5 Star Marine has dedicated over 2 years to packing, distributing, and donating of emergency food relief; giving their time and energy by providing continuous support to those in need throughout the Pandemic.
This devoted effort has now seen an estimated 1 million life bags go out to disadvantaged and underprivileged communities around Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samui, Phang Nga, Koh Lipe, Koh Yao Islands, and further afield. Often strategically planned when areas were struck with major isolation or community lockdowns plus the previous lack of tourism due to entry restrictions.
In the last year efforts have escalated to meet the growing needs of the communities, often supplying over 1,000+ normal or super-sized life bags per day. These are filled with dried foods such as rice and noodles, canned fish, oils, sauces and household products and help to feed a family of 4 for up to 4 days.
With the ease of entry measures from 1st May, lower reported daily cases, and Thailand opening up more to international tourism, this immense community relief effort will now come to a natural close, after over 2 years. 5 Star Marine will be able to focus back on its core business as a private speedboat operator. The toned-down entry measures are helping more international travelers return, bringing essential tourists back to our tourism-dependent economy.
5 Star Marine has worked with countless people and organizations to make these food relief efforts such a success over the last 25 months. To name just a few let’s start with a shout out to Nando and Amy from Sutai Muay Thai who helped from the very beginning in early 2020 with a makeshift packing base and distribution aid from their gym in Surin, Phuket.
Heartfelt thanks to Nina and Pete who have been committed volunteer coordinators for the last year, after previously providing critical support during 2020 to the emergency food relief efforts.
Khun Zeera and her team at 5 Star Marine have responded time and time again to emergency calls to support those in urgent need, often helping community members who were too sick to leave their rooms, homes, or even beds.
Thank you to so many others including the Governor of Phuket, the Phuket Red Cross, Phuket Has Been Good To Us, Kru Heidi and Kru Remke from UWC Thailand, Headstart School, BIS, KIS, the Phuket Hotels Association, community packing pods across the island, everyone who has helped pack and distribute – the list could go on and on, but you know who you are and we thank each and every one of you for being part of this incredible community initiative which has literally saved lives across Thailand during the worst years of the Pandemic.
As this chapter draws to a close, 5 Star Marine are humbled that they, together with countless others, have helped thousands of people across Thailand whose lives have benefited from this generosity and commitment.
5 Star Marine remains committed to helping the community recover from the Pandemic and those efforts will continue through their foundation Living Waters Phuket.
Thank you again, one and all for your support and help. Now we will focus on looking forward with optimism, for brighter times ahead.
As 2022 starts off with a few shaky steps we look back over 2021 with satisfaction knowing that the Food Relief project that we started back in 2020 had a dramatic impact on our local community as well as our staff, team and volunteers involved in the project.
Across 2021 we delivered in excess of 410,000 life bags, this is a staggering number of life bags when you consider that this project started off in a spare room, at a house, with a team of 3-5 packing 300 – 500 bags a time.
Here’s a look back at some of the key milestones of 2021 in our Life Bag Project:
January 30th 2021 – This was our first large group pack held at the Sutai Muay Thai Gym where we packed over 1000 life bags in a 2–3-hour period with the help of over 80 Volunteers. This was the start of weekly large group packing sessions that we conducted during the times where Covid was under control and the rules allowed us to. These large group packing sessions led to relationships with the International Schools, Hotels, and alike who proved to be valuable partners in packing life bags across the year.
February 10th 2021 – We had the Bangkok Mission President visit with his family to help pack and distribute life bags using the Church Members. This was the start of our project to invite members of the church to be involved in packing life bags and delivering them to their friends and family who are not Church members.
March 1st 2021 – This was our first official “Packing Pod” where we delivered life bag supplies to the UWCT school who then packed the life bags for us, we then picked them up and delivered them. This turned out to be invaluable throughout the year with Packing Pods across all of Phuket picking up packing when normal packing operations could not be conducted.
March 8th 2021 – Throughout the network of village chiefs we discovered a large number of immigrant workers that were in need and we delivered life bags to the immigrant workers. We also worked on a media campaign to bring awareness to the issues in immigrant worker camps.
