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 I knew from choir, who is director of Project Life, a Bangkok slum charity 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.
April 28, 2010 - 7:41 am Karen - Love seeing another installment. Gorgeous photos. You've captured joy and beauty in an ugly world. Karen
April 28, 2010 - 6:00 pm JJ Beattie - Oh Jackie, they're beautiful and a bit horrifying - like life I guess.
April 28, 2010 - 10:10 pm Sarah Dangerfield - Wow, what amazing photos and colours - an insight into another world.
April 29, 2010 - 9:06 am Claire - Fabulous pictures - you really captured the characters. I see what you mean about the pic formatting. Is that the web program?
April 29, 2010 - 10:03 am Simon - Great colour and stories to your photos Jackie - your Chinatown blog was very interesting as well. Keep 'em coming! Simon.
April 29, 2010 - 12:34 pm Pooja Kishnani - These pictures are beautiful Jackie, thank you so much for sharing. I hope you have a wonderful trip 🙂
April 29, 2010 - 1:34 pm jackierado - Thanks for all the positive comments - the work of Ruth Centre is inspiring and it was a pleasure to help in some way. Yes, still working out the blog formatting and hope to get better as I go... Tips and feedback welcome!
April 29, 2010 - 2:25 pm Linda Herrmann - Thank you Jackie for your caring heart. For showing the heart of the poor elderly, and the heart of the caring team at Ruth Center through your incredible photos. One picture really is worth a thousand words!
April 29, 2010 - 4:12 pm Manor - Hi hon, what a fabulous way to be a part of the Bangkok and Thai life. Can only imagine you must be discovering amazing sites, people, environments and experiences. Seems like your camera lens is leading to a spiritually uplifting journey as well... By the way, how is it that every person in your photography home page has such perfect teeth? Manor
April 29, 2010 - 6:41 pm Kaylea - The photos are amazing Jackie, the colours just jump out! My favourite one is of the woman sitting cross-legged on the floor in her house and the boy looking at what his next shot will be. I hope your work brings awareness to others and possibly the thai government, although they do have other issues at the moment!
April 30, 2010 - 4:52 pm Cathy - A really interesting set of images, and an insight into the more difficult lives of these people. I'm really enjoying your blogging, keep it up! Cheers, Cathy
May 15, 2010 - 9:31 pm Hazel - Jackie, what an amazing talent you have not just for your beautiful insightful pictures but also your ability to tell a story without becoming bogged down with emotion. I wish I was there with you. Well done wonderful woman. Miss you tremendously! Hazel, xx
January 26, 2012 - 12:02 am builsunlasilm - Just to say thank you for this interesting article! =) Peace, Joy.