Children in a remote Thai village took their first sips of clean water last month, thanks in large part to a team of South Surrey athletes who donned dresses to play their sport.
“I just want these boys to realize the impact they made,” Tara Trompetter told Peace Arch News, of fundraising by Earl Marriott Secondary rugby players that enabled a water system to be installed in Pha Dang Luang – the same village where a school opened two years ago in the name of her late son, Ben.
“This is such a beautiful thing. They have changed these lives of these kids.”
Ben Trompetter, who grew up in South Surrey, died nearly six years ago after jumping from a cliff northeast of Pemberton into the glacial waters of Anderson Lake.
Prior to returning to the Lower Mainland that fateful summer, the 27-year-old had spent much time as a guide in Thailand, where he developed a passion for bettering the lives of children at the local orphanages.
Trips to Pha Dang Luang were a regular thing for Ben, who rode a motorbike up the rugged mountain road on his time off work to spend time with the children, teaching them English, or playing soccer with makeshift nets.
The Live Like Ben Foundation formed to help continue Ben’s legacy of helping, and ‘Ben’s School’ – the foundation’s first project – opened in that same village in January 2016.
Tara Trompetter said plans for a water supply were already in mind at that time, but just how urgent the need was wasn’t clear until more recently.
“The men were getting kidney stones and the children were getting sick,” she said. “They didn’t want us to know. They kept saying ‘no, Mama, it’s OK. School good, school good.’”
The EMS team’s ‘Prom Dress Rugby Game’ was initiated after coach Adam Roberts – an old friend of Ben’s – ran into Tara Trompetter at a local gas station. Roberts recalled that the ‘Live Like Ben’ wristband he’s worn since his friend died was starting to break.
During their conversation, Roberts asked if there was any way he could help.
“I said, ‘funny you should say that – we need some water,’” Trompetter said.
While a plan for the rugby team to actually travel to Thailand didn’t work out, the prom-dress game went ahead last fall, raising $2,500 for the water project.
The funds – which were topped up by $600 in donations from the community – helped install two, 2,000-gallon tanks and five taps, Trompetter said. Extra funds bought enough ceramic filters to last six months, and funds have been set aside to ensure those purchases can continue as needed.
“They now have enough drinking water,” Trompetter said.
A “so beautiful” video of the late-March installation has been posted to the Ben Trompetter – One Love, One Life Facebook page, and Trompetter said she can’t wait for the rugby team to see it for themselves.
Roberts, who became friends with Ben through rugby, said getting the team involved in the water project has “just been fantastic.”
It tied in with efforts to do philanthropy whenever the team travels abroad for games, he said.
For Roberts, this particular project was made especially meaningful by the connection to Ben.
A group of students are planning to travel to the village over the summer to see firsthand the impact their efforts had, he added.
For Trompetter, the continued work in her son’s name is heartwarming.
“It’s beautiful, and it’s beautiful for my children (Ben’s sister Meghan and brother Tyler). They see that Ben’s still here with us,” she said. “They just can’t believe what we’ve been able to do in memory of Ben.
“We’re so grateful.”