March 10th 2021 – A large pack occurred at Blue Tree Water Park as part of a combined effort between local businesses to work together to provide relief to the villages that their employees came from. This was further growth on the community packs we started in January.
April 2nd 2021 – Fulltime Volunteer Coordinators Pete and Nina took over the logistics of all packing, delivery, and supply auditing. They had previously been providing support from 2020 and this was their move into the role as full-time volunteers on this project and others in the future.
April 8th 2021 – On a personal note Lucus packed 1000+ life bags and delivered them personally after noticing a community on his own that needed help.
May 1st 2021 – Packing pods continued with UWCT students and teachers packing over 2000 life bags in a day.
May 3rd 2021 – The largest ever boat-based island delivery took place with 5 Star Marine providing 5 boats to transfer Life Bags from Phuket to Koh Yao Yai where we were joined with Village Chiefs from across the entire islands. One of the largest coordination projects ever undertaken in this Project.
May 5th 2021 – Our Community Isolation program for delivering life bags to community members ordered into quarantine continues with a spike in cases causing greater need in these programs.
May 20th 2021 – BISP starts their community service project with us, packing life bags with the students as another signed on packing Pod.
May 24th 2021 – The Governor and the President of the Phuket Red Cross make contact requesting help in the form of Life Bags for residents across Phuket that are registered with the Provincial Government and the Red Cross.
May 29th 2021 – Hot meals are once again cooked and prepared by the Volunteer team for local communities using left over food supplies from previous packing sessions.
June 7th 2021 – Covid case numbers are forcing creative ways to pack and prepare life bags with our family home turning into a make-shift packing center and all family members getting involved.
June 8th 2021 – The President of the Phuket Red Cross contacts us again seeking assistance with communities on Phuket who are in need of Emergency Food Relief.
June 10th 2021 – The Telegraph from the UK joins us onboard as we work with the Sheriff of Phang Nga to deliver Emergency Life Bag supplies to communities that are isolated on Islands around Phuket.
June 11th 2021 – The single largest 3-day pack is undertaken by 5 Star Marine and the Volunteer team packing, delivering and preparing 5000+ life bags across 3 bags as a combined project with the Governor and the President of the Phuket Red Cross.
July 10th 2021 – Incremental weather does not stop the Donation Volunteers and Team packing and delivering life bags in all kinds of weather, across all hours of the day and days of the week.
July 17th 2021 – Jim and their Family join the volunteer team to pack and deliver life bags across Phuket and the surrounding Islands.
July 23rd 2021 – Nighttime packing is resumed to keep up with demand for Life Bags across Phuket as the community still struggles despite the opening of the Phuket Sandbox. Economic effects of the Phuket Sandbox are really low.
July 28th 2021 – Our community isolation life bag project continues on with our team providing life bags to those that are isolated in communities.
July 31st 2021 – Some of the most shocking images of our entire Life Bag Project emerge with lines so long we just can’t keep up with demand. Villagers are upset that we are unable to help them and they have nowhere to turn.
August 1st 2021 – With large numbers of villages fully closed we are delivering bulk supplies to the Covid Safe staging centers where we have members of the village that are covid negative coming to pick up supplies and distribute with Government Health workers.
August 2nd 2021 – Lines continue to get longer; need continues to grow and our team are exhausted both physically and emotionally.
August 11th 2021 – K. Zeera and the team receive an emergency call for support at 10pm at night. K. Zeera loads up her motorbike and takes life bags immediately to Phuket Town to help out those in urgent need.
August 14th 2021 – Head Start International school joins our packing pod program and helps to pack life bags onsite at their school.
August 25th 2021 – Koh Lipe, an island 4hr and 30 minutes from Phuket is isolated with no tourism or means to survive so working with partners in the Marine Industry we organize a boat full of supplies to be delivered to Koh Lipe and surrounding islands.
September 2nd 2021 – Working with Dave from the Halfway Inn in Patong food relief is delivered into some of the hard-hit areas around Patong and the nightlife areas of Patong.
September 5th 2021 – The 5 Star Marine boat team undertake an even more significant deliver of Life Bags to the outer islands with over 2500 Life bags on boats and delivered.
