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Lamphun and Orinda are Sister Cities

IN THE EARLY 1950's General Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president of the United States. After the turbulent times of the Second World War and the Korean conflict, President Eisenhower decided that there had to be a better way to settle international problems rather than armed conflict.. To attain this goal, he founded what he called the People to People Program, which was later renamed the Sister City Program. The president felt that problems could better be solved by people working together at the local level, rather than at the level of national governments. A meaningful exchange of culture, the arts, education, and other modes of communication could be achieved by local civic governments which had established themselves as Sister Cities working together.

To this end, on the 14th of December the cities of Lamphun (Lampoon) in the North of Thailand, and Orinda, California officially became Sister Cities. Mr. Prapat Pooncharoen, Mayor of Lamphun, and the local Member of Parliament, Mr. Montri Daiphaiboon represented the Thai side at the official signing ceremony while the ex-mayor and present City Councilman of Orinda, Mr. Gregg Wheatland came as the California representative. The U.S. Consul General of Chiangmai, Mr. Thomas Murphy, was included as a special guest at the ceremony.

Orinda is located just outside of Berkley, California and has a population of 17,000. It is the location for the J.F. Kennedy College, an institution where senior citizens can expand their higher education after retirement according to their own interests, rather than seeking an official diploma.

The relationship between the two cities came about through the interest of the Mr. Wheatland in Thai cuisine. The family that owns a Thai restaurant located across the street from townhall Mr. Wheatland frequents nearly everyday are natives of Lamphun, and he became interested in their native city of which they spoke with great affection. One visit by Mr. Wheatland to Lamphun led to another and finally to the official relationship between Orinda and Lamphun as Sister Cities.

During the signing ceremony the principal speakers commented on how Lamphun could expand its international connections through participation in the Sister City program, and that not only the municipality of Lamphun would benefit, but the nation as a whole as well. Lamphun becomes the fourth Thai city having a Sister City in the United States, joining Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiangmai.

A luncheon was hosted by Mayor Prapat after the formal signing ceremony, and the California representative was then taken on a tour of Lamphun schools and other facilities During the tour Mr. Wheatland met with local teachers and students who entertained him with traditional cultural performances. Informal talks were held about how Orinda could assist the Lamphun school system by providing English language books and texts for local school libraries.

An international flavor was leant to the event through the participation of representatives of Japanese, Korean, and American companies operating in the Northern Industrial Estate in Lamphun.

Expanded participation in the Sister City program, such as between Lamphun and Orinda, California can only strengthen and improve Thai-American relations.

The Nuns of Wat Baromjarinee

THE ESTABLISHMENT of a Sister City relationship between the city of Lamphun and Orinda, California has had a beneficial spin-off for the Buddhist nuns of the convent at Wat Baromjarinee, located just outside of the city of Lamphun. The official Orinda representative at the signing ceremony cementing the Sister City relationship between Orinda and Lamphun, Mr. Gregg Wheatland, became interested in the demonstrated desire on the part of the nuns to improve their education. As a result, Mr. Wheatland was able to persuade representatives of the radio station KGO in San Francisco to assist in raising contributions to help the poorly-funded convent. Mr. John Hamilton, of radio KGO, and Bill and Joey Judd came to Lamphun bringing a check for US $4,000 to use in construction of a badly-needed storage facility. Additionally, Mr. Wheatland brought a quantity of English language text books to help the nuns improve their English language skills.

The nuns are girls from poor or dysfunctional families from all over Thailand, and taking holy orders at Wat Baromjarinee represents their only possibility to further their education. Without the opportunity provided by the convent, most of these nuns would find themselves working in the rice fields or earning a meager income at unskilled construction labor. While at the convent the nuns are able to study the standard subjects of the Thai educational curriculum as well as the English language. A local couple, Mr. Richard Lewis and his wife Masa, volunteer time to the convent with Masa teaching sewing, gardening, and carpentry while Richard provides instruction in English. Thai teachers and a teacher from Canada also provide volunteer instruction. Some nuns who have left the convent have been able to go on to high school with financial assistance from the convent which is part of a project under the royal patronage of H.M. the Queen.

Mr. Wheatland visited the poorly-funded facility was impressed by the sincerity displayed by the nuns in furthering their education. Through his efforts in the United States, generous contributions has come about. Mr. Wheatland is trying to expand assistance to the nuns, such as locating and shipping a used computer for them.

A visit to the convent is a very rewarding experience, but this is not a place for a casual drop-in visit. Arrangements for a visit can be made by contacting Khun Churaiporn at the Lamphun Municipal Office at (053) 511-013.

How To Get to Lamphun

Lamphun is only 20 kilometers south of Chiangmai. One can drive or take a local bus. Once in Lamphun the municipality have arranged several sahm lor tours for leisurely sightseeing around Lamphun., You can also get color map and checklist of what to see. Call the Lamphun Municipal Office at (053) 511-013.

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