CHIANG RAI -Canadian’s Brian and Karen Shaben never had kids of their own, but, by next week, they’ll have 24 to look after. “That’s just the ironic part, how do you go from zero kids to 24?” Brian said with a laugh.
The Canadian couple, founders of World Wide Life Humanitarian Partnership Society — a non-profit that partners with organizations to enhance living conditions for at-risk individuals in underdeveloped countries — will move to Thailand next week, having retired from full-time work in Canada to make careers of the humanitarian efforts they began in 2008.
They will start by partnering with Give Kids Hope Thailand, an organization that runs a children’s home in Mae Suai, Chiang Rai Province, home to 24 girls at risk of becoming involved in the sex trade in Thailand.
The Shaben’s will operate the home while helping in the development of a new training center that will emphasize vocational training and enhanced educational opportunities.
“It’s so rewarding for us,” Karen said.
“We think we’re going to help them and to bless them, but we’re actually the ones who get blessed — we really are.
“It’s amazing how wonderful these kids are and how creative they are and smart they are.
“The only difference between them and me is I was born here and I was given access to opportunities,” Karen said.
“Unless we do this, or people like us do this, they’re not given access to opportunity, especially some of the ones who live in these northern, remote areas.”
For the Shaben’s, the decision to move overseas and make full-time work of their humanitarian efforts has been a long time in the making.
Since their first hands-on experience nearly 10 years ago, the couple found their attention increasingly dominated by their work in Southeast Asia.
In October of 2014, they felt it their calling to move overseas and help — permanently.
“A lot of it came out of a bad situation I was in as a kid,” Brian said.
“I came from an abusive family background. My father was kind of abusive to the kids, very stern kind of guy.
“That kind of left an impression on me.”
The couple never had kids of their own, in part because of Brian’s upbringing.
“Earlier on, when we first got married, I wasn’t really wanting children because of my past — I wasn’t sure what kind of father I would be,” the 56-year-old said.
“I didn’t want to bring a child into the world if there was even a slim chance that my upbringing would make me a bad father.”
Brian’s youth, coupled with a horrific motorcycle accident in 1979 that stopped his heart and left him dead for minutes, made him feel there was a larger purpose to his life.
Despite never having kids of his own, his humanitarian efforts showed he had a knack for working with children.
“Brian’s living proof that you have a choice,” Karen, 49, said.
“He chooses not to be a victim.
“He has chosen to deal with the past, to get on with life and to take his experiences and make a difference for other people.”
The nature of the Shaben work will no doubt evolve during their time in Chiang Rai.
Brian said the country’s elderly and other orphanages may need help.
Regardless of what they end up doing, Brian and Karen will be making life better for those around them, which is all that matters.
“Making an impact on someone’s life in a positive way, when things look so bleak in the present, and then watching them develop and watching them come out of this thing called life on a positive note, knowing that you had a big part in that, it’s an exceptional feeling,” Brian said.
“You can leave this planet one day knowing that you’ve made a difference in the world — all the money in the world can’t buy you that.”
For more information on World Wide Life, go online to www.humanitarianpartnership.com