September 30th 2021 – Our team return from a delivery day exhausted emotionally and physically, having been going for over 18 months they need a rest and break but they won’t take it.
October 10th 2021 – Shaun’s Birthday delivery of life bags, packing and delivering life bags across his birthday and the day after.
October 13th 2021 – Our team goes into some of the hardest-hit covid areas and help community members who are too sick to leave their rooms, homes, or beds.
October 27th 2021 – Living Waters Phuket with 5 Star Marine The Phuket Red Cross and The Phuket Governor pack and deliver 8000+ life bags across 5 days in the single largest private donation ever given to Phuket communities.
If you are living in Phuket then you would be fully aware of the escalating covid situation here. Cases are going up, workers are being ordered to stay at home, communities are being isolated.
This is not something new, in fact it’s something that countries worldwide have been battling now for almost 3 years. The problem here in Phuket is that we are an island that relies on tourism for most employment and economic opportunities. In fact over 90% of the the islands population are directly employed by tourism or tourism supporting activities.
When cases rise like this tourism confidence is affected, tourism arrivals decrease, tourism employers lay off workers and food security becomes a huge problem. Unfortunately this is also not a new experience here in Phuket. It is something that our team here at 5 Star Marine have been working to support over the last 20+ months.
Over the last few days our phones have not stopped calling with Village Leaders asking for help. As part of our large scale food security operation over the last 20 months we connected with over 130 village leaders and helped them and there community members to fight through and survive with “Life Bags”
We had hoped in 2022 the need for life bags would decline but this is not the case.
5 Star Marine is following its commitment to keeping helping provide Life Bags and is funding 1000’s of life bags a week. This is all being done through the Charitable Foundation that they founded called Living Waters Phuket.
For over 20 months the 5 Star Marine team has been purchasing dry food supplies, packing life bags, and then distributing them into the community. This project started during the first Covid Lockdown in Phuket. From there it has grown from a few hundred bags a week to a few thousand bags a week.
In fact, just recently the 5 Star Marine team packed over 8000+ super life bags with over 4 tonnes of rice. This project is funded by the 5 Star Marine Founders and is expanding now beyond just food relief.
As tourism starts to return employment becomes available, not at a scale yet where the problem ceases, but it is becoming more accessible. As this return tourism continues the 5 Star Marine team are focusing on projects to help support the community in its recovery.
Find out more in the video below:
The 5 Star Marine team is continuing with their food relief efforts here in Phuket. After 19 months of providing emergency food relief to the local community, our team is proud to continue to help those in need.
In this month’s update, I took the time to share with you why this Food Relief Project is needed, what the numbers are behind the economic situation, and exactly where we were delivering life bags over the last 15 days.
Find the full details in the video below:
Today we take you along with us to show you the highs and the real lows of what a day out delivering Life Bags really looks like, from the inside. Join Nando from Sutai Muay Thai, Shaun Stenning, Khun Zeera, and the rest of the team from 5 Star Marine on a day in the life of their Food Relief Project.
As we haven’t been able to pack with volunteers for the last 6 weeks due to restrictions, we work around this and have 1,000 Life Bags all ready with our packing coordinators, to get out on the road using 2 trucks (which carry max 250 bags per run), plus we need to get some Villa Market supplies to another packing pod today.
The days start fairly upbeat, the team is motivated and we are getting ready to go with Khun Zeera steering truck one and Nando behind the wheel of truck number 2.
We start at our packing coordinators’ house. They have managed to pack an impressive 1,000 Life Bags (to put this in perspective, it normally takes 15-20 people over 3 hours to pack this amount). To see what 1,000 Life Bags actually looks like check out the video – it is a lot!
Loaded up we head off to Wat Chalong, where we were greeted by a long line of people waiting for food. There are only 150 bags for this drop, is it going to be enough? The community leader helps coordinate and people wait patiently, but it soon transpires that there are not enough supplies and it is so painful to see the look in the eyes of the people who are left empty-handed in the queue. We leave with heavy hearts knowing these people will not have any food today, it is a harrowing sight and feeling. We must move to the next community, but it can be hard to leave – sometimes we want to turn around and give more to the first drop but this is the situation we often face. In reality, we do run out. It hurts to see and be part of this, but we try to ensure the Life Bags go to the individuals most in need.
