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Dillman opening tutoring center 


Katie Dillman ’09 is spending her summer on a whirlwind mission to raise money for a private tutoring center she’s opening in Thailand.

Dillman is selling garments and sports-themed headbands and is hosting authentic Thai dinners to support the campaign.

It’s all part of her goal of helping orphans in the community where Dillman began teaching three years after graduating from Stephens. It was there where a group of children prompted her into action.

“We were learning the word ‘Friday’ approaching a three-day weekend, and I noticed the children weren’t excited about it,” she said. “They invited me to their house, and when I went to the house, it was an orphanage. No one had told me. Later, I found out that 120 kids from a school of 900 were orphans.”

Dillman began visiting the orphanage on Saturdays and out of that grew her Make Our Day organization, allowing her to raise funds to support activities with the children.

In addition to helping orphans, Dillman has a number of goals for her private tutoring center. She is no longer working in government-run schools but hopes to change the structure of education in Thailand. Right now, learning English is a priority among students and educators there. At her center, Dillman said she will focus on foundational skills and will only provide English tutoring if it will directly benefit a student’s career goals. By doing so, she believes she will be able to hire more local teachers rather than relying on Western educators.

“I want to employ Thai teachers to teach reading and math, essential skills that will get students jobs,” she said. “Then my goal is that by 2018, I will completely hand it over to them to be responsible for financing, students, all of it.”

Dillman hopes to raise between $20,000 to $30,000 before returning to Thailand in the fall. To learn more about her organization or to sponsor a play date, visit

July 2015

Make Our Day — Republic woman seeks support for non-profit in Thailand

Sarah Hilton | Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 9:30 am

Make Our Day — Republic woman seeks support for non-profit in Thailand

Dillman began teaching in Phuket, Thailand, in January 2012.

The compassion and energy of a Republic woman could make the day for orphaned children in Thailand.

Katie Dillman of Republic moved to Phuket, Thailand, in January 2012 to teach English as a second language to elementary school children.

A graduate of Republic High School and Stephens College in Columbia, she was working as a buyer for Rally House in Kansas City when she made the move, what she calls a 180-degree change.

“I don’t think I’ll ever do anything else besides teach,” Dillman said.

She started out teaching at a high-income school, but Western teachers made about four times what Thai teachers were paid, and she started feeling like part of a problem, Dillman said.

“It created this huge divide in the community.”

After six months, she moved to a low-income school. While teaching the children about the word “Friday,” and trying to impart excitement for the weekend, Dillman made a startling discovery.

“This adorable little munchkin … he just started bawling.”

Many of the students were not excited for the weekend because their home was an orphanage.

She had had no idea, Dillman said.

That adorable little munchkin convinced her to visit him the next day.

“I came back the next day and every day after that for a year,” Dillman said.

So began Make Our Day, a non-profit organization providing free educational after-school, weekend and summer programming to orphans of the 2004 tsunami.

Dillman seeks sponsors to provide opportunities for the children. A sponsorship of $50 will provide a weekly playdate. A sponsorship of $100 provides a month of tutoring. The cost to sponsor a day of camp is $250.

The playdates, on Saturdays, serve about 100 kids at two locations, Dillman said.

“We just do something fun and educational.”

Sponsoring a month of tutoring also provides a part-time job to a Thai tutor, Dillman said.

And during summer, the children have a break from school.

“But they have nothing to do on their breaks,” Dillman said.

Camp allows Make Our Day to provide enough teachers so the children get one-on-one interaction every day of summer break.

One aim of the organization is to open a tutoring center in Phuket. To raise funds for it — Dillman said her goal is to raise $20,000 — Dillman is teaching Thai cooking classes while she is back in the United States.

“One of my favorite things about Thailand is the food,” Dillman said.

During a visit to the States, she cooked Thai food for friends and family. They loved it, Dillman said, which gave her the idea to teach cooking classes as a way of raising funds for Make Our Day.

The host of a cooking class donates the use of his or her home and provides the groceries. The guests are asked to pay what they would pay to go out to dinner in Springfield.

Dillman said she intends to open the tutoring center in January 2016 and to raise enough funds to support it for two years. After that, she will “hand it back to that community.”

While she is home, she misses eating lunch with her students, walking them home from school and Saturday playdates. She will return to Thailand in October, and her students know that, and they miss her, too.

“Every day, they ask [another teacher], ‘Is it October yet?’”

To learn more, visit or the Facebook page, Make Our Day.

August 2015

Class will consult alumna on garment line to support her charity in Thailand

Students in Assistant Professor Courtney Cothren’s Fashion Retail Management class are collaborating this semester with a Stephens alumna setting up a tutoring facility for orphans in Thailand.

Katie Dillman ’09 is the founder of the Make Our Day organization, which currently supports activities for low-income children there. Her goal is to employ Thai teachers to help children with essential skills such as math and reading. She ultimately hopes to turn the facility over to the teachers by 2018.

To help fund the project, Dillman purchases and sells garments via social media. Before the next wave of her campaign, she wants to select garments that reach a broader audience, find ways to better promote her merchandise and create a signature look.

