2023: A Year of Triumphant Firsts and Bright Futures

13 Dec 2023

As the CEO of Hands Across the Water, I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished in 2023. It has been a year of growth, impact, and inspiration for our kids but also for us at Hands as we continue our efforts to raise funds. 

Top 3 Moments in the Lives of the Kids We Support

University Graduations

One of our favourite moments is when our inbox starts to flood with images and stories of our kids graduating from university. These young graduates come from diverse backgrounds and have faced numerous challenges throughout their lives. Yet, they persevered through hardship and dedicated themselves to their studies, ultimately earning degrees in a variety of fields, including business, human resources, and social work. No matter what path they choose, we know that these young men and women will continue to inspire and amaze us. They are proof that anything is possible with hard work and determination.

A year of firsts

With children in our homes aged between 6 months and 18 years old, we recognise the diversity in the milestones and achievements throughout their lives. There will be children who are unable to go to university but their win’s are just as important. Each step, big or small, is a step towards independence and self-reliance which is an important philosophy across all of our homes. For me, little Tong Kla up at Home Hug is the picture of this journey. From arriving at the home in March 2020 with the doctors giving him just days to live, to taking his first steps and this year becoming more alert and even learning to feed himself, this little boy will have triumphant moments very different to those of the kids graduating, but every day he wakes up breathing is a day longer than his doctors believed he would survive. 

Brothers for Life

During my recent visit to the homes with our new Country Director in Thailand, I was struck by the realisation that our kids are growing up. Observing the older boys, whom I’ve known since their early years, I was moved not only by their physical growth but also by the beautiful connections they share. These kids didn’t choose to be together initially, but over the years, they’ve evolved into a family – a bond that goes beyond blood. It was a moment that filled me with pride, being part of a family that nurtures such beautiful and strong connections for our kids.

Top 3 Moments in Our Efforts to Raise Funds to Support These Dreams

Our life changing rides are back!

In 2023 we had 65 riders back on their bikes in Thailand, raising over $500,000 through their incredible fundraising efforts. As we look ahead to 2024, we are excited to announce that we already have 203 riders registered to participate in our charity rides between January 2024 and February 2025. With three of our corporate rides sold out and limited places available on the 20th Anniversary ride, this could quite possibly be your last chance to sign up for a ride that will take place in the next 12 months. If you’ve been thinking about it, get it touch and I can reserve you a spot. 

The Launch of Hands Experiences Thailand

This year marked another pivotal moment with our rides as we ventured into uncharted territory, kickstarting Hands Experiences Thailand, our new social enterprise business in Khao Lak that will service the local area with day tours and run all of our charity rides. This unique model allows us to bring our experiences in-house with all proceeds supporting the administration of the Thai Foundation, and profits funnelled into the foundation. I couldn’t be prouder of the team who have been working hard to bring this new business model to life. A very big thank you to our Taskforce team as well who earlier in the year spent a week at Baan Nam Khem converting the centre into our headquarters and building 75 bikes. 

Our events returned to pre-COVID levels

Finally, we reignited the spark of our gatherings and returned to our pre-COVID event calendar. From our life-changing bike rides to community celebrations, the calendar buzzed with activity. In 2024 we’ll be holding International Women’s Day breakfast on 7th March, Night of Celebration in Melbourne on 21st September and Night of Celebration in Auckland on 26th September. We are back in full force and can’t wait to see you there so pop the dates in your diary.

With the anticipation building, 2024 is set to be monumental. The road ahead leads to our 20th Anniversary bike ride and Peter's run to remember in December.  As the 20th anniversary of the tsunami approaches, we'll work hard in Australia to leverage the media spotlight that accompanies this milestone. This is not just a reflection on the past; it's an opportunity to amplify our message and expand our reach. Brace yourselves for an incredible journey as we gear up for these extraordinary events.

Here's to the stories yet to be written, the journeys yet to be embarked upon, and the lives yet to be transformed.