Oct 26 2011
With near saturation media coverage of the flooding in Thailand and particularly Bangkok, an increasingly common refrain among either those stuck here or abroad is “How can I help?” Here are some suggestions on how you can do your little bit to help Thailand get through the current crisis, or, if you’re arriving over the coming months, help with the clean up.
First and foremost, don’t completely cancel your trip to Thailand
As with the 2004 Asian tsunami, the flooding and the devastation that has followed it has affected only certain parts of the country and much of Thailand remains bone dry and safe for travel. After the 2004 tsunami many cancelled their trips to Thailand even when they were not planning to visit the areas affected, and this meant a double blow — the second being economic. If there is any time when the small, family-run guesthouses needed your business and support, this is it.
Yes, a prolonged stay in Bangkok wouldn’t be the wisest move, but as a transit hub to drier places, Bangkok is still operational for now. Don Muang, the second airport, is closed, but Suvarnabhumi is operating as normal, though be aware that the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just advised its citizens to fly out, fearing the airport may need to close. The Thai government has repeatedly insisted it can protect Suvarnabhumi, and the Singaporean government does tend to be conservative in its warnings. If you are alarmed about flying into Bangkok, Thailand does play host to several international airports, so you don’t necessarily need to come via the capital.
For now, Ayutthaya and surrounds remain a disaster area, but much of the rest of Thailand is in business and waiting to greet you.
Return visitor? Get in touch
If you’ve been to Thailand before, chances are you’ve spent some time in Bangkok. If you hit it off well with the guesthouse you stayed at, drop them a line, or contact any friends you made. Perhaps they need help. If they don’t, perhaps they know someone who does. The point we’re trying to make is that the best way to help (unless you have a private fleet of 10,000 boats to help push the water out) is going to be super localised. Where better to help than at the place you stayed at last trip?
First time to Thailand and want to help?
Sandbagging and packing emergency supplies are activities non-Thais can help with and are needed across the city. While there have been some reports of an over-supply of volunteers, we can’t imagine, given the current circumstances, one can have too many people filling sandbags — though obviously, sometimes the best thing you can do is stay out of the way, so if it’s crowding up, ask whether you can head somewhere else or take the day off.
As of Wednesday night, volunteers were being sought at Suvarnabhumi for sandbagging (er, see above about fears of the airport closing); get there by taking the Airport Link then the shuttle bus B line to the end (here’s how it looks). Don Muang’s Terminal 3 was earlier a volunteer rallying point but was shut due to floods in the area; volunteers headed instead yesterday to Rama IX Royal Park. You can also help out at the Thai Red Cross down near Lumpini Park and in front of the Dusit Thani on Silom Road. The Mirror Foundation has some good actionable information about volunteering.
A sticky point on volunteering
As with the 2004 tsunami, the Thai government is insisting that volunteers have a work permit. The best way to avoid problems is to help in a very small scale, localised way that is unlikely to bring attention to yourself.
Given the government’s lacklustre performance in handling the floods to date, one would assume that they’re not going to be much more on the money when it comes to checking that all the volunteers filling sandbags to protect the Thai capital have work permits.
So just to be clear, officially speaking, you must have a work permit before you lift a finger to help save the capital from inundation — so be sure to get it now — before the Labour Department is flooded. (That’s a joke).
Don’t forget your furry friends
Not only people are suffering from the floods. PicAPet4Home Rescue Centre now has a lot more creatures to care for in the wake of the flooding in Thailand’s north. Tharinee Wipuchanin, the head of the rescue effort, has been quoted saying, “We think we owe something to the animals who depend on us. We cared for them in good times, and now we cannot throw them away in bad times. A life is a life.”
Thousands of animals have been rescued and are being housed in makeshift cages in temples and other public spaces. Others have been placed in the temporary homes of volunteer rescuers. Please donate dog and cat food, cages, and towels to keep the doggy tails wagging and the cats purring. Contact PicAPet4Home on (08) 9669 1690 for more information.
For stray animals you see on the street who may be in need of help, please track down a trained expert rather than trying to detain the animal yourself.
How not to help
This is a Thai, and largely Thai-made, disaster. Showing up and telling them how to fix it isn’t going to be constructive. You’re there to help. Unless you are a flood expert and have very specific training, just take a shovel and dig in. Don’t head to badly flooded areas for a bit of search and rescue to “help”.
Do you speak Thai? Do you have specific search and rescue training and experience? Do you have a boat? If not, steer clear of the badly affected areas and leave them to those who (hopefully) know what they are doing. If you do have that sort of experience, contact an organisation that can fit you into their professional network.
Places to donate
Flood relief efforts are underway, and in desperate need of more funding. If you are abroad and want to offer a helping hand, the best way to do so is by donating to trusted organisations that will guarantee your gift goes directly to helping flood victims and preparing for further flooding.
Try the following: Thai Red Cross Society (you can donate to them at any 7-eleven); Rajaprajanugroh Foundation (Royal Foundation for the Welfare of the People); and banks including Bangkok Bank and Siam Commercial Bank, which are accepting donations on behalf of a variety of charitable organisations — ask for a complete list at the banks.
Photography courtesy of Lauren Willson, sandbagging volunteer and English teacher.
And thanks to Veena from The Nation (@Veen_NT on Twitter) for providing some of these details.
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