Siam-Care Foundation

Siam Care takes a biblical approach to strengthen marginalized and at risk children, families, and communities through psychosocial support, health access, educational scholarships, family reconciliation, legal rights and HIV awareness raising, advocacy, and spiritual transformation.
Apr 3, 2013

The end is in sight for Loong Chai!

SC staff in a teaching session in prison
SC staff in a teaching session in prison

Loong Chai is always one of the first to be waiting for the Siam-Care staff on their prison visits to the hospital. Seated in his wheelchair or sometimes standing and waiting, he will be right at the entrance of the ward (huge cell) and as soon as the staff step in, his face turns into a big smile.

After he fell during his work on a construction site he ended up with back problems, unable to work, and having difficulties walking. He ended up using a wheel chair, depressed and no longer able to work. He felt so useless when his children started school and he didn't have money to send them.  In a moment of desperation and not thinking clearly he decided to sell some amphetamines for quick money. He was soon caught and sentenced to 25 years in prison. This was in 2002. 

Much has happened in the past 11 years; his 2 children grew into teenagers and his wife passed away. The children went to live with Loong Chai's sister who, together with her daughter, runs a rice-soup stall. Loong Chai's children help at the stall in the evening. Siam-Care staff visited his children and helped them with school supplies, also making sure they were able to visit their father in prison regularly. 

This month, as we enter the prison hospital Loong Chai greets us with an extra big smile. Soon we hear the reason for the smile; his parole request has been approved on the grounds that he has served over 1/3 of his sentence and has a health issue. The exact date is not yet known but he will be released any time soon now.  

He wants to be in the best condition he can be when released and to this end Loong Chai gets out of his wheelchair as often as his legs allow him to exercise, trying to walk or at least stand for a while  every day. He will move in with his sister and hopes to be able to help her at the rice soup stall, he will make merit for his wife and he will be a father to his children again. He also wants to make sure that Siam-Care stays in touch and therefore he is asking our work phone numbers and already has memorized them all. 

Many Thai prisoners have their hopes of early release raised by a recent introduction, by The Ministry of Justice, of the use of electronic monitoring devices ( known as “tagging”) for offenders as a means to deal with the  overcrowded prisons in the country. The 143 prisons in Thailand have a capacity for around 106,000 prisoners based on regulations that each inmate has 2.25 square meters of space in a cell. Yet in March 2013 there were 262,077 prisoners, which apart from the overcrowded conditions, costs the government $1.40 for daily food per inmate.

Under the new law 4 categories of prisoners would be considered for the electronic monitoring device:  those who may soon die in prison, those who must take care of parents, husband, wife or children who are dependent on them, those who are sick and in need of continuous treatment and finally those who deserve mitigation or other means of custody. However, even though the law has taken effect a feasibility study still has to be carried out. Also there is fear that the general public may not look favorable at it, being worried about living with convicted criminal in their midst which could lead to stigmatization of the offenders and their families.

For Loong Chai and his family the release date is not dependent on the implementation of the new law and they are eagerly awaiting his release, on parole.  Siam-Care will be there to support him in the process of settling back into society, and for his children to continue their schooling. We thank you for supporting our work and continuing with us to help Loong Chai and many other families who have for longer or shorter periods been separated by prison walls and depend on outside support for many every day basic supplies, school costs etc.

Jan 14, 2013

Christmas in Prison

In front of the prison hospital; part of the team
In front of the prison hospital; part of the team

Christmas holds a special meaning to many people all over the world. When one is far away from home living under very difficult circumstances it become especially important to have some link with home.

For prisoners letters, visits and anything that reminds them of and keeps them in contact with home is important; Christmas is one of those times when those far away from home can feel especially lonely and depressed, even more so when one is incarcerated. 

Every year Siam-Care organises a special day when the team goes into the prison hospital. We invite others, with better music skills then we have, to join us and from 9.00-11.30 this team is allowed to visit the different hospital wards singing Christmas carols, giving a short Christmas encouraging talk and deliver a special treat. 

