Firetree Trust is the successor of two US Foundations: Tondo Foundation and Starfish Education Foundation, both endowed by Richard Paul “Dick” Haugland - a philanthropist, scientist and entrepreneur. Firetree will continue the work started by both Tondo and Starfish ensuring stronger integration between the various programs and initiatives.
We are firmly rooted in Asia where everyone in our team is based and all our work is carried out. Our partnership funding work – as well as our commitment to the Tondo Community Initiative - is the continuation of the work of the Tondo Foundation, while Starfish Education is the extension of the programs that the Starfish Education Foundation oversaw.
In everything we do, we carry on Dick’s legacy and expand on the main charitable priorities he developed over the years together with Francesco Caruso, his long-time friend and colleague. You can read more about our legacy here.
Our values are, genuinely, fundamental to all we do and our approach.
Everything we seek to do externally, we seek to do internally too, by working hard to put these values into practice, constantly reflecting on them and being held accountable to them.
Organisations and people that try to address social problems and seek funds to do that have a much harder job than we do. Anyone who has been there knows it.
We aim to always respect that and never presume we know more, regarding their work and communities they serve.
Trust and Empathy:
We place great value in building trusted, empathetic relationships with those we work with, from community members, to partners, to staff and organizations we collaborate with.
Listening and Learning:
We seek partners who have spent time listening and learning and that do not presume to know what is “best” for someone else from an office far away.
We seek to model exactly the same values in how we work with partners and communities too.
We try to learn as much as we can about local contexts before we can possibly make any kind of judgement. When we are not clear, we ask. And ask again. But most importantly we listen.
We need partners (NGOs, social enterprises, individuals) to address complex social challenges. To support communities we ourselves need help, we can never do it alone.
The partners we seek are our best way to know the people we work for and true partnership, as we define it, is central to all we do.
We are constantly striving to be the ‘best’ and most supportive funder and partner we can be. Do we get it right every time? We try to but definitely not!
We constantly reflect, learn and seek feedback. We aim to be open about our learning and our mistakes.
Not because we want to ‘celebrate’ them, but because we believe that the humility is vital to long-term positive change, and this applies just as much (if not more so) to us as it does to social purpose organisations.
We, collectively, have the ability to “make things happen.” This comes with great responsibility to make the best choices we can.
Our greatest accountability is, always, to the communities in which we work, and the children, youth, parents and families that make up these communities. No one else.
They are not numbers, they are individuals with dreams, fears, needs and hopes. We do not work for anyone else but each of them. Not all of them, each of them.
Richard P. Haugland ("Dick") was an incredibly generous man who supported hundreds of thousands of people through various projects and organizations in Nepal, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, India and Thailand. With his company, Molecular Probes (founded with his wife, Rosaria) he invented some of the most effective fluorescent dyes used in laboratories around the world (the Alexa Fluor dyes remain a best seller). When he sold the company in 2003 he transferred a very significant sum into his foundation, the Richard P. Haugland Foundation, and kept adding assets to it until his death in October 2016.
Those who knew Dick agree that he was a kind, naive genius. No matter what language, cultural and religious difference there might be, he connected with children. He loved teaching and developing curricula and he was brilliant at that.
Over the years, along with Francesco, he traveled from Bangladesh to the Philippines, from Northern Vietnam to India and Nepal, from rural Myanmar to every corner of Cambodia and Thailand. Starfish Country Home School Foundation, in Northern Thailand was his home from 2004 until his passing in October 2016.
At Starfish, Dick was actively involved with curriculum development and children’s enrichment activities to ensure that the children get the best quality education from the programs. His unique multi-media teaching methods and materials in math, English ("Thaiglish") and Thai languages have made a tremendous impact on preschool and primary school children.