Being Thankful In Klong Toey, Bangkok. White streaks of the sun pierced the open door of the simple cement structure and illuminated the simple interior. A crumpled elderly woman sat on the white tiled floor near the edge of the door surrounded by empty plastic bottles. The cramped house was a singular room in addition to a closet-like room with a squat toilet. Near the center of a room sat a wizened man, drooped over on an isolated piece of furniture, a filthy white plastic chair.
I was accompanying a team of caregivers from the Community Health Development Center a group within the Mercy Center. Mercy Center was founded in 1973 and is located in Bangkok. Mercy Center was founded by Father Joe Maier, an American Catholic priest in the slums of Klong Toey and has been serving this underserved community for five decades. Mercy Center helps in so many ways, from running schools to prison outreach programs to building homes for the poor. To donate to the Mercy Center, click here!
Su, a Mercy caregiver, slid on latex gloves and began to clean the wounds on Kuhn Bonn, the man suffering from HIV, sitting on the plastic chair. Tan, another caregiver, slid over on the floor next to his 83 year old mother, Pim. Tan shared with Pim a care package of food. They engaged in easy banter as they grinded betel nut in a stone mortar.
Pim, her hair a closely cropped combination of gray and white, had been chewing the betel nut for decades. Portraits of King Rama IX overlooked the room. An incongruous poster of Linkin Park looked on from the opposite wall.
Nong, the third caretaker, vigorously cleaned the room and toilet. The room was cluttered with piles of rags fighting for space with discarded plastic bottles. While the house was located in a dense Klong Toey neighborhood, I felt a sense isolation and loneliness sitting with Bonn and Pim. Mercy Center’s daily visit not only provided necessary medical care for Bonn but also a social connection for the family. This family fell well below the poverty line, and Mercy Center provided the lifeline to allow them to survive. We said our goodbyes.
The Community Health Development Center in 1997 initiated an AIDS homecare program among the poor. In 2007, HIV/AIDS Homecare Program expanded to reach over 450 patients throughout Bangkok. The CHDC also provides HIV/AIDS education from everyone from prisoners to high school students.
The group then proceeded to our second visit in the Ta Pla neighborhood to visit Nong, a 31 year old woman, suffering from HIV. We weaved our way through the neighborhood and entered a traditional wooden Thai home near a temple. A multi-generational family relaxed on the ground floor, including Nong’s mother, niece and grand-nephew. Nong joined us, shuffling into the room with the assistance of a walker. Prior to receiving assistance from the CHDC, Nong had been previously bedridden. Sitting comfortably on the floor, caretaker Su provided Nong with her HIV/AIDs medication and provided information and education in regard to her regimen. Nong then proceeded to hobble onto a stationary bike near the open window, demonstrating the growing strength of her legs. The grand-nephew found his way into the care package and slurped on some chocolate milk. After a round of goodbyes and smiles, we departed and prepared for our next visit.
Mercy Center’s resources are stretched thin. The demands of the community are outstripping their ability to serve them. You have the opportunity to help and make a difference. Please consider donating here! Being Thankful In Klong Toey, Bangkok.
Also, check out volunteering in Bangkok.