The Powerful Perspective Of Sati Foundation's Founder Sakson Rouypirom
Generation T lister Sakson Rouypirom of Sati non-profit says his compassion for those in need was fostered at a young age. Although born and raised in the United States, he grew up in an environment with very Thai values. “My mother [Sopit] taught me about helping others. So from early on I was certain that I needed to achieve something not just for myself, but for the purposes of giving back,” explains the 39-year-old, adding that his father, Sinchai, also influenced this ambitious mindset. “He instilled in me the belief that I had to work hard, that nothing was going to be handed to me on a plate.”
With those values, Sakson later acquired a pre-medicine degree in psychology from New York University. “But I came to realise that everyone could help one another in their own ways,” he says. Thus, he decided against furthering a doctor’s career path, and around six years ago returned to Thailand to establish Sati (sati being a Buddhist Pali word that means mindfulness). “Originally, I wanted to make it like Doctors Without Borders, but later realised that wasn’t necessarily the best solution,” he says. Sati defies the traditional model of a donation-based non-profit, acting instead as a collaborative platform for people with varying occupations and backgrounds wanting to help those in need. “We focus on preventive concerns, on improving healthcare and education through different mediums and activities,” he says.
As Sati is not a donation-based charity, the full-time philanthropist was keen on trying to find a sustainable way to keep money flowing in and was therefore interested in social enterprises. This led to him eventually partnering with vegan restaurant Broccoli Revolution and co-founding art space Case Space Revolution, both of which give a percentage of their profits back to the community via the foundation.
One of the organisations Sati works closely with is The Hub Saidek, a shelter for the Hua Lumphong community where problems associated with drugs and prostitution prevail. Here, with the help of prominent volunteers and collaborators—several of whom are also familiar faces on Thailand Tatler’s Generation T list—Sati engages in activities ranging from art therapy and film and photography programmes to Muay Thai classes. “We use the activities to educate street children on the importance of healthcare, sanitation and creativity. We want to nurture a sense of value within them and let them know that they do have choices in their lives,” says Sakson.
The non-profit also assists several schools in rural Chiang Rai. Among its various initiatives is the Sati Water Filter Project, a collaborative effort with Planet Water Foundation that has improved water sanitation for several thousand children and villagers in the north. The foundation also has a scholarship programme. “Our first scholarship student was in eighth grade and wanted to be a pharmacist. She is now in her fourth year at pharmacy school,” Sakson smiles.
His free time is spent keeping up with his other passions. “I like physical activity—I work out a lot and go to Muay Thai training a couple of times a week,” says the bachelor. An art enthusiast, he has a soft spot for photography and owns a small collection of artworks, mostly the abstract medium by Thai artists. “But I also like to read, even if it’s only a couple of pages a day.” How has running Sati changed him? “I’m reminded on a daily basis how lucky I am,” he says. “I get a lot more out of it than the children do. They give me perspective. What has changed me the most is probably the comparison of hardships— nothing in my life has been anywhere near as hard as some of the things street children have to go through.”