By Kaden Arias de Cordoba
Tenth grader at Kalani High School in Honolulu, Hawaii
This is a true story about my friend Ken Hagerman, whose memory lives on through support of the Rain Tree Foundation. This social welfare organization helps the poor in Thailand, including providing access to clean water.
My family first went to Thailand in 2005 when I was four and my sister was two. I lived in a town called Chiang Mai and it was in the north part of the country. While we were there, we went on a four-day trek in the jungle. Our guide was Hod Chommala. Hod took us to small, hill tribe villages. He took me to a little hut on a river and taught me how to fish with a stick.
Although I didn’t catch anything, it was great. Hod caught everything we ate for lunch. Hod Chommala is a great friend!
Many people in Chiang Mai don’t have a lot of things. When I was at school, at recess, I let everyone try my game boy because no one else had one. People in smaller villages they have even less stuff than people in Chiang Mai. People in Chiang Mai they live on $6 a day and the people in the villages live on less. In California, $6 would get me a Lego set or a subway sandwich.
My friend Hod was a farmer in one of the small villages. The village is called Mae Pun Deng. My grandpa Dave visited Hod’s village and talked about getting clean drinking water for the people in the village. We all liked Hod and wanted to help him and his family.
Ken Hagerman was my friend and my grandpa Dave’s best friend. Ken met Hod when he came to visit us in Thailand in October 2006. We would go hiking and go get banana pancakes at Ms. Kanjana’s restaurant. And when I got my puppy Ping Ping in Thailand, Ken was with us.
On Halloween Ken gave us lots and lots of candy, other people gave us weird things like dragon fruit, cans of coke and strange Thailand candies. I’m glad Ken gave me lots of candy because in Thailand they don’t celebrate Halloween, and I don’t like dragon fruit.
Ken awesomely loved Thailand as much as my family and me. Thai people were very friendly to us. None of the Thai people had yellow hair. My sister and I were the only ones and they would touch our hair a lot. Ken had gray hair and they would call him Papa. Ken and grandpa Dave would talk with Hod about helping the village and the farmers get clean drinking water.
The day Ken got back, he told his wife, Donna, to go with him next time to Thailand because when he went he had so much fun. Ken went back to Thailand in 2009, I was back living in California and going to this awesome school called Marblehead. I was in third grade. November 1, 2009, Ken died of a heart attack in Chiang Mai. When Ken died, he was with my grandma and grandpa and his wife Donna.
I was very, very, very sad when Ken died. After Ken died, Donna wanted to get clean drinking water for Hod’s village in Ken’s name. Donna was still in Thailand and she called everyone in Canada and the U.S. who knew Ken and asked them to donate money to the Ken Hagerman Water Project. Lots of Ken’s friends and family donated money. Donna went back home and raised more money in Canada. She got almost $15,000!!! That’s a lot of money!!!
The $15,000 was used to buy bio-sand filters from the Rain Tree Foundation for every home, Buddhist temple and school in Hod’s village of Mae Pun Deng.
There was extra money left over so they are saving it so when new people move to the village they can get clean water too. My grandpa and grandma stayed in Thailand and worked with friends to get the filters for the villagers and it took almost three months to get one for everyone.
Now that they have clean water, the people don’t get bellyaches, diarrhea or sick.
At the main hall, there is a plaque with Ken’s name and a Canadian flag on it. Buddhist monks celebrated with a Buddhist ceremony with Donna, my grandma and grandpa and the people who put the filters in.
I miss Ken and love him a lot. He was a good buddy to me. Together, in memory of Ken, we were able to bring clean drinking water to one village. Mae Pun Deng. A dream come true for a good friend.
About Kaden Arias de Cordoba
Kaden is a self-proclaimed nerd, gamer and cinephile who loves pizza and music, and also a 10th grader at Kalani High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. He moved to Oahu in 2013 after living in Thailand for two years and Southern California for 10 years. He also holds a Canadian passport and enjoys exploring the world with his family.