December 2012, a team of 19 people went into the prison hospital, dressed up to bring a bit of colour and joy to the sick prisoners. We sang until our voices were hoarse, talked with individuals and were able to give out 250 presents; a bag containing writing paper, stamps, cookies and a towel. 

There were prisoners from European and other western countries who joined in the singing and many more joined in the chorusses. It was especially good to go from bed to bed for the very sick be able to encourage them during this time of the year. 

Jan 8, 2013

Joy and Sorrow

Naamprik's 15th birthday

Working with HIV infected children brings much joy but also heartbreak. A few weeks ago we lost one of our dearly beloved, almost 16 year old, girls. The year before we celebrated her 15th birthday with a cake  and special gift. This year, Naamprik who was already very sick and resistant to the drugs she was receiving, asked for a camera to take pictures. Through a generous donation we were able to give her this last wish but she wasn't able to enjoy it for long. Now her little sister treasures it as she takes pictures around the house. 

Mother's day is a very important day in Thailand; it falls on the Queen's birthday, August 12th. Naamprik was not able to come to the special celebration as she was in hospital. But she wrote a letter and asked us to read it out during the celebrations. As we read it out not a dry eye or untouches heart was found in the hall. We want to share it with you now:

“I want to tell you how my mother fought for her life so I could have a good example. She loved me so much she wanted to be there for me. 

My mother  looked after me really well from the time I was born. My dad went off to work in Bangkok and so my mother was the only one there for me, my dad never came back to see me once he had left. He just forgot about me. One day when my mother went out to work, she had to work hard so we would have some money and I could go to school, she came back and told me people on the market were not nice to her. They were talking about my dad and were saying he had an other wife.  

My mother didn't believe it, she loved him so much. Long after that he came back to visit me and my mother didn't ask him about the rumor. My dad stayed for 3 days then went back to Bangkok. I begged him not to go back but he told me; 'I have to work so you can have money to go to school'. Those were the last words he said to me. It was the last time I saw my dad.  

My mother had to go out to work so she could support me to go to school. Every day my mother would give me food to take to school, she would bring me to school and watch me until I had to go into the classroom. 

Then we received the news that my father had died. My father had died of a disease he had picked up from this new woman he was with. My mother was devastated. But she still smiled at us and hugged me. We loved each other so much. 

Not long after this my mother became sick. She was working on the farm and was bitten by an ant in the field. Her leg swelled up and she ended up going to the hospital. But her leg didn't improve. The doctor suggested a leg amputation but my mother refused. She said, 'if I have to die I want to die with 2 legs'. She wouldn't let the doctor do the amputation even when she couldn't walk any more and was very sick. I helped look after her, I washed her, I gave her medication, I fanned her down when she was warm and had fever. But her body was giving up, she was so tired and one day she left me. 

After my mother left me; much was going on in my heart. I went to school but didn't want to study, I just wanted to cry. I missed her so much I couldn't explain it. Before, every day when I'd come home  from school I'd sit with her. 

That  last day I sat next to her like always, in the evening I went to sleep and at about 3 am I woke up and saw that people were carrying the body of my mother out of the house. I was so sad! The next week I had to go back to school and it was Mother's day, there were special activities. But I no longer had a mother. But I had to smile, I didn't want others to see my sadness or tears, I didn't want to cry. When I came home I cried on my own, I felt so sorry for myself and for not having a mother. 

But even without a mother I had to go on with life, for my little sister and others. I have to continue to smile because one day I know I will see my mother again. I will always love my mother, she is the light of my life and her teachings lead me in life on the right road. 

I am an orphan but I smile and I fight for life. My mother will always be in my heart.”

Naamprik truly fought and smiled, her body couldn't fight on any longer, she was exhausted. We miss her, she is at peace now and will always be in our heart. 

Little sister using camera
Little sister using camera
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