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.
5 Star Marine was thrilled to welcome Chris Parker, (from Retired Working For You), as he joined their usual weekly efforts to see exactly what goes on behind the scenes of each vital life bag.
Chris Parker got an inside glimpse of how things work right from the organized packing efforts by volunteers at Sutai Muay Thai, to the distribution to some of the most suffering communities in and around Phuket. He joined the distribution efforts by truck and then headed out on the sea to get to some of the harder-to-reach places which the 5 Star Marine have been able to serve using their speedboats for deliveries.
In his follow-up, hard-hitting video, you get to see where these life bags go, and how vitally important they have become for the worst-hit communities around us here.
In Chris’ own words: “What 5 Star Marine in Phuket, Thailand have done during the past 14 months is nothing short of unbelievable. This video will tell the story about how, when the pandemic struck, one man decided to begin helping those in need on his home island and as the need grew, so did the effort. Today, One Phuket has handed out more than 210,000 ‘Life Bags’ with daily essentials for a local family who have no income. On Phuket, where tourism is basically everything, this has provided a lifeline and gotten many through this challenging year.
The news in Bangkok and Thailand has been mostly bad this past year, but the Phuket Sandbox is reopening travel and bringing hope to the locals who are looking to get back on their feet. So book a ticket and be a hero!”
5 Star Marine is so grateful to Chris for filming this emotional and honest video and for helping to raise awareness by sharing this story on his YouTube platform also; all much appreciated.
We know that uncertainty remains at unprecedented levels globally, but we wanted to take a moment to look back on all the positive experiences from the last year, to realize how far we have come – and wow what a year it has been for us.
We took time to regroup and focus on reprioritizing our efforts in the last 12 months, and this meant rolling up our sleeves and getting busy. We re-evaluated in order to understand where new opportunities could open up for us and where they made sense. We continued supporting the vulnerable communities and the people around us via our charity efforts. We focused on the upside wherever we could see or create one. We wanted to look at where we could add value to our community and what we should be doing during this time.
All in all, we are feeling positive about the future and wanted to share our top positive moments from the last year with you:
1. Adding To Our Fleet
Let’s start with our speedboat fleet, which has doubled in size; we now have a total of 12 Private VIP Speedboats which offer day and multi-night tours out of Phuket and Krabi. We introduced our first VIP Luxury Cruiser, which is a proud extension to our current speedboat fleet and offers a truly unique experience on the water.
2. New Premises
To accommodate our growing fleet size, the domestic market support, and prepare for the return of international tourists, we moved piers and into a new office at Boat Lagoon, Phuket. Our new glass-fronted office is a more welcoming environment for all our loyal VIP customers and future private tours.
3. Once In A Lifetime Experiences
We are humbled and know how lucky our crew, staff, and guests have been in the last year. We had the opportunity to experience Phuket and the Islands like NEVER before. Deserted beaches, empty turquoise lagoons and even being some of the first people to climb the new 3600 Krabi Viewpoint. We made unforgettable memories and feel blessed to have these with us forever.
4. New Tour Options
We introduced overnight and multi-day tours to our Phuket and Krabi markets. This included supplying private guests with island hotel return transfers, and adding new day trip locations such as Koh Ngai, Koh Mook, and Koh Kradan. We also had some exciting and memorable multi-night tours to paradise locations such as Koh Lipe, where our guests experienced manta rays and turtles amongst other stunning marine life.
5. Our Charity Efforts Kept Going
We financed, packed, and delivered over 190,000 Life Bags to support the local, vulnerable communities; not only in Phuket but in the hard-to-reach surrounding islands where help was so greatly needed. Our teams of staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly ordering, packing, managing logistics, and delivering these food-based Life Bags for over 15 months now. Often exhausted from the sheer scale of efforts, our teams have stood strong and kept these efforts going each and every week – We want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has been involved in this critical effort.
Here’s to more positive times ahead in 2021 and beyond.
As Covid continues to restrict the local Phuket economy our team here at 5 Star Marine, lead by Shaun Stenning continues to dig deep and help the community. The third wave of Covid created more devastation than any other wave has.
This means that our team has had to step up and deliver more life bags and meals than ever before. Take a quick look at the last 14 days in review:
If you didn’t know, for the last 14 months our business has been helping our local community survive through one of the most economically trying times ever seen.
As a tourist island, Phuket was devastated by Covid leaving so many without work, businesses closed and the local community needed help.
Seeing this need we stepped up and financed the purchasing, packing, and delivery of life bags all over Phuket.
Here’s a quick look at what we did in May: