PHUKET: The Banyan Tree’s Seedlings program has finally sprouted in Phuket, with 15 underprivileged local youths receiving skills training to take into the workplace.

The Banyan Tree launched the group-wide corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative in 2007 as a way to “support enhanced long-term prosperity within communities”.

“Creating a giving culture is more than just giving money, it’s about giving our hearts and commitment,” said Claire Chiang, co-founder of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts and chairperson of the Banyan Tree Global Foundation.

The Seedlings program is designed to help disadvantaged local youth, or in the words of Ms Chiang, for those “who fall through the cracks of society.”

Young people between the ages of 17 and 25 who commit to the 18-month program receive training and mentoring, and an opportunity of career and personal development.

The first nine months focuses on providing F&B skills training at the Banyan Tree and Angsana resorts in Phuket, and the final nine months provides work experience at the Seedlings restaurant at Laguna Phuket, which will launch in June next year.

“To date Seedlings Hoi An [in Vietnam] has taken in more than 30 local youths, while the restaurant became a successful, self-sufficient social enterprise,” noted Ms Chiang.

Phuket’s 15 program members were chosen from 80 candidates. The members have gone through a series of interviews and orientations in preparation for the course, which began on October 20.

The training follows a curriculum endorsed by the Prince of Songkla University (PSU), Phuket campus – one of Seedlings’ partners.

“Social responsibility is a part of our motto,” said Dr Prathana Kannaovakun, dean of the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism at PSU Phuket.

“The founder of our university, His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol, said, ‘Our soul is for the benefit of mankind’,” she added.

Other partners of Seedlings in Phuket include the Ministry of Social Development and Welfare, Phuket Child Watch Foundation and Cherng Talay Municipality among others.

“We have a perfect collaboration model here, which is the only way to create collective good,” emphasized Ms Chiang. “There is government involvement, there is the press who will tell the story and there is educational institution endorsement.

“This is a chance to develop ourselves. When you have the opportunity to give, you are given an opportunity to become a better person,” said Dr Sommai Prijsilpa, former Deputy Phuket Governor, who was also present at the October 20 launch.

“The key here is to connect those in need with those who can provide,” she explained.

“It’s about building bridges between the poor and rich, the educated and uneducated, the private and public sectors,” added Ms Chiang. “We are pushing the boundaries of CSR.”

— Maciek Klimwicz