Ford Motor Co. Fund in Dearborn has opened its first Asia-based Ford Resource and Engagement Center (FREC) in Bangkok, Thailand. The center will run programs that focus on food waste, environmental protection, education, technology, community engagement, and the arts. It is being funded through 2023 by a $1.8 million investment from the Ford Fund.
The center will be run by eight founding partners that include local nongovernmental organizations, social enterprises, and foundations. It is a partnership between Ford Fund and its international grant-making partner, GlobalGiving.
“Like our first FREC in Detroit, Mich., FREC Bangkok is a long-term commitment to a neighborhood brimming with untapped potential,” says Jim Vella, president of Ford Fund. “In Bangkok, through food rescue programs, conservation projects, plastics upcycling, and some exciting technology, art, and urban planning initiatives, our FREC stewards have an opportunity to deliver services that directly benefit people in the neighborhood, as well as the city as a whole.”
The center is at the Satri Julanak School in the historic Pomprapsattruphai district, famous for its Nang Loeng food market and arts, dance, and publishing history. Bangkok’s first book was published in the neighborhood, and families in the community have created costumes and choreography for traditional royal Thai dance for generations.
“Bangkok is changing rapidly, and this community has a special place in the city’s history,” says Wichit Wongwatthanakan, managing director of Ford Thailand. “FREC Bangkok is an opportunity for Ford to work with our NGO partners, community leaders, and officials to help us retain the city’s heritage, while also moving forward with new technology, environmentally-friendly initiatives, and exciting community projects.”
Bangkok’s center is part of a $15 million global network of community centers that Ford Fund launched in 2013. The original center in Detroit has returned $3 in services to the local community for every $1 invested by Ford and participating nonprofits. There are two centers in Detroit and one in South Africa and Romania.
“Our pioneering FREC network demonstrates how Ford Fund is taking a community-first approach to corporate philanthropy,” says Vella. “By listening to community leaders and working with strong local partners, we are leveraging the power of Ford to make people’s lives better.”
In 2008, Ford launched its Driving Skills for Life program in Thailand and has since provided free training to more than 12,000 licensed drivers. It also donates vehicles, supplies, funds, and support in response to natural disasters and offers a scholarship and a work-study apprentice program with the Thai-Austrian Technical College.
Ford’s clean water community project has improved water access with purification systems, washbasins, and restrooms in 13 rural schools.
Scholars of Sustenance, a Ford Resource and Engagement Center partner, will use the Bangkok center as its headquarters for its food rescue operations and its fleet of six trucks to collect up to two tons of excess food daily from the city’s restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels. After inspecting the food for safety, Scholars of Sustenance distributes its to more than 30 shelters across Bangkok.
Ford Fund works with dealers and nonprofit partners in more than 60 countries. It has invested more than $2 billion in programs since 1949.
Ford employs more than 10,000 people in Thailand. There are 155 authorized Ford dealerships in the country.