A few years ago I was trying to find something at home and come across a few coins and notes from my previous travels. A few coins and notes that were too small to exchange and had taken position in my drawer in readiness of a time I was returning to that particular country. The question I asked myself was “what happens to it if I never went back to that country?“. I concluded that realistically it was going to stay in my drawer and be imprisoned there indefinitely. That made me think about what should be done with it.
I’d always been quite interested in charity having ran ultra marathons in the past for the charities Combat Stress and Jessie May Trust, and volunteered my time with the Royal British Legion fundraising face to face. With that previous experience in mind, I thought it would be a challenge to see if that change in my drawer could be turned into something which benefits people.
The people I had in mind are the children of Bon Soon school on the island of Koh Kho Khao off the coast of western Thailand. I’d spent a few months there as a teaching assistant and enjoyed my time so much that I hoped to give something back when I got back to the UK. It sounds almost cliché to do but for me it was no different than supporting the three established charities. They were all borne through a desire to help people and Project Alchemy is no different.
So with a cause to support, and a drawer full of foreign change, I had to establish a method to accrue funds while not taking pounds sterling. I decided the best way of doing it was to gather up all the currency that people have at home in their drawer, accumulate enough of it and then exchange it in bulk. The collected currency isn’t limited to just legal tender around the world but also older currency no longer in circulation. Whereas collected legal tender currency will be directed at the travelling market, older currency will be pooled together in ‘variety’ lots and sold to collectors.
As it stands today, we have raised £191.50 through these methods. Although this seems like a relatively low figure please take into account the following:
1. this is solely through exchange of foreign currency, with very minimal addition of Sterling;
2. much of the currency collected so far has been in small denominations and it requires time to accumulate;
3. there is a reserve of accumulated currency not included in that figure including $US and $HK coinage.
Overall though, it has been pleasing to see that this exchange of foreign currency has been quite successful. I hope that over the next three to four months we are able to accumulate more and exchange more. In February 2015, I hope to get back to Thailand to see Koh Kho Khao again, as well as children in Koh Phayam who we now support alongside a local charity.