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
As we move towards the end of February I felt it was important to give a quick update to our customers, friends, family, and supporters on our efforts to provide food relief to local Phuket residents.
We are now past the 12-month mark of the devastating effects of tourism here in Phuket. We are seeing more and more businesses closing, people giving up and desperation coming forth.
Thailand was hit with a resurgence of Covid during the December / January period which saw Phuket shut down Domestic Travel. This “Second Wave” was devastating to morale as well as the financial resources of those surviving.
During the past month and a bit we have received more and more requests for help, and the requests have become more desperate.
As we visit communities they share with us that they have been without work for 12 months, they don’t know where to turn, and they are just struggling.
The good news is that we have increased our funds available for donation meaning we can reach more people, help more people and provide more support.
As you can see in the video below our packing days are getting lots of people turning out to help.
This would never have been possible without the help of UWC Thailand, its teachers, students, and volunteers. In addition to UWC Thailand, we have also had great ex-pat help.
To help manage our volunteer efforts to of our wonderful friends and customers Stepped into the position of Volunteer Managers.
Huge shoutout to Pete and Nina for taking on that responsibility and allowing us to help more people more efficiently.
So as the year continues, we expect to continue to be providing food relief support to our local Phuket communities.