members of the NIST community as a fundamental responsibility, one that will ultimately allow families to be enriched through education. These scholarships greatly help to alleviate the burden of costs associated with schooling in Thailand. Driven by the success of their work, the NMB continually seeks to raise funds through various school events and regularly receives donations from NIST staff, the NIST Parent-Teacher Association (NIPTA), parent groups, student-run groups, and the student body itself. More importantly, our students recognize that monetary donations ultimately have a limited scope. The group meets weekly to find ways to connect and bring the focus back to the community and their role in its continued growth. Those involved in the microcredit bank are continually seeking to improve and identify ways to further engage staff, students, and parents. In the meantime, they aim to enrich the lives of all members of the NIST community through their unique work, which represents a first among international schools in Thailand. Head of School James MacDonald captured this passion best as he spoke to this year’s scholarship recipients: “Even though you may attend other schools, NIST is also your school, and you are an important part of the community here.”
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