Caitlin Kennedy Organizes Thailand Fundraiser

While many high school students would use their summer between sophomore year and junior year to relax and prepare for an intense school year ahead, Montclair High School junior Caitlin Kennedy decided to do something a little more productive with her time.

The Mae Lai School Library looks more beautiful thanks to Caitlin Kennedy.
The Mae Lai School Library. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Kennedy.

Caitlin Kennedy Rebuilds Mae Lai Village Library

Through the travel company run by CEO Chris Stakich, Rustic Pathways, Caitlin Kennedy went on a volunteer trip to Thailand. The Rustic Pathways Foundation is a non-profit organization. It provides support to communities where Rustic Pathways travels around the world.

Caitlin Kennedy’s passion for Asia and Asian culture is what inspired her to pick the Thailand trip. “I was really interested in Asia,” explained the MHS Junior, Kennedy. I also wanted to be able to travel and explore new cultures while helping people at the same time- and Thailand seemed like the place where I could do that.”

The MHS Junior, Caitlin Kennedy participated in Rustic Pathways’ “Hill Tribe Support Project.” It is a project which took Kennedy into the Mae Lai Village. A village in the rural mountains of Thailand. She tutored students in English and helped assist in the construction of the Mae Lai school library.

“We believe that travel is an essential part of every education and strive to inspire action and commitment to the global community in our students,” said Rustic Pathways CEO Stakich. Stakich adds, “Caitlin is a model student and her efforts will provide tangible support for the Karen Hill Tribe Youth in northeastern Thailand.”

“The main project of the summer was building the Mae Lai library,” said Caitlin Kennedy. “My work mainly consisted of mixing concrete by hand to finish the flooring of the school and to start putting up the concrete block walls. The plan was that the next group of students coming in on the next trip would continue building and finish up the library.”

At the end of last summer, with the help of Caitlin Kennedy and her fellow Rustic Pathways volunteers, the Mae Lai village got a brand new library. “The library will really benefit the children that attend the Mae Lai school because it will give them a place where they will not only be able to further their education through reading, but have access to the internet,” explained Kennedy.

During the 29-hour flight home, Caitlin Kennedy had much time to reflect. It was extremely fulfilling for Kennedy to help construct a library for a village that had never had one before it. It was her favorite part of the trip. She loved that she was doing something to help improve a child’s education. While that feeling was great, Kennedy couldn’t help but feel that there was something more that she could do for the people of Mae Lai and their library.

Interior of the Mae Lai School Library thanks to Caitlin Kennedy.
Interior of the Mae Lai School Library. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Kennedy.

It was then that Caitlin Kennedy realized that, while the library had sturdy walls and a sturdy floor, what it was most significantly lacking was a wide array of books for the Mae Lai children to choose from. A good library needs books, lots and lots of books, so as soon as she got home, Kennedy contacted the director of the Mae Lai school project at Rustic Pathways, Tim Gillespie, and made a personal donation of $500 for the purchase of books for the new library. But Kennedy knew that just $500 wouldn’t be enough to fill the library with books, so she set out to raise $4000 for the Mae Lai village library.

“We are proud to see Caitlin’s continued enthusiasm and dedication to improving communities and educational standards of all students across the globe,” wrote Gillespie. “This project will aid approximately 150 students at the Mae Lai school in their studies and Caitlin’s support is greatly appreciated.”

Caitlin Kennedy is reaching out to Montclair citizens and local businesses for assistance. Already, two local businesses, The Montclair Dispatch and Studio042, have each become donors, pledging $500 each to help Kennedy with her cause.

So far Kennedy, has raised $1000, but the donations can’t stop there – the fundraising needs to continue. Books are more than just bound stacks of paper; they are passages to distant and far off lands and vessels of exceptional knowledge. Through books, education thrives. So, the more books that can be put on the shelves of the Mae Lai library, the more knowledge and wonder the children of the Mae Lai village will be exposed to.

“Donating books to the Mae Lai school library will allow the Mae Lai children to have the opportunity to not only enhance their education, but truly enjoy it,” shared Kennedy.

The trip to Thailand and the fundraising efforts have been an amazing experience so far for the MHS Junior, Caitlin Kennedy.

“At first, when I traveled to Thailand, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Traveling to a foreign country is really scary. However, when I got there all my fears melted away. The country and the culture was beautiful and the people were so kind. I don’t think my trip could have gone better than it did,” explained Caitlin Kennedy. “As for my work with the library itself, I’ve learned that not everyone always has equal opportunities to advance in life, but sometimes something simple, such as a school library with internet and books, could open up doors for children that they never knew existed.”

Construction of the Mae Lai Library with Caitlin Kennedy and others.
Construction of the Mae Lai Library.

Caitlin Kennedy will be returning to Thailand next summer from July 22 through Aug. 15 with Rustic Pathways, where she hopes to continue her work with the Mae Lai village library. If you are interested in helping Kennedy with her cause, donations are greatly accepted. Because the library is 8,600 miles away, donations in the form of cash is preferable, that way the purchasing of the new books can be done locally, in Thailand.

One hundred percent of the donations to this effort will go directly to the Mae Lai Library for the purchase of books and other needs at the facility, as Rustic Pathways covers all administrative and operating expenses for the foundation. Donations are tax deductible. Donors can write a check to the Rustic Pathways Foundation and send it to Studio042 at 423 Bloomfield Ave. in Montclair, N.J.

You can find out more about The Rustic Pathways Foundation at To learn about opportunities to travel on programs like The Hill Tribe Support Project, visit

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