The Jon Parker Memorial Fund: Pong Ngen Community Center

By Dan Trevor

The quality of Jonathan Parker’s life is so clearly evident in the heartfelt stories, photos, videos and messages of unwavering love and support shared over the last week. Although it’s been one year since Jonathan’s life on this Earth ended, there is no doubt that the positive legacy he’s left behind will endure for lifetimes to come. Jonathon’s legacy lives on in a particularly beautiful way in the remote village of Pong Ngen, a hill-tribe community nestled deep in the Chiang Dao National Forest of Northern Thailand. Pong Ngen is the last remaining village in the region without road-access and is only accessible by hiking or bamboo rafting. It consists of 11 families and approximately 55 residents of the Lahu ethnic group. These families migrated south to the region from Myanmar in the 1970’s to escape religious and political oppression and to avoid being drafted by the military.
The Lahu people of Pong Ngen are very proud of their distinct culture, which consists of a unique language, dress, oral history, animist beliefs, musical instruments, songs, dances, and so much more. However, as the community becomes increasingly integrated into Thai society, these cherished traditions are at a risk of being lost with each passing generation. In response, the Pong Ngen Community Center was founded on November 22, 2018, to proudly display Lahu history and culture, so that future generations will grow up understanding, appreciating and preserving their cultural heritage.
Through the combined efforts of the people of Pong Ngen, the GIVE Foundation, and the Jonathan Parker Memorial Fund, the Community Center now has solar electricity, a loud speaker for community announcements, and a visual exhibition highlighting Lahu history and culture. The community has also established three primary goals for the center:
  • To hold bi-monthly learning sessions on Lahu culture, language and history, open to the public.
  • To hold community meetings, elections and celebrations.
  • An information center for visiting tourists to learn more about Lahu people, the community, and local attractions. It will also house a donations box for a locally-managed community fund that uses tourism revenues to support community development initiatives.

In the week leading up to the Community Center’s opening, Jonathan’s father, David Parker, along with his partner, Veronika Volovik, traveled to Pong Ngen with Jonathon’s close friend, Rey Jaffet – a talented artist who wanted to paint a lasting mural that would honor both the community and Jonathan’s memory. After meeting with the community, it was decided that the mural should represent the village’s primary source of pride and income – bamboo rafting.

Once the mural was completed, there was just one final touch. As you enter the Community Center, you are greeted by a commemorative plaque with the following message:
“The Pong Ngen Community Center is dedicated to the people of Pong Ngen, in loving memory of Jonathan Parker. By opening your village to him, you opened his eyes and heart to the world. And through Jonathan, the eyes and hearts of many people are now opened.”
Forever a GIVE Legend. Thanks, Jon.

If you are interested in contributing to Jonathan Parker’s legacy, donations are welcome. Tax deductible donations can be made online, the comment section available to note designation to the Jonathan Parker Memorial Fund.