That’s where Cothren’s class comes in. Students will essentially serve as her consultants, offering up ideas and opinions on looks, items and outreach.

In class today, students already had some initial thoughts. They agreed that a short-sleeved T-shirt and more neutral colors would be best when trying to sell to all ages and agreed that Dillman should make sure customers know the story behind the clothing—and that 100 percent of proceeds benefits her charity.

The project will also require students to get an understanding of her sales figures, assess competitors, recommend new e-commerce platforms and help her style future advertisements.

Dillman is working with another group of students to help her create sports-themed headbands to sell to raise money for the tutoring center. This summer, she also hosted authentic Thai dinners to support her efforts. Dillman is in the U.S. temporarily before returning to Thailand, where she’s spent the past few years teaching and tutoring.

September 2015


COLUMBIA — Katie Dillman is taking all the help she can get from Courtney Cothren’s Fashion Retail Management class at Stephens College.

Dillman founded Make Our Day, an organization that helps orphans in Thailand by providing after-school activities, tutoring and camps. She plans to fund it by buying clothes from Phuket, Thailand, and selling them in the U.S.

That’s where Cothren’s class comes in. Students are creating a marketing plan to help Dillman organize social media, find a platform to sell the clothes and brand the nonprofit organization.

Dillman and Cothren have kept in touch since Dillman graduated from Stephens in 2009. This summer, they came up with the idea of working together.

“I thought it would be so much better if (the class) could work with a real client,” Cothren said. “I knew that we would be able to do a really large-scale project that would benefit her and give them real-world experience.”

Because of the size of the Make Our Day endeavor, Cothren split the class work into phases. In these early weeks, students are researching Thailand and Make Our Day.

Cothren wants students to be able to put Make Our Day on their resumes.

“You don’t always think that fashion and charity go together — it’s not always easy to find that correlation,” Cothren said. “I think it will be impactful for their future careers.”

Dillman found that correlation.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing and management, Dillman was a buyer for Rally House on Broadway. She stayed for three years but figured out that, long-term, the office life was not for her. In 2012, she bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. There, Dillman got her teacher certification and immersed herself in the culture.

The move was not a surprise to her family because as soon as she could walk, she had a knack for wandering.

“I just wandered a little farther than normal this time, just a few thousand miles away,” Dillman said.

She began teaching English in a government school, Wittayalai, in the town of Phuket. Dillman then wandered over to the island of Koh Sirae and took a position in a far less affluent school.

It lacked running water, had only about a third of the desks needed for all of the children and had trouble hanging on to English teachers.

“It was like night and day,” she said of the two communities.

One day, Dillman was teaching her students the word “Friday,” and instead of being excited for the weekend, they had a meltdown.

Dillman said one student ran to the door, slammed it closed and locked it. Then another tackled her, bawling. They begged her to stay with them at the school and when she said no, one student asked her to come over to his house.

So Dillman walked with her student and ended up at an orphanage.

“One-hundred twenty out of 900 (students) at my school were at the orphanage,” Dillman said. “In six months, no one told me that.”

Affected by her students and wanting to help them, Dillman started Make Our Day in April 2014. It became an official nonprofit organization in January . She started a blog and and set up a PayPal account.

Make Our Day provides the children of Koh Sirae free after-school educational activities and weekend and summer programming. Dillman funds this by individual donations. She also plans to open a tutoring center in January. Dillman said she takes donations through the blog or by texting the donation amount to 417-631-6783.

Dillman also wants to fund the organization by doing what she knows best: buying and selling clothes. She will buy the clothes from members of the Phuket community, sell them in the U.S, and then give the profits back to Phuket.

Dillman has raised money so far from family and friends for after-school activities, tutoring and a camp, but she hopes to raise $20,000 to open the tutoring center. She wants to eventually hire Thai teachers to run the center indefinitely.

She hopes the money that goes back into the community can be spent on the children and their education.

Through Cothren’s class, Dillman’s alma mater is helping her find ways to market her products. Their first issue is that in Asia, she said, clothes tend to be one size, extra-small, so she plans to also sell scarves and accessories in order to broaden buyers’ age range.

Dillman wants to start selling on the Friday after Thanksgiving and continue for about two weeks, then come back to the U.S. with the merchandise. Then she will ship the clothes out for the holiday season.

So far, she has raised $7,500, which she sees as on track.

Over the summer she had two interns, and they will join her when she goes back to Thailand at the end of September. As for 2016, Dillman hopes to have seven interns and is looking for volunteers.

Dillman wants to expand Make Our Day to other communities.

“The goal is to go in the communities, find people who want to establish programs like this, figure out what their obstacles are and show them how to do it,” Dillman said.

Since working with the children, they have begun to call Dillman “Elsa,” after the character in the Disney movie “Frozen,” because she has long, blond hair and blue eyes.

One day, she said, the students tried to figure out if she was actually an ice princess. They were whispering and broke their huddle to ask her questions, like whether she had a little sister with red hair or if she had a love. Dillman said no — but then began to sing “Let It Go.”

“They just started ‘Home Alone’-style screaming,” Dillman said. “They always tell new kids coming to class that I was the real Elsa, so I have the Elsa dress to bring back with me at the end of September.”

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