Our partnership with Hands Across the Water

The Jellis Craig Foundation is proud to have been a supporter and partner of Hands Across the Water since 2015. We sat down with its CEO, Claire Baines to talk about her proudest achievements to date and what is next for Hands.

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.

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The legacy we hope to leave is to create a life of choice for children in our care, rather than one of chance.

JC: In 2015, Hands opened PAMA House. Tell us about that Project. 

CB: 2015 was a rewarding year for Hands as it was the start of a meaningful long term partnership with the Jellis Craig Foundation. This partnership coincided with the build and opening of PAMA House – an orphanage that today is home to 25 children from the Chanthaburi area who have been abandoned, neglected or have no known family to care for them. PAMA House was part-funded by the Jellis Craig Foundation, in conjunction with Hands, and since its opening the Jellis Craig Foundation has made a commitment to sending two staff every 12 to 18 months to spend time at PAMA House and experience all the home has to offer.

JC: The Hands charity bike rides such as the annual January ‘Ride to Provide’ is a unique initiative. Tell us about how this came about. 

CB: Since 2009 we have run charity bike rides. Every year, the money raised from these ride experiences provides critical funding to the operations of the seven homes we support across Thailand. At Hands we work on the principle that supporting a charity should be good for you, not just for those receiving the money. Benefiting from your involvement in charity, be it physically or mentally – or both, as we find in our riders’ feedback – creates a profound experience that delivers impact, which will last a lifetime. Our rides provide many benefits to Hands, as well as to our riders and partner organisations.

JC: What are some of the Hands achievements that you’re most proud of to date? 

CB: At Hands, we measure our success on the number of kids that leave our homes knowing what they want to do in life and setting out to achieve that. We’ve had 25 children graduate university and we currently have 23 children studying at university. We have also provided children access to vocational programs, allowing them to upskill in specific areas that will then give them the skills to gain employment. 

Another achievement we are so proud of and humbled by is our support of Home Hug at Yasothon. Home Hug provides a home for children impacted by the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic and gives them access to medical attention, food and love. Hands was approached by Home Hug in 2010 and started to provide food and medicine – two essentials that, prior to our support, were not always readily available to the children at Home Hug. Home Hug is now home to over 60 happy and healthy children.

JC: What is next on the horizon for Hands? 

CB: Out of the pandemic came the realisation that we needed to have more presence on the ground in Thailand. In July 2022 Hands achieved charity status in Thailand, which allows us to build a team in Thailand and simultaneously develop a social enterprise bicycle touring business. The enterprise will fund the administration of the Thai-based staff that we are looking to hire. 

The Jellis Craig Foundation is proud to continue our partnership with Hands now and into the future.

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Ride to Provide, Home Hug Ride in January 2024

In January 2024, two Jellis Craig team members, Sophie Blay from Jellis Craig Stonnington and Khom Falla from Jellis Craig Boroondara will be participating in the ‘Ride to Provide’ Home Hug Ride, an eight day ride that starts in the city of Nong Khai in Thailand’s northeast, travelling through remote villages and rural communities and finishing at one of Hands’ Projects, ‘Home Hug’ in Yasothon. 

Sophie shared her thoughts on why she is taking part in the Ride to Provide with Hands.

“When you are living and working in some of the most privileged areas in Melbourne, it is easy to get caught up in a materialistic way of thinking. I am looking forward to taking part in the Ride to Provide with Hands in January as already the experience has given me so much more perspective and has made me realise how much impact we can have on someone’s life.” 

Khom grew up in Thailand and was adopted at age 6, along with his sister, by a family living in Australia. For Khom, taking part in the Ride to Provide is about giving back and doing his part in helping others. 

“As soon as I heard about the experience, it really hit home for me. Growing up in an orphanage in Thailand, I know firsthand how drastically your life can be changed for the better through the support of other people. For me, paying it forward and giving back is a big motivation to partake in this experience.” 

Funds raised from the annual Ride to Provide experience provides critical funding to the operations of the homes Hands supports across Thailand. 

Sophie and Khom are busy fundraising and improving their fitness ahead of the 800km ride, if you would like to donate, please visit this website.