Khru Prateep Unsongtham Hata grew up in the slums of Khlong Toei about 10 minutes from the busy business district of Bangkok in Thailand. From humble beginnings, even by Thai standards, she has defied all obstacles to leave her mark on this world. As she approaches the 40-year mark of service to others through the Duang Prateep Foundation, it’s clear her legacy will live on.

The importance of education

Growing up in the slums she was ineligible for public schooling as she was of mixed-race parents and at a tender age she found herself in employment scraping the rust off ships in the shipyards of Bangkok. Witnessing a class system that condemned her and those like her to a life of poverty she realised the only way beyond that and to achieve a different life was to obtain an education.

Saving money from her work she returned to school, self-funded, and then went on to teachers’ college―‘khru’ means teacher―with a clear desire to build a school for those less fortunate. The government of Thailand considered her school illegal and shut it down. She opened it up again and they shut it down. This was repeated time and time again until Khru Prateep was recognised internationally for the work she was doing. The Government relented and allowed her school to operate. In the years that followed she would go on to be recognised as an important figure within the education system and was finally awarded Teacher of the Year by those who had years previously shut her efforts down.

Senator Khru Prateep

Nearly 40 years after starting the Duang Prateep Foundation this amazing lady continues on a daily basis to serve those who society forgets or rejects.

She is an advocate for those who don’t have a voice and her advocacy has taken her into parliament as a senator of the Thai government.

These days her work is serving those within the slums and she continues to advocate those people who are overlooked. Her advocacy work is carried out with respect and humility. She uses her charm with the highest levels of government, not just in Thailand, and is eloquently holds court with the captains of industry.

Emulating Khru Prateep

The influence Khru Prateep wields and the gravitas she possesses is built on grace and dignity rather than power or beauty. How we can incorporate more of her sensibilities into our lives? Spending time with Khru Prateep leaves one with no doubt that the path to influence and great leadership can be achieved with both grace and dignity.