Art/Culture

A Face behind Faces|Now: Sakson Rouypirom

Saks Rouypirom shares insight on his world, including SATI Non-Profit and an art therapy program that was part of the Faces/Now exhibition SKY at Case Space Revolution.

February 14, 2017
Born and raised in America, Sakson Rouypirom (or ‘Saks’ to his friends) relocated to Thailand in 2011 with a pre-med degree in psychology from New York University. Recognizing areas around Thailand were going underserved in many basic needs, Saks founded SATI Non-Profit, an organization that focuses on providing access to healthcare and education to remote areas of Thailand and nearby regions. The word Sati, a Buddhist Pali word meaning mindfulness, is a clear nod to the central emphasis of all of Saks’ work. He works tirelessly on shifting public responses from forced sympathy to authentic empathy rooted in mindfulness and supported by volunteer and charity efforts that produce results.

Saks is also one of the co-owners of Broccoli Revolution, a modern vegan restaurant and cold-pressed juice bar in Bangkok, through which he has merged business with social change by donating a percentage of sales to help fund various SATI programs: everything from clean water projects in Chiang Rai to sustainable and organic vegetable farming for hilltribes, all with an underlying focus on sharing knowledge and educating the parties involved in order to help sustain themselves.

Following the launch of the Faces/Now exhibition SKY at Case Space Revolution, we sat down with Saks to get a better understanding of his world, running a non-profit, and the first Faces/Now art therapy program.
Courtesy of Sati Non-Profit.
How did you get into charity work and found your very own non-profit?
The non-profit idea was a result of volunteering at a young age and getting to see problems first-hand in different environments. As I came close to finishing my studies, I contemplated my future and that dream I once had of starting a non-profit. The traditional path would have been for me to work for a while to save up enough money, and put that money towards starting SATI, but I didn’t feel that following that path would lead me in the right direction. I decided to focus on the present moment and the problems that exist right now. I may have not had the financial capital, but I had the will and the energy so I decided to return to Thailand and start SATI. I always hoped that one day I would be able to do my part in helping those in need as well as getting others involved so I decided to give it a try.

Have you worked with these kids before or the Hub before?
Yes, I’ve been working almost on a weekly basis with these kids and the Hub [Hub Saidek Foundation - a shelter offering support to disadvantaged children] for the last two years.
Courtesy of Sati Non-Profit.
Courtesy of Sati Non-Profit.
What sparked the idea of having workshops for the street kids of the Hub?
I originally started collaborating with the Hub two years ago. The plan was to educate the kids about STDs and drug awareness. The original structure would be a class-like atmosphere. After my first day at the Hub, I realized that a structured, traditional class would not be effective. So I started finding workshops or activities for the kids and the education would be during the workshops as a form of conversation, or after as individual counselling.

Why phototherapy and not some other creative form?
I am a big admirer of art and creative mediums. One of our previous activities was a drawing class. During that class, I really saw the attention the kids had and how they enjoyed the class. The work that they were creating seemed to tell a lot about their thoughts and allowed them to express themselves. This gave me the idea about trying to find more creative mediums. I feel that photography is a wonderful medium with quite a fast learning curve that allows many people from different levels to appreciate and be a part of it.

What were your expectations?
Having been in the environment of the Hub and areas like it for quite awhile, I have learned from my experiences to keep my expectations grounded and focus on the moment. If you are mindful and in the moment it allows you to find happiness and success in that moment. The unlikely smile from one of the kids, the positive questions asked at the moment, the look of interest: that is where I keep my expectations.
Courtesy of Sati Non-Profit.
Courtesy of Sati Non-Profit.
What did you learn from this particular experience?
Every day at the HUB and at SATI is a new learning experience for me, and it continues to be. Seeing our students interact with our volunteers, I learned how people can be from different worlds and still be innately the same. Sometimes just one wrong turn can send you down a dark, winding path. I learned that a large part of people’s sadness or anger comes from their expectations or expectations they have of others. Ultimately the best way to find happiness is not to be given a source of happiness, but to find a solution to the source of sorrow or pain.