Charlotte Harrop is a bright, caring young woman who knows
first hand how much children need secure and loving homes -
her mother Geraldine Harrop has cared for nearly 100 babies
in her 30 years as a foster parent.
“I was one of those babies, “Charlotte told the Gazette.
“Mum and Dad adopted me.”
And Charlotte will put her ideals into practice when she and
colleague Kate-Brihony Dunnion give up a summer holiday to
change nappies in an orphanage in Thailand.
Charlotte and Kate work for the 5-star Westin Turnberry
Resort, part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide – so
if they chose, they could spend their summer break partying
and pampering themselves at any of Starwood’s luxury hotels
around the world.
But on the 6th of July the feisty pair will fly to Bangkok
to spend 16 days feeding,
changing, bathing and giving lots of personal attention and
cuddles to abandoned and orphaned children at the Phayathai
Babies’ Home which cares for more than 300 children from
newborn to 5 years old.
Their employers have been totally supportive of the women’s
efforts from the start. For example, staff at one of parent
company Starwood’s properties in Bangkok had the necessary
local knowledge to identify a reputable orphanage - the
Phayathai Babies’ Home and put Charlotte and Kate in touch
with its resident child psychiatrist.
The young staff members were prepared to fund their own
travel expenses – but were delighted when Charlotte’s boss
Kurt Meusel surprised them by donating all his personal air
miles for plane tickets to Bangkok that would have cost £600
And instead of shopping for the right bikinis and stocking
up suntan lotion, these extraordinary young women are
devoting their impressive levels of energy in their free
time to raising funds so that they can buy supplies, books
and toys for the home. “We are determined to buy them the
essential items they need” said Charlotte.
Charlotte and Kate were thinking about soliciting local
donations of clothes, toys and books but soon discovered
that shipping costs were prohibitive. So they kick-started
a fund from their own pockets, each putting £200 into a bank
account set up specially for the purpose.
They decided an auction would be a great way to raise money
- but because of charity and gambling regulations, the
auction must be restricted to the hotel’s staff of over 400
people. But anyone who wishes is free to make a donation
and it will be most welcome. “Every penny we raise will go
to the orphanage,” assured Kate.
So far, local businesses have contributed generously,
everything from haircuts to sweets and time on a sunbed – to
date donors include Dowhill Farm Shop & Restaurant, and from
Girvan, Green Jam picture framers and art sales, The Roxy
pub and restaurant, Paul the Barbers, The Sweetie Shop,
Video Scene and Allsorts in Chalmers Arcade, MD Ladies’
Fashion, Mackays, Direct Outdoors, Aff Yer Head Gents’
Barbers, Akita furniture showroom and Poco Ibiza Sunbeds.
Other places to donate The Kirkmichael Arms, Wildings, Malin
Court, Daily Bake in Maybole, PJ Videos, Lloyds Chemist,
Carrick Stores, The Sweetie Jar, Crème de la Crème, The
And the hotel and parent company Starwood have contributed
sought-after prizes like a 4 ball on the world famous Ailsa
Course which is due to host the 2009 Open Championship and
hotel stays, worth hundreds of pounds.
Kate’s motivation for the project came from her extensive
travels in Africa before moving to Scotland from her native
home in Australia. Kate described how she spent time with
“some of the poorest but happiest children ever” while in
Botswana. “These kids were doing maths in the dirt – if it
rained, they couldn’t finish their sums.”
She respects these children and the tribal communities in
which they live, and is in no way patronising. The children
she met had almost no material possessions, unlike those in
Scotland where even the poorest have access to food,
clothing, shelter, education and medical care – not to
mention television, mobile phones and computer games.
But however happy the children may be on a spiritual level,
some material objects are necessary to fulfil basic needs.
Kate and Charlotte feel very strongly that children
everywhere in the world – whether Botswana, Thailand or
closer to home – should at the very least have clean running
water and a school with a roof.
“We work in a 5-star hotel and I feel so privileged,” said
Kate. “I want to give something positive back to the
community, be it local or not. There is nothing more
rewarding in the world than making a little one smile!”