Namthip Nilawong

We are conducting this campaign to support Namthip Nilawong. Namthip (Nam) survived the devastating 2006 Indian Ocean tsunami, but she lost her entire immediate family. (see story below, (Listen to her tell her story by clicking here) Her life has been full of trauma and loss and we so desperately want to help her fulfill her dreams to attend an American university where she can study Marketing. Upon completion of her degree, she plans to return to the orphanage she came from in Thailand, where she hopes to help other children in need. The gift that you give to Nam today will be passed forward for many years to come.

Nam has been admitted to Columbia College in Chicago. This school is a great fit for her as she is incredibly artistic, creative and ambitious. Like most American universities, Columbia has very limited funding for international students. The orphanage she comes from is able to pay her transportation back to Thailand each summer so she can help at the orphanage, but, they have very limited funds for 80 children and therefore cannot pay her tuition. Columbia is able to offer her $8000 of the $42,000 annual cost (this number includes tuition, housing, meal plan, books and health insurance). At a minimum, we need to raise $34,000 to cover her freshman year. If we could raise $136,000, she would be able to graduate from Columbia College. And if by some miracle, we exceed that goal, Nam can start giving back to the orphanage financially before she even graduates.

When Nam was at the orphanage (Link to orphanage website), a test was administered by a foundation willing to bring one of the students to study in America. Nam did the best of all the students, was awarded the scholarship, and was welcomed into the small town of Viroqua, Wisconsin where she has attended Youth Initiative High School for the last four years. Nam has gone back to Thailand each summer and spent time helping with the younger children at the orphanage.

Below is a paper that Nam wrote for her English class, which tells her story so beautifully. There is also a link to Nam telling her story herself for a local story- telling event. Finally, there is a link to the website that she made for the orphanage. Please read her story, listen to her words and help us help this amazing young woman make her dreams come true and leave her mark on the world.

With gratitude,

Susan Nesbit and Jerry McGeorge (Nam's host parents)
Susan and Bill Townsley (Friends and supporters of Nam)

The paper below was written for Nam's English class to answer the question: "What is Love?"

I find that there are many things that can define love, love is more than words can describe. Love is a wonderful thing, love makes the world a better place, love connects people together, love is happiness, love is friendship. There are all different kinds of love, but, today I am gong to tell you some of my love stories and how I feel about love.
My very first love was the love of my parents, I was way too young to know what love was when I was born, but, what I knew was I could never stay away from them for very long. I always had to be with them. I was happy every time my mom sang to me, and my dad read to me, or when my mom taught me how to cook and my dad taught me how to write. I was very sad when my parent got upset with me, but I liked it when they took care of me. Can I call all of these feelings love? Yes, I think so. I also had one older sister. She was 5 years older than me. My sister and I were not getting along really well. I don't know exactly if my sister loved me or not, because she never did anything nice to me, or did something as a sister should do. My parents always told us that we needed to love each other, if we did not love each other, nobody is going to love us. I had a small family but we were all happy, everything my parents did for my sister and I was given from love. I can never expect anything more than just being with my wonderful family.

One day we found out that my mom had cancer. I wasn't old enough to know how bad cancer is, but once we found out, my mom wasn't as happy as before. She did not smile as much as she used to, and as the time went by she got more sick everyday. My dad was a strong man, he was always taking really good care of my mom, always by her side, always cheering her up. He never let her do anything alone and he also was a wonderful dad at the same time. My dad made my mom smile again, he made my mom look forward instead of giving up. My dad would do everything to make our family happier, he promised her that we would all go through this together. That was the second love I felt. I can never imagine how much one person can love another, my parents showed me what a true love is, by how much they loved each other. My family was happy and full of love again.

March 13, 2004, my sister got a phone call from the police, she told me that mom and dad got in an accident. I was really worried and scared. About a half an hour later the police came and picked us up, and we went to the place where the accident happened. The car was damaged, and there were two bodies laying next to each other. My sister and I went closer to the bodies, and we knew right away that they were our parents. My sister held me really tight like she never had before. I could feel her whole body was shaking and so was mine. My heart was broken, I felt pain inside of me like I had never felt before. My mind was shut down like I could not hear anyone beside my sister crying next to me. All I could see was my parents laying next to each other, dead. I can never describe how much pain I felt. That was my first time losing the people who I love and care for the most in my life. I have learned that love is not only beautiful and makes us happy, but love can also be tragedy and make us feel pain.

My life was changed after my parents died. My sister and I had to separate, and I had to stay with my dad's family, and my sister had to stay with my mom's family. We got along much better, my sister seemed to care about me more, she told me that we would get through it together. It was hard for me at first to live with people I had never been with, even though they are my family. Good thing I still had my sister to talk to and she made me feel like I was not alone. She visited me once a month. I was happy every time I got to see her, we knew that we were always going to be there for each other, and we started to say "I love you" to each other more. So that was another love I felt.

December, 25, 2006, I was on a school camping trip. That was my first camping trip. My friend and I were really excited. We were camping by the beach and that night the teacher had us sit by the fire and talk about how much we love and care about our friends. It was a good exercise because we never knew before how close we were and how we really felt about each other. That was the real friendship I had. After we went back to the tent I wasn't feeling well and I wanted to go home. I wasn't sick or anything, but I thought maybe it was because I was not used to sleeping in a different place. In the morning I decided to call my aunt and have her come pick me up at 6:30 am. I got home and was going to call my sister but I was way too tired so I took a nap. Around 8:30 am that day the tsunami hit all the beaches around our cities. Where my sister lived was right by the beach, I tried to call her as soon as I knew, but her phone was off. I was really concerned about my sister and my friends at camp. I found out later that most of my friends died, because the camp was right by the beach. I was really sad. I felt the pain again, I lost my friends who I loved and cared about. My friendships were destroyed. Two days later I still couldn't get in touch with my sister, so my aunt and I went to where she lived and the entire house was gone. Everything was damaged. People were screaming and crying and asking for help everywhere, it was just so depressing. I did not find my sister for about 2 weeks. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep at night, I was praying to see her. Then I found her, I knew right away that it was her, I was in shock. This time I felt so much pain inside of me it was different than the other time, there were no tears coming out of my eyes, I felt so terrible, I thought I was going to pass out. I lost her, I lost the only person I loved and cared about the most in my life again. That was the worst time in my life, the time that love destroyed my heart. I thought that my life was not worth it anymore. I cried until there were no more tears coming out of my eyes. I couldn't imagine that my life could get any worse than this, I was just hoping that it was just a bad dream, but then every time I woke up, I felt lonely, I felt pain.

The time went by, I started to learn from it, I started to have an open mind and not get stuck with it. I found other things to do, so I wouldn't think about it all the time. I felt better about myself and my life. The love that I thought was destroyed inside me, was actually not true it just pushed me to move forward again. I still love my family as much as before, but my life has to go on. The time went by slowly, everybody I loved and lost is still in my heart, I feel like they are part of me. I am who I am right now because of them, but all those bad dreams are still also in my memories, to remind me how much pain I felt from love, but however love is still amazing.
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Susan Kopp 
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