Wings of Peace International (WOPI) is an all volunteer not-for-profit organization founded by Barbara E. Verchot. Over the past two decades Barbara and a team of dedicated volunteers brought aid to countries around the world.
This work all started in 1996 when Barbara, living and working in South Korea, took a two week trip to Thailand with friends. During a trek to visit the Karen hill tribe people, who live in the foothills of the Himalayas, this small group of trekkers spent a frigid sleepless night in a roughly constructed bamboo and leaf hut. They had told the guide they had hired that they did not want to go to a village tourists visit and he had honored that request. As a result when these villagers were asked for blankets, a common practice on these treks, they said they had none. Finally, when asked a second time, the villagers, with great hesitation, had loaned the small group of friends one blanket each. These villagers had known the risks they took giving up their much needed protection from the cold as the next morning Barbara was told “every year many people die from the cold.”
The life threatening conditions she saw and experienced while visiting the Karen Hilltribe people inspired her to return the following year with blankets, stocking caps, socks, and gloves to keep these people warm during bitter cold nights. Over the years, the work expanded from blankets to infrastructure and from Thailand to other nations around the world. However, it is to Thailand that Barbara continually returned to always remember the kindness shown to her and her friends those many years before.
WOPI has brought aid to many provinces in Thailand with the bulk of the work in Maehongson Province in conjunction with Thai Tribal Welfare and Development. Maehongson Province was identified as a primary need region in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. In this province alone, WOPI’s work has included community and school buildings, water and sanitation systems, a reservoir distribution system, educational courses for people of all ages, medical assistance and personal hygiene resources, and economic development assisting over 250,000 people according to the Thai government records.
Below are a few short videos about the work that has been done. Currently, WOPI is not arranging any new projects or doing any fundraising.
Below: An overview of WOPI work in Thailand.
Video immediately below: Dr. Harry Goldman and Maripi Goldman about WOPI work in Maripi’s native country of Peru. Here WOPI assists a burn center in Chiclayo, Peru.
Above: Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas speaks with Barbara about the importance of NGOs (non-government-agencies) building relationships in foreign lands and providing aid and good-will.
Above: Peace Corp volunteer Paula Dorney was also a Wings of Peace volunteer and Site Coordinator and inspired leader for the WOPI matching funds program to put students through secondary school. As a result of this program over 250 Masai students in Kenya were able to complete their education. This video is of her goodbye ceremony where she was gifted with a Masai shield created by the people she served and commissioned by WOPI.
Above: Lennon Moore, coordinator of the PeaceWorks:Unity exhibition at Orlando Museum of Art, speaks about the projects. Having the large textile wall hanging created by bringing multiple different tribal groups together was ground breaking. These groups typically would not come together as a community nor to work together with a common goal. This initiative was a positive step in the direction of mutual understanding.