Friedrich enlightens Simpson College community on her Thailand experiences

by Tabitha Blaser, reporter

Lora Friedrich, professor of sociology at Simpson College and winner of the Exemplary Teaching Award, delivered a powerful lecture to the campus community during the Watson Lecture. She provided eye-opening stories from her time spent helping children battling HIV in Thailand.

Friedrich gave her lecture titled, “Blest Be the Thai that Binds.” Professor Friedrich has had several opportunities to travel to Thailand. Through the Peace Corps and her time at Simpson College, Friedrich has led seven May term trips, a summer travel course, two sabbaticals and a semester abroad. Throughout these 11 trips, 14 faculty and staff have traveled with her, along with over 200 students and two alumni.

From as early as the fourth grade, Friedrich knew she was destined to join the Peace Corps. When she finally reached college, she decided to fulfill her lifelong calling. Unsure of where this would take her, she received notice that she would be traveling to Thailand.

Her time serving in the Peace Corps has been invaluable to her. Friedrich spoke about the three main goals of the Peace Corps. One of the goals they look to achieve is to bring the world back to home. However, Friedrich had a bigger goal in mind.

“For me, it wasn’t so much to bring the world back to home as it was bringing people to [Thailand],” Friedrich said.

She did just that. After starting as a professor at Simpson, she was determined to show students and faculty the importance of traveling.

“The year I did the summer trip, we had a class focus on HIV in Thailand. As a result of that, the person I was working with knew of an orphanage called Agape Home,” Friedrich said.

Agape Home is devoted to housing children who are diagnosed with HIV. This orphanage currently holds approximately 120 kids; 80 percent of these children are HIV positive.

The memories that Friedrich developed from this particular orphanage are countless. One of her finest memories was witnessing a young boy who shouldn’t have lived past five years of age living to age 13.

“The fact that nobody thought he would see five and he turned 13 in August is a miracle. Having him be healthy and vibrant is the coolest thing I’ve experienced,” Friedrich said.

Her trips to Thailand have taught her many things. But most of all, Friedrich learned about true commitment to community.

“Thais aren’t about individualism. I’m not saying you have to swallow who you are, but you make decisions based on what’s best for the big picture,” Friedrich said.

For Friedrich, spending so much time in Thailand makes it difficult to live in America.

“Sometime that’s frustrating for me because I don’t think we make decisions in the United States about what is best for everybody. Thais make decisions based on what’s best for everyone else,” Friedrich said.

Professor Friedrich remains very closely involved with the community in Thailand and is continually seeking ways to help out the Agape Home and children who are affected by HIV. Friedrich is currently getting ready to take her next group of Simpson students to Thailand this spring. The experiences she has gained are sure to provide a well-rounded trip for those students who will join her.

There are ways to help a child with HIV in Thailand. To donate to the Agape Home in Thailand, visit their website at