Next, we drive back to ‘Life Bag Base’ to refill and put a further 250 bags in per truck (when you have been doing this for 19 months you get pretty sharp at knowing how many life bags fit in a boot, front seat, back seat, etc!)
The next drop is to help Covid-19 infected households. This is where community volunteers step in and unload for us, to keep our teams safe and to restrict us from having to enter the households. There are around 25 houses with positive members, (each house has around 8-11 people inside), so the Public Health Team comes in and takes the Life Bags into the houses for safety reasons.
Next, we head to Bangtao where there is a community in isolation. Actually, many villages get locked down and/or put into community isolation however it is not widely publicized. We make it our business to know where these are – most have had no jobs for 19 months and now are being told to stay home with no way to get food supplies. Here, we do not go into the Home Isolation (HI) community; the whole street is sealed so we drop the Life Bags off to them at a distance.
This area in Bangtao had just spent 14 days in Hospital Quarantine, but when they got out unfortunately 1 person tested positive so now the whole community has to do 14 days of home isolation = 28 days without work, without support, without food.
So, with all the talk of different isolation or quarantine types filtering into the day of deliveries, we thought we should highlight the different types people are having to go through:
- Hospital Quarantine
- Hospital Quarantine (quarantine in a hotel)
- Field Hospital Quarantine
- Community Covid Centre
- Community Isolation
- Home Isolation (HI)
Behind the scenes, this food relief program is foreigner funded, but let’s not forget it is all local Thai’s doing the actual handouts plus donating water and extra supplies – the community helps out a lot and the Phuhiyban and village chiefs are all very thankful and supportive.
We make a stop in the Manik area to drop off supplies after the Bangtao Home Isolation drop.
We return to base to fill the trucks with supplies once again.
Our penultimate is in Ban Rong, which has been devastated by Covid as the pier is centered around transfers that used to generally go to Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi; which are not getting many visitors right now.
It was agonizing to realize that in Ban Rong, just like Chalong earlier in the day, we were running out of Life Bags. At this point the camera was turned off; we were deflated and devastated. We stopped filming after Ban Rong, it was shattering and heartbreaking to run out twice in one day.
Khun Zeera headed for Phuket Town for the evening drop with 200 Life Bags in tow; this was the last drop of the evening and after starting pre 9 am, she did not return home until after 7 pm that night.
The Day Summary
This was just 1 day, a mere snapshot of the week and the 5 other locations the team had already been out delivering to. This is what a typical Life Bag day looks like, we try to drop a little hope to the people who need it the most, but we do run out and we do encounter traumatic scenes and people who are scared and want this all to end.
Nando Sums It Up Nicely
We asked Nando what keeps him going, and as he says: “The team; if you have a strong team, you cannot do this. Every time you go on a donation drive, and you see the gratitude on people’s faces it motivates me personally to carry on” Nando came from humble beginnings, and his dad set him an excellent example, often helping his workers’ families when needed. “I like to give without needing to receive. It’s a lot about how much love you give, not only how much you give, this can be enough, and what I learned as a kid is: do not expect to receive back.”
We are the ‘Gap Guys’ – filling in until we are no longer needed, and tourism returns, and with it brings a positive difference in the economic situation in this beautiful country.
If you want to help or know more please contact us
With no end in sight from the devastating community impact, here at 5 Star Marine, we’re working around the clock to make sure more people than ever before receive a vital helping hand. Despite the challenges, we have managed to make August the largest month for Life Bag donations so far, with OVER 17,000 Life Bags given out in the last 15 days alone!
