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.
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
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
Oct 29, 2012

Visit to the prison hospital

visiting by the bedside
visiting by the bedside

The Siam-Care team visits Klong Prem prison hospital once a week. This hospital accepts the sick from 7 prisons in greater Bangkok and the very sick from different parts of the country. What does a visit look like? The SC staff go up to the men's hospice ward, the name hospice is a bit misleading as the patients are mainly those who are HIV positive or those suffering for severe long-term sicknesses. The hospital is a nice clean place with good equipment and well stocked. The difference with other hospitals is of course that we can't just walk in; first we check in with the guards, we get rid of all our materials and go in with just a pen and notebook. Before we even get to the hospital we have already passed 3 heavy metal doors that slam shut behind us, once at the ward there are bars all around the wards and heavy doors with even  heavier padlocks. These doors are opened early morning so nurses and doctors can get on the ward, and locked again at 3.30 p.m. During the time the patients are locked up there are prisoners on duty who have received some medical training and can help the patients. Siam-Care team generally is allowed 2 hours on the ward to visit, encourage, advice and meet with the patients.

The first patient we meet we will call 'Oeun', he has been on the ward since 2010 and is paralyzed from the waist downwards. Oeun is married and has 2 children, a 15 year old daughter and a 12 year old son. Oeun, his wife and son are all HIV positive. His wife last came to visit when he was still in the regular prison. The wife works  in a department store and hardly gets any days off. She needs to keep what ever days off she has, using them to go to her and her son's hospital appointments. Knowing Oeun has a long sentence she fears he will not come out alive and stopped visiting.
When the son was 10 he developed meningitis, but thankfully recovered well.
Oeun's crime is drug related, when he was arrested he already knew he was HIV positive, in 2006 he started on ARV medication in the prison.
Beginning of this year Oeun stopped eating, he didn't want to live any longer. He felt a burden to his peers on the ward who have to carry him to the shower to clean him up as he is incontinent. He stopped talking and just wanted to die. His skin became  really bad with rashes, he developed bedsores but insisted on not being helped by anyone.
The Siam-Care team would always go over and try and talk with him but he would just be laying on the bed with eyes closed. Then one day he told us why he had given up; his family had abandoned him, so why even try and live. After many phone calls and visits to the the family's house, never finding them at home, we finally managed to get hold of the wife and after explaining the situation she agreed to come and visit once more to say goodbye, so an appointment was made. The wife came with her son, Oeun opened his eyes, looked at them and slowly tears formed. They didn't say much, but after the visit he started eating again. The next week, both children came with the mother, we who were there watching from the distance were all moved as we watched the family touch each other, talk and cry. Since then there are visits more regular, Siam-Care supports the family to come and Oeun has started eating again and every now and again a smile will form on his face when talking about his family. He has hope again!

An other patient we visit regularly is Phet, this time it was with a heavy heart. We have to tell Phet that his wife died. Phet is 54 years old and doing a 25 year drug related sentence. Since he is a second time offender he will not be allegeable for amnesty soon. Phet is married with 3 adolescent children. He was in a car accident before coming to prison the second time and has been in a wheelchair ever since. His overall health is good but his emotional health is not. He is very down, angry at himself for having done drugs a second time and feeling guilty for that he can't be there for his sick wife. In the hospital he is very helpful to his peers, has learned to get around in the wheelchair easily and does errands for the bed-ridden.
Phet had asked Siam-Care staff to visit his wife as she was sick and we have done so regularly. Sadly she was not able to regain her health and died last week, Siam-Care staff attended the funeral and helped cover some of the cost. We have not been able to tell Phet about his wife before today, somehow he was expecting the news but as we told him he wheeled of to have some much needed time on his own. 

listening to very sick patient
listening to very sick patient
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