Funny how you can see someone on a weekly basis for almost a year and have no idea what they do for a living. So it was with Linda Herrmann who is director of Project Life, a charity organisation in Thailand that seeks to help the poor and vulnerable of Thailand.
As part of Project Life, Ruth Centre was opened only two years ago as a place that provides support and community for the elderly across ten slums on the outskirts of Bangkok. Conceived, created and run by the inspiring Khun Noi, the centre’s purpose is to bring previously isolated people together in self-supporting communities. Khun Noi and her team visit over 200 people in the local slum communities once a week or more.
Khun Yai (grandmother) Buang is 72 years old, seriously ill and has no hope of recovery. Isolated and lonely she had lost the will to live until The Ruth Centre re-united her with her daughter, who now takes care of her. Khun Noi visits regularly to chat and read books to Khun Yai Buang, an event she loves and looks forward to every week.
Earning an income for Khun Yai Sanom, 73 years, consists of collecting rubbish from the local streets and dumps in the community to sell whatever she can. A diabetes sufferer, she is nevertheless somewhat fortunate in that she receives a government pension of ThB 500 per month (US $18), which she supplements with around ThB 100 (US$3) in garbage sales. “I may be 72years old, but I’m still beautiful” she exclaimed.
Songkran, or Thai New Year, was approaching, and Khun Yai Faa was mending a sarong she wanted to wear for the celebrations. Left by her husband many years ago, she has struggled with alcoholism and TB for much of her life. With the help of the Ruth Centre she’s been doing much better and recently rediscovered her love for reading; ‘especially history books’. Asked if she minded having her photograph taken she replied ‘chawp mahk!’ (I love it!) with gusto.
Another regular stop for Khun Noi is to Khun Somjit’s home, where his grandson lay on the ground and could not be awakened during our 20 minute visit. K Noi provides support and help to keep his place clean and hygienic, a task that he finds almost insurmountable.
A husband and wife team were preparing food for their local catering business as we passed. ‘We’re both good cooks so we just take it in turns.’
On our way back to the centre, we walked past a group of kids who were playing on a pristine pool table. A resourceful father in the community had saved up and bought it to rent out as a source of income. Of course, it also has the added benefit of providing a place for the kids to gather through the day and hone their (admirable!) skills.
Volunteers at Ruth Centre work without judgement or financial reward, providing support and a measure of dignity for the most vulnerable people in society.
Please note all names have been changed.