In collaboration with our Swiss TGE partner, Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, the TGE team interviewed Björn Aderhold, Senior Regional Operations Manager of Child’s Dream, a Swiss organization that works to better the communities of Southeast Asian children.
TGE: What are the main activities of Child’s Dream?
Björn Aderhold: Child’s Dream was established in 2003 with the vision to empower children, youth and young adults to responsibly shape their communities. We achieve this by improving health and education for sustainable development in Myanmar, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Thailand. With our Health and Basic Education projects we aim to build a solid foundation in rural and impoverished communities for their long-term progress. Our Higher Education projects aim to create a new generation of responsible leaders and specialists who strongly contribute toward their country’s sustainable development.
We design, implement, and partner to support initiatives for children and young adults. We address current and future needs in Myanmar, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Thailand related to health, education, leadership, sustainability, peace and justice. Our approach follows the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we are directly working on good health, quality education and reduced inequalities. Indirectly we also work towards gender equality, clean water/sanitation and economic growth.
TGE: How has the organization evolved over the years and which are the main milestones achieved?
Björn Aderhold: After many years in the financial industry, Marc and Daniel – the founders of Child’s Dream – abandoned their careers in order to help the underprivileged in our society.
Without knowing what to expect, Child’s Dream was brought to life in October 2003 with the help of close friends and family members. They both realized very soon that they had found new meaning in life and that they were able to put all of their newly gained motivation and endless energy into effective help for children in need. In 2006 we launched the University Scholarship Fund as well as the Children’s Health Fund. In 2010 we expanded our operations to Cambodia before becoming active in Myanmar in 2014.
By the end of 2020, Child’s Dream employed 51 paid employees with an average age of 36 years. In the same year a total of CHF 9 million funds could be raised of which CHF 8.3 million were spent on our project work. As of March 2021, there are 831 active projects and a total of 237,034 direct beneficiaries across the Mekong Sub-Region. There have been 908,787 direct beneficiaries reached by currently active and completed projects.
TGE: The organization is a beneficiary of the TGE network, which allows tax-effective cross-border donations. Why did you decide to take part in the network and which new opportunities has the network brought to the development and to the activities of your organization?
Björn Aderhold: The TGE network enables us to offer the same tax-effective way of giving to our European neighbors. Thanks to the TGE network we have been able to connect to German, French and other European donors that are happy to support our cause and help our beneficiaries in the Mekong Sub-Region.
TGE: As a beneficiary of TGE, do you believe that fundraising initiatives will be more and more European? In your opinion, is the TGE network a useful instrument for Swiss non-profits and for their growth?
Björn Aderhold: With communication and information technology connecting the world more and more and blurring borders, it is only logical to think that it’s the same pattern applies to charities and fundraising activities. We do not only think, that fundraising will be more and more European, but instead, it’s the other way around. We even think that it will be more international. The TGE network is a very useful instrument to connect donors and charities in Europe and support their growth, activities, and eventually the beneficiaries that are the ultimate reason why we exist in the first place.
TGE: Child’s Dream is mainly active in continental Southeast Asia. Why did you decide to focus on this area?
Björn Aderhold: After working, living, and traveling in Asia for many years, Marc and Daniel, the founders of Child’s Dream, started developing a keen interest in helping marginalized communities. Leaving the banking industry in 2003 they traveled to Chiang Mai in Thailand, where the crazy idea of establishing their very own charitable foundation was born: Child’s Dream. Due to the strategic geographical location and personal experience, it was sensible to focus on this region to address problems related to poverty, inequality, corruption, lack of understanding of indigenous people, economic mismanagement, political unrest and civil war.
TGE: The organization is active in Thailand and Myanmar, how has the political situation in these countries over the past few years affected your activities?
Björn Aderhold: The political situation in Thailand has had no tremendous impact on our operations and projects. We are currently focusing on developing a contingency plan to be able to respond to the expected influx of Myanmar refugees in Thailand. We also significantly increased our staff in Mae Sot to ensure we are prepared to tackle the refugee situation that is already at bay. Mae Sot is relatively close to several refugee camps and it is a strategic location for us. In Myanmar, on the other hand, the abrupt change in the country’s situation significantly affected our activities and operations – some projects were postponed or curtailed. 30% of our projects already closed down due to security issues. Our priority at the moment is to maintain our existing projects and make sure they are running properly and address the shortfall whenever needed. Since the coup erupted on 1 February 2021, we quickly identified problem areas and developed a framework to respond to the most pressing issues in the country, prioritizing the most vulnerable communities. We have been working closely with trusted local partners to ensure that emergency relief efforts are effectively and efficiently distributed to those in dire need of food and medical supplies. These interventions vary in scale and geographical reach. Clashes between the Myanmar army and insurgent ethnic groups have resulted in over 200,000 people in displacement. The majority of the emergency relief efforts have taken place inside Myanmar, with just one intervention supporting beneficiaries on both sides of the Thai-Myanmar border. Banking disruptions and volatile internet connections also pose a challenge in our operation in the country.
TGE: Were there any other similar projects in Europe that inspired you?
Björn Aderhold: No project in Europe in particular. We were inspired by our pre-philanthropic experience as bankers in Asia and we are driven by our keen interest in helping marginalized communities.
To learn more about Child’s Dream: