Thursday, February 2, 2012

Slumming In Pattaya. Really... I Mean IN The Slums

One of the nicer family homes I've visited.

You know, it's so easy to take the most basic of our creature comforts for granted: our homes.  I'd wager almost none of you reading this live in a home that looks anything like the dwelling above, and an entire family lives in it.  I've met them.

For lack of a better word we're blessed that we don't have to.

Homelessness is not nearly as far-fetched a possibility as most of us would like to think, either.  There were over 650,000 homeless people in the United States in 2009, and I don't think things haven't gotten any better here in the past couple of years. Latest figures indicate there are well over 6,000 in San Francisco alone.

The folks in the slums of Pattaya I'm writing about today and tomorrow are essentially mere squatters, often living on land by the grace of stealth or the tacit permission of the landowner, both of which are "iffy", at best. Their domiciles are constructed out of whatever they can locate to bang together.  Those of you who have seen a heavy Thai rainfall can imagine what it's like trying to stay dry in one of them.

The "Happy Feet" movie poster makes for an interesting juxtaposition here.

As you're whizzing along in a baht bus past fields of green overgrowth there may be an entire neighborhood not 50 yards away behind it. Regardless of the circumstances behind them living there, these people are some of the poorest of the poor;  walking miles every day with a pole over their shoulder selling fruit from the baskets hanging at either end, perhaps doing some form or menial labor or doing no more than scavenging through the dump to pick out recyclables to trade in for enough to feed their families.

Hopefully your neighborhood will never look like this one

A charity I've been involved with for a handful of years makes regular rounds to families living in some of the poorest of conditions not all that far from where you'd be likely to stay on a tourist's visit to Pattaya. One trip I took photos on a delivery day to show friends here in the USA who were asking about the students myself and my family sponsor there, and I thought I'd let them see why it was difficult for them to come up with the funds for food, let alone the uniforms, supplies and fees for a year of schooling.

One of my students lives in a home very like the one above. They have one plug inside for electricity, and one tap outside for water, although it isn't potable.  Water stands on three sides of the shack every time it rains, and mosquitoes breed by the tens of thousands. Still, every time I've visited them their clothes are clean and pressed and the insides, while humble, are kept up the best they can.

The charity takes donations from groups and individuals for the weekly food distribution, and there's a rhyme and reason to it; they don't merely drive out into the slum and start handing our the hand-packed bags of rice, tomato paste, cooking oil, ramen noodles, fish sauce and such, but you don't need to know how they keep track of families to make sure the ones they've been helping continue to get help.  They do.

Volunteers I can't reach for photo permission distribute food bags

May I make a suggestion? When you get home tonight and close the door behind you, be grateful for the walls around you and the roof over your head, regardless of how the rest of your day went.  We truly are very, very lucky to be living as well as we do.

Tomorrow you'll hear a little more about the project and see some of the people I meet when I ride along.


Was Once said...

Buy them a mosquito net, or a free-standing Mosquito tent they pop into place.

Was Once said...

One more thing to give away are the cheap cans of sardines in tomato sauce you can buy from Big C. Good cheap protein tha they don't get from Ramen.

khunbaobao said...

Re: the mosquito nets - already done :-)

Those sardines in tomato sauce are always popular on shopping trips I've taken families on. Sometimes a dozen cans at a crack.

Anonymous said...


khunbaobao said...

Thank you for the "Like" :-)