|Candy Sukkamon Sopachote
● Senior HR Business Partner
● 17-year Ford Employee
● Behind-the-Scenes Super Volunteer
I strongly believe that to invest in young children so they have a better life is the responsibility of all adults. And it's a great thing to do. Kids are our future. If you want a good community, quality people in society, we must all invest in developing them now. To provide quality basic needs of water and food will help them have a better life so they can focus on education. That is our project."
In 2015, Candy Sukkamon Sopachote, Senior HR Business Partner, Ford Thailand, led her office's effort to apply for the then-newly established Bill Ford Better World Challenge grant program.
Sopachote will say she used the momentum of previous volunteer projects to recruit Ford engineers, technicians and executives to develop and implement a clean water plan for the drought-stricken eastern region of Thailand.
But her colleagues know better. She has an uncanny ability to recruit Ford employees at all levels—from the plant floor to C-suite offices—to roll up their sleeves for their less-fortunate neighbors.
It's not just that she makes a good argument for getting involved. She makes the experience worth their time. Sopachote ensures the site is well equipped with tools, supplies and most of all—food.
"I basically make sure they have all the necessary equipment they need, that safety is always considered, and food and beverage is there," she said. "They must have energy to work!"
"I love to be a behind-the-scenes type of person who helps make the projects run," she said. "And it means so much to employees to see our executives working on these projects. For me, it breaks the hierarchy. It brings people closer and builds relationships that become a foundation for working together."
Thanks to this collective effort, the Thailand Clean Water Community Project was selected as one of the inaugural Bill Ford Better World Challenge grant recipients. The Ford team worked closely with the World Vision Foundation of Thailand to ultimately bring sustainable water filtration and bathroom sanitation systems to rural schools. Additionally, they included an agricultural module in which students would receive farming and gardening training to be used in long-term careers.
In total, more than 200 Ford volunteers worked on the project, teaching nearby residents how to install and maintain clean water systems in the schools as well as plant and harvest hundreds of banana and lemon trees and large vegetable gardens. Chicken farms were established and stocked. Initial projections estimated the total effort would directly help 13 schools and 18,000 people from nearby villages.
"This project is created to make sure children have adequate nutritious meals from the school's agricultural farm. In addition, this project is educating them in farming techniques and encouraging the schools and their communities to help themselves in the long run," Sopachote said.
She emphasized that the clean water project with its side efforts is designed to help people help themselves. "Our aim is to teach students, teachers, and the community to fish—not to give them a fish. We started the program in a way that they could continue the work on their own and enhance their future."
The clean water project is one to be celebrated, to be sure. But Sopachote likes to point out that Ford employees are ready to jump in whenever a need arises. And more often than not, she can be found in the background, inspiring participation at all levels.
"I normally involve executives in every single volunteer project we do," she said. "Not just the water project."
Earlier this year, when COVID-19 emerged as a global pandemic, Ford plants in Thailand manufactured face masks for the community. Ford employees participated in a massive regional effort to assemble and deliver enough supplies and food for one million care packages.
As an HR professional, Sopachote gets double the satisfaction from a volunteering event that she organized and led. Seeing the sense of accomplishment and genuine happiness of the employee volunteers is as meaningful as giving to the needy.
"The happiest moment I have while volunteering is seeing our employees work together and help each other. Many of them never talk to each other during the workday. Production employees work in the plant do not have a chance to meet senior management. But as volunteers, we all have the same goal for that day. We meet, we work on the project and we have fun achieving the day's goal together," she said.
"We get more than just the employees' time, they give us their hearts. Because they are part of Ford, and doing good like this is in Ford Motor Company's DNA.
Managed by the Ford Motor Company Fund, the Ford Volunteer Corps is a global network of Ford employees and retirees who have contributed more than 1.7 million volunteer hours in community service projects since 2005. To celebrate 15 years of serving communities around the world, Ford Fund is recognizing 15 Ford Volunteer Corps All Stars—Ford employees who are dedicated to community service, and go above and beyond in their efforts to help people in need.