Friday Future Lister: Pimali Foundation’s Path to Empowering Thai Youth

Through education and compassion, the Pimali Foundation is rewriting the destinies of young lives, illuminating the path toward a brighter future

Established in 2013 by Koktail’s Future Listers Stéphanie Loup and Alexandre des Arts, the Pimali Foundation is a beacon of opportunity in North-East Thailand. This initiative addresses the challenges faced by underprivileged and orphaned Thai youths by providing them a transformative path into the hospitality industry. Koktail explores the story behind this inspirational foundation.



Could you provide an overview of Pimali Foundation's mission and goals? What exactly does the Pimali Foundation offer?

Pimali Foundation fights against poverty and trafficking. The aim of Pimali Foundation is to offer a practical training in hospitality in order to offer skills to underprivileged and orphans mainly in Northeast of Thailand, to secure them a professional future and to enable them to become financially independent.



What motivated you to start this foundation and what inspired you to fight the exploitation of disadvantaged youth and addressing reducing poverty in the northeastern region of Thailand?

I am half Thai and half Swiss. My dream was that I always wanted to help the underprivileged and orphans. So in 2009 I decided to quit my job and leave for one month as a volunteer in an orphanage. One day, I searched on Google and found a wonderful orphanage in the northeast of Thailand. Then of course, I fell in love with children and the beautiful Nong Khai region. It reminded me of when I was young while visiting Thailand. 

After that, I visited the orphanage every year with my husband Alex to spend time and to donate money. Quickly I was convinced that it was necessary to help in a sustainable way and not only in one shot. After talking for a long time with the Head of the orphanage I realised how difficult it was for these young adults to find a professional path or job. I started thinking about how I can help them solve this challenging milestone. Surprisingly, I had a dream one night! This dream was very clear and it was to open a hospitality training centre in the Northeastern region (Issan) in order to help them with practical training and to get a decent job for their future.



Could you share some examples of the programs and initiatives that the foundation has implemented to achieve its mission? How do these programs directly impact the lives of disadvantaged youth and the local communities?

After discussing my project with the main hospitality players in Thailand, we have decided to focus on 3 main departments in a hotel which are kitchen, food & beverage, and housekeeping. We opened the trainingprogramme in December 2015. The training is focused on the principle of “learning by doing” so it’s mainly practical training. We teach them all the basics from hygiene, life skills, and basic hospitality English. Then we confront them with professional reality thanks to our restaurant, bar and our 4 Sunset Villas. Since the opening in 2016, we have welcomed more than 600 guests who are supporting us financially and giving working experience to our students. 

Our training is very short as our students cannot afford to study very long as the family is putting a lot of pressure on their income. Pimali Foundation offers 6 months training for Housekeeping and 11 months for F&B Service and Kitchen. Pimali Foundation helps support them from the first day they arrive at Pimali up until they get their first job. We also want to be sure they have a decent salary with all benefits as other employees like service charge, tips, and insurance. Since 2016, we have trained more than 165 students and 80% are now working in hospitality or restaurants with a decent salary. As they are now financially independent, they can help their own families and sometimes they become the only source of income for their family.



How does the Pimali Foundation collaborate with local communities, government agencies, and other stakeholders to effectively address the challenges faced by disadvantaged youth and impoverished individuals in the northeastern region of Thailand?

We are currently working with local people and we are always trying to work with relevant government and local channels. All our team members are from Issan and we are always trying our best to contact local schools, government orphanages, the head of the village, temples, private orphanages, and NGOs to promote our practical training. Every year from December to May, our team and some students visit all our partners in Issan to present Pimali Training and of course collecting applications and recruiting new students for the next training course



Can you share some success stories or specific outcomes achieved by the foundation that highlight its positive impact on the lives of the youth and communities it serves?

Most of our ex-students are now alumni and they continue to thank us. They realise now that having a job with a decent salary helps them to have a stable life and security. Hotels or restaurants where they are working become also a part of their family. They come back frequently to share their professional experience and work with the new students and also become a mentor. 

The alumni also help us promote Pimali among their friends. Recently one of our students came to offer us a donation in order to help the future students and their scholarship which was a wonderful surprise beyond our expectation. For a few years, 5 star hotels have been calling us as they are looking for skilled people which makes us think that our training is adapted to the professional world. 

Last but not least, one of our alumni has been hired in an Embassy in Bangkok as private butler for the Ambassador and event organizer which is an outstanding promotion.  



As the foundation moves forward, what are your future plans and aspirations for expanding the foundation and achieving even greater positive change for disadvantaged youth in the northeastern region of Thailand?

We hope to be able to welcome more students in the near future and become one of the leading hospitality-training centres in the Northeastern Region of Thailand.  We are working to promote Pimali as a new rural experience in Issan and looking forward to welcoming more guests from Thailand and abroad. All guests enjoying food or staying at Pimali will support the foundation as every baht spent is considered as a donation to support the training.

“Our dream is to duplicate Pimali in Thailand or abroad and to become more sustainable. We also hope that we could try in our way to adapt the way to teach and to train differently by practising in reality.  This kind of training has been really well implemented in Switzerland for many years and we can see that it is working. It is fantastic to learn and study at the University but for those who cannot afford, the practical training is a wonderful way to get into the professional world quickly and easily and this method should be pushed.”



Is there anything else you would like to share with us? Feel free to do so!

Don’t hesitate to visit Pimali and share the fact that you can stay in our very comfortable Sunset Villas and share delicious Issan specialties in our Lurktan restaurant facing rice paddies. Also visiting Northeast as a hidden gem with so many places, handicrafts, and specialities to discover. 

Every guest is important as they offer the opportunity to our students to practise their skills under real conditions

It’s an amazing way to spend your holidays or long weekend, by coming and staying with us. We would love to welcome you here.