Bangkok’s fun-seeking, volunteering, tweeting American
Dwight Turner -- 'Danai' to his Thai friends -- is no ordinary foreigner in Bangkok. Despite living in the city for just two years, he orders his street-stall noodles like a pro, in perfect Thai.
Thanks to his mashup of the popular Twitter meeting, Tweetup, and his relentless devotion to fun charity functions, Turner has recently gained attention in Bangkok's Twitterverse. He also organized the local edition of the recent Twestival, a global awareness and fundraising campaign held in more than 200 cities.
We sat down with the Atlanta native to discuss his volunteer latest project, In Search of Sanuk ('sanuk' means 'fun' in Thai), and his ongoing plans to make charity more fun.
CNNGo: How did In Search of Sanuk come about?
Dwight Turner: My friends and I were always wondering where we could go to volunteer and there were no resources for us. At first In Search of Sanuk was just a group of friends who wanted to get involved. It's not a foundation or anything. But once we started doing more work, word got out and people became interested.
CNNGo: What exactly do you do?
Turner: Nothing serious, really. We go to orphanages, organize charity events. This is not your typical charity group or thousand-dollar-a-plate type of thing.
We also focus on the urban poor. We try to identify groups of people in need, such as communities in slums, urban refugees and Burmese migrants. Most people don't know there are organizations working to help these people, so our goal is to help get the word out.
We don't have a lot of money to give, so we usually do things like art shows, clothing drives or get-together dinners to raise money -- fun stuff people can enjoy.
CNNGo: You don't have sponsors. Who finances your events?
Turner: People who come and participate with us. There's no price tag for these things. We keep it simple and cheap.
Like one of our recent Tweetups -- we were just eating on the street! People who want to join us pay for their own food and we take donations. There's no required amount.
CNNGo: What's with Tweetup? How does Twitter play into all this?
Turner: It's something that was kind of happening in Bangkok already. I talked to other people who planned to hold monthly gatherings with local twitterers and suggested we do it for a good cause. It's also a great way to get the word around.
CNNGo: What are your future plans for In Search of Sanuk?
Turner: We don't want to turn it into a big NGO. Just keep it friendly like this. We will have our own projects that will allow us to introduce people to interesting foundations. People don't need more charity foundations -- they need to be aware of the ones we already have. We just want to do the best we can.
Follow Dwight Turner's pursuits on Twitter.