Princess Srinagarindra supported the royal development activities of her son with her own projects, particularly in the fields of health and education, to help improve the quality of life of people in remote areas of the country. She travelled with teams of volunteer doctors, dentists and nurses, who provided basic medical and dental care, along with donations of food and clothing for the poor.
Princess Srinagarindra established several charitable foundations to help improve the people’s quality of life in areas such as public health, education, and livelihood development with the ultimate goal of ensuring not only their survival but also their self-reliance and well-being.
Concentrating her relief efforts in the far remote border areas of the country, Princess Srinagarindra was therefore often in the midst of ethnic hill tribes, and saw their poor living conditions, their reliance on shifting cultivation and often illicit crops as well as drug trafficking. She also realized their potential to create beautiful handicrafts. In 1969, she founded the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation to promote and market these hill tribe handicrafts to help supplement their meagre income, as well as teach them skills and disciplines such as the Thai language, basic math and health education.
The Thai Hill Crafts Foundation was soon involved in much more than handicrafts promotion, expanding to more extensive rural development projects based on the ideas and philosophy of its founder. As a result, the foundation changed its name in 1985 to the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, which works on the fundamental principle of empowering the people to be able to help themselves in the long term, and encouraging a participatory approach to development so the local people can be at the centre of the process from the start.
Then, in 1988, when Princess Srinagarindra was almost 90 years of age, she began a comprehensive development project in the mountains of Doi Tung, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, to tackle opium cultivation at its root cause—poverty and lack of opportunity. The Doi Tung Development Project has since grown to become a successful model for sustainable development, replicated in other regions of Thailand as well as in Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Indonesia.