It's been six months since our friend and founder, Carolyn Nickel-Cox, passed away. She led Friends of Thailand for 17 years, during which time we supported 137 PCV and RPCV projects worth a total of $137,000. Your donations made this possible. In her honor, Friends of Thailand established the Carolyn Nickels-Cox Memorial Fund to support future projects. Join us in carrying her legacy forward by making a donation at http://www.friendsofthailand.org and clicking on the Donate button at the bottom of the page. As Carolyn saw it, the only reason our organization exists is to help move support from you to community service projects in Thailand that need it. Thank you!
Carolyn's obituary was included in the October 2018 FoT newsletter and the program from her memorial service, in the January 2019 newsletter. Now we're including the full text of the eulogy given by our new Friends of Thailand Board President, Kat Hendrix.
THE POWER OF ONE
A Eulogy for Carolyn Nickels-Cox
November 3, 2018
Lowell High School, San Francisco, California
Good afternoon. I'm Kat Hendrix. I had the privilege of serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand from 1985 to 1987 and as a board member for Friends of Thailand since 2006. Today I'm honored to speak on behalf of Friends of Thailand about our dear friend Carolyn.
Carolyn epitomized the power of one. In 1971, she was just one member of the 34th group of Peace Corps Volunteers that were sent to Thailand. At the Annukulnaree Girls School in Kalasin where she taught, she was just one teacher. And, in 1973, when her Peace Corps service ended, she became just one employee at the Thai Ministry of Education. Today, over 40 years later, Carolyn is still loved and admired by her former Thai colleagues and students, and by Peace Corps Thailand staff and hundreds of volunteers. Of all the Peace Corps volunteers who have served in Thailand–Carolyn was special. Maybe that's because she was such a force of nature. And, by that, I mean she was a force of caring and compassion and commitment–some of the best aspects of human nature. There was so much love and dedication packed inside that one small person. Someone once described her to me as "a super-charged dynamo" – I'd have to agree.
Carolyn never actually stopped being a Peace Corps Volunteer. When she moved back to the states, she still wanted to help. She wanted to do more, and to keep serving the Thai people, especially those in rural areas, whose needs more often go unmet. So, in 2001, she co-founded Friends of Thailand–an organization of people who were Peace Corps volunteers in Thailand and others who wanted to support development projects, maintain friendships, or pursue a mutual understanding between our cultures. She was the President of Friends of Thailand for 17 years–right up until September–when she left one pair of very big shoes for us to fill.
One person. Just one. Carolyn set up a system with the Peace Corps Office in Bangkok to vet projects that volunteers serving in country want to do but need funds to carry out. Carolyn organized our donations and book-keeping and bank transfers. Carolyn built a Friends of Thailand web page to showcase the projects we fund and to post photos of volunteers and their Thai colleagues and students– all proudly smiling beside their new playgrounds, libraries, water pipes, mushroom houses, recycling and compost areas, tooth-brushing stations, orphanage roofs, music rooms, stove chimneys, girls leadership projects, English language camps, youth theater productions, and more, and more, and more. Every July, Carolyn and Mark spent their vacation traveling in Thailand, visiting projects that we've funded, checking in with the Peace Corps Office, and touching base with old friends in her beloved original site in Kalasin.
In 2004, when the Indian Ocean tsunami hit southern Thailand, Carolyn saw an opportunity to expand Friends of Thailand from just funding service projects for Peace Corps Volunteers to funding a range of disaster relief efforts. She got in touch with her network of contacts and arranged for Friends of Thailand to provide some of the first relief funds that went directly to people on the ground in the disaster zone. When she heard that Burmese immigrants in the area were being denied access to certain types of aid because they were not Thai citizens, Carolyn guided us to focus funds on projects that would include them. In her wisdom, Carolyn understood that by stepping in to provide these funds, Friends of Thailand could also help the Thai government save face because we were distributing outside, non-governmental funds.
All told, since its founding, 137 Friends of Thailand projects have sprung up and bloomed in Carolyn's footsteps and $137,000 in donations have been sent to help fund them. All of that from just one caring, compassionate, committed person. Just one.
(Did I mention that we, on the Friends of Thailand board, have some very big shoes to fill?)
I know in my life, and maybe you'll relate to this too, I've often been really passionate about something, but I think, "Well, it's just me. What could I do that would make any real difference?" Well, I can tell you, Carolyn didn't spend much time thinking about making her mark. She just went out and did.
Carolyn was passionate about helping people in Thailand realize their own vision for moving themselves and their communities forward. And so she went out and did what she could to make that happen. And yes, along the way, lots of other people were attracted to her bright, bright fire, and we pitched in and did our parts and pieces. But it was all put into motion by one person.
For almost 2 decades, Carolyn tirelessly pushed Friends of Thailand forward to grow and improve year after year. One person. One caring, compassionate, committed person. One super-charged dynamo kept the wheel turning when others said they were too busy, or too tired, or already over-committed.
At our board meeting a few weeks ago, we created the Carolyn Nickles-Cox Memorial Fund so that her name will be connected to every project that Friends of Thailand funds going forward. I know for me, and maybe for you too, just seeing her name will always remind me that, really, all it takes is one.
Thank you and peace.