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Philanthropist Porntip Bui Simon: Life is Too Short For Pity Parties

Life is Too Short For Pity Parties: With my children, I am always trying to underscore the importance of their core values. When they become discouraged or are upset in some way, I have found that having them take inventory of the things they are grateful for helps to keep them grounded and focused on […]


Life is Too Short For Pity Parties: With my children, I am always trying to underscore the importance of their core values. When they become discouraged or are upset in some way, I have found that having them take inventory of the things they are grateful for helps to keep them grounded and focused on what is really important in life. I learned this lesson on a profound level when I first started to visit the orphanages in Thailand. These children were surviving on the most minimal of resources, yet they always showed an immense sense of gratitude and respect for all they had. A perfect example of this is when I hosted a hot lunch for a village school outside of Chiang Rai. I wanted to provide them with their favorite meal, and sent funds ahead to cover the costs. I brought my children that day to work the lunch line with me, and be part of serving these 800+ children. As we started to dish out the soup, I was very disappointed. Although it was chicken soup, the meat was very scarce. In fact, it was more like chicken bone soup. However, the school children were not disappointed nor were they impatient, just sincerely appreciative. Each one said “thank you’, but I felt bad that the soup wasn’t more substantial with more meat. After the lunch, I went to the head of the school and asked about the disappointing lunch. The head of the school told me that the soup was indeed the children’s favorite. The children had said that “if we could be happy with bones, we could be happy with anything.” I took that profound lesson of gratitude home. Fundamentally, children of any circumstance, truly need a few things in life. They need to know they are safe & that they matter. They don’t need extravagances. Helping children find their self-worth and encouraging them to know how much they matter will always be a part of my mission.


I had the pleasure to interview Porntip Bui Simon of the Angels Wings Foundation. Porntip Bui is a Thai personality, philanthropist and beauty queen who held the title Miss Universe 1988. Simon is President and founder of the Angels Wings Foundation.She is on the Board of Regents of Pepperdine University, the Board of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis as a Distinguished Advisor and also is on the Board of Governors for the Dream Foundation.


Thank you so much for joining us Porntip Bui. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had the opportunity of going to my first orphanage as Miss Thailand (1988). It was an all girls school and I was so inspired by the level of respect and grace they had innately despite being in destitute circumstances. They lived in an open space together, and they were so inspiring that it made me want to come back. And so I kept coming back to this same one and then to others and I began to see this theme of gratitude that was so empowering. I was afraid to be the one that brought them gifts but then I realized that the gift really was for me. Visiting these young girls truly set my perspective on life. I realized that one’s happiness in life is about your ability to be grateful; and from there I knew that I wanted, or rather needed to, pay it forward. So although at that time I didn’t have a lot, it was certainly more than what they had. A simple hug was much coveted. I witnessed that it was less about the gifts in my hands but rather the comfort between my arms in a hug, showing compassion. That was the most meaningful, for at the end of the day, we all want for the same things, to feel safe and to know that we matter.

This changed my life forever. Thirty years later I am still empowered to build on that connection and to help those who cannot help themselves. I am grateful for every day that I am in the position to do so. I try to encourage others to give as well. Whether it is their time, or from their pockets, as long as it is from their hearts that is a gift within itself. It is a win win on both sides. For both the giver and receiver see the benefits of such gratitude.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your organization? The power of connection.

What is most meaningful to me is going into a room where the students are feeling unworthy and with a simple visit and a hug I am able to remind them that they do matter and that they are a blessing. Reminding them that although it is up to them to make something of their life that I believe in them and know that they have the power within them to do so. The formula of respect and gratitude is within their power, and that no matter what they do in their life if they approach each stage with the utmost respect and gratitude, they will be able to persevere with self respect, starting with valuing where they started. For its the stories of resilience and tenacity that are more heroic and inspiring.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I had a company donate toys to a village of children in Thailand with heartfelt intent to spread cheer. What we didn’t realize until after we gave out the toys was that they all required U.S. outlets. So here we are trying to be impressive with gifts and it backfired. I learned that simplicity is always the best goal. It’s not about being fancy; it’s about being thoughtful. In that moment we were trying to impress the children with our generosity and it flopped. This was a big lesson for me to learn that more often than not, it truly is the thought that counts, the sentiment at hand more than the extravagance of the gift.

Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?

