Established in 2005, Hands Across the Water (Hands) was originally formed to support 34 children in the small community of Khao Lak in Thailand. Since that time, the charity has grown and the number of children they have been able to care for has increased. Now, through the generosity of the community and their partners, Hands has expanded its reach to care for 350 children across seven projects in Thailand, while at the same time employing over 60 people across the country.
Jellis Craig (JC): Peter Baines started Hands in 2004. What was the catalyst for him starting the charity?
Claire Baines (CB): Many will remember the tragic Boxing Day Tsunami, the deadliest natural disaster in history, that took 5395 lives in Thailand and left 34 children in the Khao Lak area without family, food and shelter. Soon after the tragedy, Peter Baines and Gill Williams travelled to Thailand to help with the identification efforts following the tsunami and had a chance meeting with Khun Rotjana. At this time, Khun Rotjana was caring for 34 children living in a tent. Peter, Gill and Khun Rotjana struck up a relationship and formed Baan Tharn Namchai, a home built to provide shelter for children left without family in the area. From here, the seed was sown to start Hands Across the Water.
Funds raised for Hands is directed and dedicated to enriching the lives of disadvantaged children and communities in Thailand through building homes, schools and community facilities and assisting young people to gain access to shelter, education and safety. The legacy we hope to leave is to create a life of choice for children in our care, rather than one of chance.
JC: How did you come to join Hands?
CB: I saw Peter speak at a Conference in 2010 and then did a bike ride in 2011. It was my first taste of charity work, and I was hooked. I stayed connected and involved with Hands and Peter and I got together in 2012.
JC: What has been the trajectory for Hands since 2004?
CB: Since our first Project in Khao Lak, Hands has built and supported seven homes and projects throughout Thailand. Across each of these homes, we now support over 350 Thai children and their communities. The need to support children who haven’t been dealt the best cards in life is very much still there and so Hands is committed for the long term, meaning that all children in our care will live a life of choice rather than one of chance. In 2011, a social enterprise was set up in Australia to generate commercial income to support the administration of the charity. Hands Group’s mandate is to grow the charity and our fundraising activities and be self-sufficient through our own income generation, thereby ensuring 85 per cent of donations directly support the children and communities of Thailand. Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, this unique structure allowed us to send 100 per cent of donations to Thailand, however the disruption to income generation and fundraising caused by the pandemic set us back and we are currently at 85 per cent. Future plans are to return to the 100 per cent position.
Since inception, Hands has raised $30 million, with funds going directly to the children and communities we support.