Accident inspires Harkham to help Myanmar kids

Richie Harkham with Tai, an 11-year-old boy he met in Myanmar.

A MOTORBIKE accident in 2014 made winemaker Richie Harkham reassess his life.

Having been involved in charity projects for number of years, he had already helped build a school in Kenya in 2013. But he wanted to do more.

“The thing I am most passionate about is helping other people,” he said. “It made me live life like every minute was my last, because I saw how easily it can end.”

After receiving a knee transplant from a 13-year-old car accident victim, he decided to honour the boy’s memory by building a school in Myanmar in his name.

That school opened in April this year. Through his registered charity Hark Angel, Harkham’s goal is to eventually build 30 schools in Myanmar, 30 more in Nepal and 40 in other parts of the developing world.

“We go to the poorest places, where the world has forgotten [them], where they’ve got no opportunity and there’s no hope,” he said.

A school for 130 kids costs approximately $28,000. Donations are matched dollar-for-dollar. Hark Angel also works with local authorities and maintains contact with village elders, headmasters and teachers to monitor the running of the schools once they’re built.

But for Harkham, it’s not just about building schools but also making connections with the children and continuing to support them.

He remains in contact with Lucy, a Kenyan girl he met in 2013 and also sponsors Kenyan orphan Philip, who is studying at university and is going to go back “and change his whole community”.

While in Myanmar this year, he connected with Tai, who at 11 was supporting his family.

“It broke my heart to see this young boy working 12 to 15 hours a day in a bar in a slum,” he said.

“He’s so smart. His ability to pick up knowledge and information is unbelievable.”

Harkham will now sponsor Tai “all the way through to university” in addition to a 15-year-old girl who teaches younger children in her village at the expense of her own education.

He is also organising tours to Myanmar for donors to see their generosity in action, while his charity work is big focus of his corporate speaking appearances.

“It’s all about the kids … they all want to be in school and they’re hungry to change their lives, so it’s so nice to help facilitate that,” he said.

More information: www.harkangel.com. Watch the documentary Finding Tai: vimeo.com/262159853

GARETH NARUNSKY