Whether it’s Thailand or the U.S. the benefits of education really impacts the future lives of so many. The gift of education is capable of changing the path of an individuals’ life forever. And then this impact of one individual impacts their family, their friends and eventually a community. By using my voice to speak of issues and reform it also inspires others to pay it forward and to not forget the underserved youth in our country. My social impact is two-fold. First me giving the gift of education and then reminding others to not be neglectful of the importance of supporting these innocent children and raising them to reach their full potential. It is everyone’s responsibility to look after the next generation, that is the social impact on our future.

Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?

Our initiative is only as impactful as the people who know about it. I have been so thankful to the incredible support that Angels Wings Foundation has received. Whether it be the mayor of a rural province we are working with, high school counselors or the Thai consulate in Los Angeles, their support helps us to reach out to the students that need our assistance the most.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

It’s a collaboration between public and private entities. By working together to create more support and initiatives to help prepare the youth for their academic journey we can strengthening our community.

The community can also help by valuing education. Sometimes education becomes too much of a luxury when families need their children to work. But for me education is the key to strengthen communities. When families and communities put value towards education they help the youth become stronger citizens with that gift of knowledge.

Society can help by being supportive of teachers because next to parents they are, in essence, surrogate parents to our youth. Teachers are undervalued in our society and by supporting them we in turn support our children. It is an honor for us to work with organizations like Teach for Thailand that aid teachers who are giving their all to educating, mentoring and leading the worlds’ children. I would really like to see more respect and support for our teachers. They are underpaid and under-appreciated but they come to work every day to raise up our children. There is definitely a change that needs to be made there.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Well, leadership is seen everyday maybe in the home maybe at work or in society, but it is a presence that exists in all different types of leaders. I feel like a great leader will bring out the best in the people that have trusted them to lead and the best way to do that is to lead by example. Our late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Father of our nation, for 72 glorious years, was a profound symbol of unity and strength and is an incredible example of leadership. The world’s longest-serving royal sovereign, His Majesty led by example and selflessly taught peace and compassion. His Majesty’s magnanimous spirit will forever live on in the people’s hearts because of his endless devotion to bettering the lives of Thai people through noble service.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1.You can’t please everyone.

2. You can’t help everyone.

3. Be proud of what you are able to do. In life you have to feel some sense of accomplishment or it would be discouraging.

4. Stay optimistic.

5. It’s ok to ask for help.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The gift of education is something that I take deeply to heart. It’s capable of changing the path of an individual’s life forever. I hope that the Angels Wings Thai Scholarship initiative can inspire others to pay it forward and begin a bigger movement to support education and the underprivileged youth that need our help to improve their future through the gift of education.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life is Too Short For Pity Parties” — Bui Simon

With my children, I am always trying to underscore the importance of their core values. When they become discouraged or are upset in some way, I have found that having them take inventory of the things they are grateful for helps to keep them grounded and focused on what is really important in life. I learned this lesson on a profound level when I first started to visit the orphanages in Thailand. These children were surviving on the most minimal of resources, yet they always showed an immense sense of gratitude and respect for all they had.

A perfect example of this is when I hosted a hot lunch for a village school outside of Chiang Rai. I wanted to provide them with their favorite meal, and sent funds ahead to cover the costs. I brought my children that day to work the lunch line with me, and be part of serving these 800+ children. As we started to dish out the soup, I was very disappointed. Although it was chicken soup, the meat was very scarce. In fact, it was more like chicken bone soup. However, the school children were not disappointed nor were they impatient, just sincerely appreciative. Each one said “thank you’, but I felt bad that the soup wasn’t more substantial with more meat. After the lunch, I went to the head of the school and asked about the disappointing lunch. The head of the school told me that the soup was indeed the children’s favorite. The children had said that “if we could be happy with bones, we could be happy with anything.” I took that profound lesson of gratitude home. Fundamentally, children of any circumstance, truly need a few things in life. They need to know they are safe & that they matter. They don’t need extravagances. Helping children find their self-worth and encouraging them to know how much they matter will always be a part of my mission.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

That person would be Queen Elizabeth of England. Here is a woman who reigned as a teenager and has witnessed the world from a unique perspective for 6+ decades, from the rise of Nazi Germany to modern day. Through it all she has maintained her dignity, respect, sense of duty, honor, and value for family. I would love to sit down with her and hear her perspectives on life, from the smallest detail, to global concerns, to her favorite foods. I feel Queen Elizabeth has always had such great integrity and is someone with a sterling and unchanging purpose in this world. I feel she remains a true leader, who handles herself with remarkable grace, clarity, and resolve in all circumstances. In any situation, and whether or not people agree or disagree with her, Queen Elizabeth has been and continues to be a shining example to Britain and the rest of the world.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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