Here’s our update from the last 15 days so you know what we have been up to, and wow it has been busy:
- Covid-19 cases are sadly still rising in Phuket
- Therefore, we cannot enlist our wonderful volunteers to support this process
- 5 Star Marine and Sutai Muay Thai have continued packing efforts throughout to ensure this donation program does not stop
- In addition, we had help from the UWC Thailand teachers as well as various household/villa complex packers to help try to keep up with the need on and around Phuket
- Every single day our team is out packing and delivering our Life Bags
- We are proud to be helping those who really need it in community isolation and people in need in hotel isolation, as well as our usual community areas we assist
In the last 2 weeks, we have managed to pack and arrange deliveries to local communities and islands surrounding Phuket, including Kow Kaew, Koh Sirey, Rawai, Na Nai, Chalong, Bang Rong, Thalang, Naka Yai, Coconut Island, Irsunthoon, Nai Yang and Mai Khao plus numerous other locations.
We are doing our best to uplift the local spirits, with the biggest month so far for Life Bag donations, we are managing to help even more than before; despite the lack of ability to use volunteers, no Domestic travel, and a small trickle of Sandbox guests. We are currently in one of the worst situations we have been in with regard to food relief, but we are still going.
Our Life Bag donation effort has now reached 1.5 years. We know there are so many more to help, and it is devastating to see, but we have to keep going, and so we continue reaching out to those we know need it most. We look forward to updating you in 2 weeks’ time on our efforts. Stay safe.
The past 2 weeks have been a blur of activity trying to keep up with donation efforts, despite the tighter Covid-19 restrictions here in Phuket. These have unfortunately forced us to pause our mass packing efforts. However, even without our dedicated and fantastic volunteers being able to help out, we still need to pack, deliver and support the local communities.
It has been a challenging period where we have unfortunately also seen a combination of rising infections on the island, local villagers being sent into isolation, and workers camps being ordered to quarantine on site.
Right now, the need to get basic food and home supplies to those in need via our Life Bag program is greater than ever. So, our 5 Star Marine team combined forces with Sutai Muay Thai (just as we did at the start of the Life Bag journey over 17 months ago), and are still packing, still delivering, and still reaching out to the community.
As a result of our teams working together, over 11,000 life bags were delivered in the last 16 days – So we wanted to give a huge shout out to our teams for their amazing and continued efforts to help Phuket.
So, let’s start with the good news; Phuket Sandbox successfully opened, and tourists are coming into Phuket – this helps start to fill the enormous gap that the island has faced as one of the most travel-dependent economies in the world.
However, let’s look at what else is going on here right now – Covid-19 cases are sadly rising and domestic travel has more or less stopped. Yes, international travelers are coming, but the numbers are so low that it cannot even bridge the gap in domestic arrivals. The bottom line is that we need more international tourists and domestic travel in order to increase tourism revenue that is so desperately needed.
So what can we do in the meantime? Well, here at 5 Star Marine we continue to pack life bags for people who need food and household staples and have no other means of getting these items. In the last 2 weeks, over 9,312 life bags were packed by our usual volunteers plus some Sandbox guests and were then delivered to the most vulnerable communities using our trucks and speedboats.
Deliveries were made to local communities and islands surrounding Phuket, including Kow Kaew, Koh Sirey, Rawai, Chalong, Bang Rong, Thasak, Koh Yao Noi, Naka Yai, Coconut Island, Phuket Town, Rassada, Mai Khao plus numerous other locations.
The life bag donation effort is continuing and despite the fact that it is approaching a year and a half, we have to keep going as the need is greater than ever before. There are so many we cannot help, and it is devastating to see, but we have to keep going, we keep reaching out to those we know need it most, we keep packing life bags and we keep supporting wherever we can.
From July 1st, 2021 we welcomed a positive and critical step in the right direction; with the opening of the Phuket Sandbox. With hopes that this will help jump-start the return of international tourism and the economic benefits that come with this for an island such as Phuket.
We are all hopeful that this will be a welcome development for southern Thailand and eventually the rest of the country. However, we know that this is going to take some time, and while it ramps up slowly, we understand that the need for food and our vital life bag efforts continue to be hugely important to many communities.
So, we continue to get our volunteers together to organize our life bag packing efforts, each and every Saturday at 10 am at Sutai Muay Thai. But it doesn’t stop there, once the huge packing efforts are complete the 5 Star Marine teams carry on through to distribution by truck or boat to some of the most suffering communities in and around Phuket.
No matter what, we do what we can to help and will continue to do so until such time that tourism returns to more normal levels.