Boonchai Songthumvat: educating Thailand

Boonchai Songthumvat, MS EMgt’76, is doing everything he can to make education possible for children in Thailand. Known as Boon, Songthumvat and his wife, Nuchanart, own Nuboon Co., a Bangkok-based manufacturer of fruit and vegetable juices, coffee and tea.

Boonchai Songthumvat, MS EMgt’76 (center back) serves breakfast to children at the Baan Wat Krasae School in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. Photo by Nuboon Foundation Team

Boonchai Songthumvat, MS EMgt’76 (center back) serves breakfast to children at the Baan Wat Krasae School in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. Photo by Nuboon Foundation Team

Nuboon is the first company of its kind in Thailand to pasteurize fruit juice. Boon and Nuchanart, a food scientist, got the idea to manufacture pasteurized juice as college students in the United States. The company opened in 1992, and today it supplies beverages throughout Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, the Middle East, the United States and South Africa.

“When the business was well-established, my wife and I thought that the best way to spend money would be to help children in need,” he says. So seven years ago they formed Nuboon Foundation. Its mission is simple — to help poor rural children stay in school.

“We think the most valuable social investment is in human education, particularly in children’s education,” Songthumvat says. “Children tend to quit school early if their families are poor and their parents lack education themselves.”

The foundation provides financial support to rural families in exchange for a promise to keep their kids in school. Foundation staff and volunteers prepare and serve breakfast to children before school so they can focus on their studies with full stomachs. Songthumvat provides similar incentives to his own staff.

“We do believe education could bring people out of poverty, raise their children better and have better living standards,” he says. “We not only support the employees’ children to stay in school, but also grant their children college scholarships and support the employees themselves if they wish to pursue higher education.”

Songthumvat and Nuchanart have also extended their generosity to Missouri S&T, giving $30,000 to the engineering management department. Songthumvat says he wanted to repay the kindness of those who helped him.

During his second year of grad school, Songthumvat ran out of money and planned to return to Thailand. Bernard Sarchet, then chair of engineering management, heard of his plight and offered him a scholarship to complete his degree.

“I always felt I was indebted to Missouri S&T,” Songthumvat says. “The kindness of the chair and his staff were imprinted in my mind.”

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