At the beginning of the Rotary Year 2012/13, the club voted to ‘adopt’ Samui Prison Project Committee’s request to build a classroom in the Female Section of the prison. Their rationale for their proposal was that many of the female inmates were not habitual criminals but were anxious not to reoffend in the future. They already spent much of their time learning skills such as yoga, sewing, batik and baking in preparation for release. It was thought that a classroom for studying language and other skills would further enhance their life chances on release.
In August 2012 club members and some ‘Friends of Rotary’ visited the Prison to see for themselves what the ladies had achieved so far, and they were highly impressed by the industry that they witnessed. Rotarian Christoph Leonhard promptly booked the budding musicians to appear at his Amari Resort for their New Year’s Eve party!
It was proposed that building should start as soon some funds were available and would continue as fast as funding allowed. However, a visit by Princess Bajrakitiyabha, granddaughter of the King, and Head of Correction Services, was due to visit the Prison on 28th December, so building was put on hold pending this event.
In January, when the Club was again ready to start work, there was a further hold up as a Prison Inspection had demanded that the building be moved to allow access by male inmates. This resulted in a long delay, as ‘Permission to Build’ had again to be applied for, which was not forthcoming until May!
Building began on 7th May in a modified form, as it now was planned to have a Study Room and Library, as there was a structure in place next to it which was suitable for classes. One week on and the sub-structure was complete along with the steel work for the pillars and floor. Club members were invited to visit and inspect their building, and take part in the ceremony appropriate for that stage. Two weeks on from that, the floor and pillars were complete and roof supports in place. A visit on June 17th showed that the walls were complete and finished; roofing was done, and the toilet unit was complete with the necessary drainage done. The ceiling structure was being worked on during the photo visit.
The building work continued apace, and to a high standard, until the only outstanding items were the doors and windows. An early estimate was considered rather high, and a workshop near the Prison gave a much more favourable estimate. The doors and windows were installed at the beginning of August. Commander Somphop then arranged the Grand Opening’ to take place on Tuesday 27th August. The time lapse was necessary to enable him to assemble a group of dignitaries from the Correction Service, including Prison Inspectors. It gave Immediate Past President Adele Smith and Rotarian Nicolas Emmert the opportunity to purchase some furniture for the classroom, as the project had been completed well under budget.
A teacher’s desk, four table and chair sets, shelving and a whiteboard were purchased and delivered. It was added to by a personal donation by Nicolas of a DVD Player, and the purchase of a small LCD television. Even with the last purchase, the project still had money over from the total sum raised in the previous Rotary Year!
On the due day, 5 Rotarians and 16 guests assembled in the Prison Entrance. President Jeffrey Martin, Project leaders Adele Smith and Nicolas Emmert, and Rotarians Wally Smith and Matus Valent represented the Rotary Club. The guests included members of the Samui Prison Project, who had initiated the project, Margie Brown (Chair), Karen Bone and Heather Reid. Also present from Samui Community representatives, Yvonne Roberts (SOS), Lynn Gregory (Samui Rescue) and Shelley Poplak (Samui Mala). Somchai Ratanaarpa represented Four Seasons Resort, a major sponsor, Sarah Yuen, new editor of Samui Express and Gary and Ta Byrne, Friends of Rotary, completed the roster.
Once everyone had entered the Prison and assembled near the Classroom/Library, the Opening Ceremony commenced. The building had been decorated by Prsion staff, and looked very festive for the occasion! President Jeffrey and Adele Smith jointly wielded the scissors that cut the formal ribbon, and the Classroom was duly and ceremoniously opened! This event was followed by refreshments offered by the female inmates who had prepared the feast, and decorated the table where everyone was seated.
Commander Somphop made a short speech, introducing the dignitaries from the Correction Service. He then warmly thanked the Rotary Club for their gift of the learning facility, which will enable both male and female inmates to prepare themselves for life outside the Prison. President Jeffrey then introduced the Rotray members, and invited IPP Adele to speak, as the project was initiated and funded during her year in office. Adele explained that the project was the vision of the Samui Prison Committee, which had been adopted by the Rotary Club, as it was felt appropriate to offer a ‘second chance’ of a worthwhile life for prisoners on their release. She thanked Nicolas Emmert for his efforts throughout the project, and also spoke of the good relationship shared with Commander Somphop, Head of Construction, Khun M, and the building suppliers, Pumipat, Lamai, who sadly could not, after all, send their representatives along.
The building bears a brass plaque in English and Thai, noting that it is a gift of the Rotary Club of Koh Samui and two major sponsors, Four Seasons Resort and Nikki Beach Resort.