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.
May 14, 2012

Summer in Thailand

Thailand has experienced a very hot summer season this March/April/May 2012! For the elderly, small children, the sick and prisoners it has been a hard time. One can scarcely begin to imagine what it must be like for prisoners: packed into a overcrowded cell, surrounded by sweaty bodies laying next to each other like sardines in a tin, with few if any ventilator and mostly one toilet to be shared among the many. Bad moods are easily triggered and result in quarrels and fights. But are also quickly resolved as all are in the same 'boat' and all need to help each other survive. Prisoners are locked up for long hours, up to 14 hours a day from 4 pm to 6 am with very little space to move. Spending so many hours in such close contact with others they frequently suffer from skin diseases and are at risk of contracting TB, which is very prevalent.
The good thing about the summer season is that it is holiday time for the schools and so children of prisoners are able to visit their parents. Often the waiting and visiting area is full of children playing around while mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts and other relatives hold a conversation with the imprisoned family member through the provided telephone. Parents are happy to see their children again, even if it is from a distance of a meter and half through 2 sets of bars and glass and talking can only be through the telephone.
Thailand ranks number 6 on the list of www.nationmaster.com of statistics of prisoners worldwide. Current numbers show that as of April 2012,  234,678 people were incarcerated in Thailand. This number has seen a steadily increasing trend since 2007 when it was 159,155. Bangkok houses over 29.000 of those counted.
As everywhere in the world poverty continues to play a role in the crime scene. Although Thailand increased it's minimum wage to 300 Baht (9.50 Dollar) a day for Bangkok and 5 other provinces and given a 40% increase in all other provinces, it is far from a sufficient amount to survive on with a family.  The gesture of increase looks good but as the minimum wage paid in Thailand is not indexed to inflation, it has been declining constantly in real terms since the 1997 economic crisis.
    And so the struggle to make ends meet continues on and those in need often make (desperate) wrong decisions and take risks; sometimes ending up behind bars.  Recently the news has almost daily reported on people being caught selling amphetamines, many from the poor communities. It seems to be an ongoing problem... where and how to end it? In prison? Is that the best solution for the families? 
    Over the past months the Siam-Care team has worked with prisoners and their families, visiting, encouraging and supporting them to stay in contact through visit as well as helping the caregivers of the children to prepare the children for the new school year which starts end of May 2012. New books, uniforms and school equipment needed to be bought which was possible with the support of our friends like you! Thank you!
     
For an inside view from a westerner in a Thai prison click on the link

Links:

Mar 1, 2012

New Life for Ning

Ning and Fern
Ning and Fern

Ning is a 36 year old mother who spend the last 7 years of her life in prison for selling drugs. She is not your regular drug dealer; after her husband left her and her mother became sick she didn't know how to cover all the family expenses she was responsible for. Fern's (her daughter) school costs, her mother's hospital's bill and the family's running costs; food, clothing etc. Selling some amphetamines seemed the only option to make ends meet, but ended in a prison sentence. When the King of Thailand celebrated his 84th birthday last December 2011, (7 complete cycles of 12 years) special amnesty was given to many prisoners and Ning was one of the fortunate ones who received a reduction of her sentence which was enough to secure her release, after which she joined her mother and daughter again in their family home. What a joyful reunion it was!

But soon the stresses of every day started to weigh heavy on Ning; she had to help her family earn an income, especially since she hadn't been able to do anything for them the past 7 years. Ning got to know Siam-Care while in prison where Siam-Care runs activities and provides counseling for HIV positive prisoners. It was through this contact in the first place that we got to know Ning and her family. Ning was very worried about them and asked us to visit them and see how they were since they didn't have much contact. Ning wasn't sure if her daughter was even going to school. Siam-Care visited Ning's mother and daughter and learned that the transportation costs, to visit prison, were too much for them, they missed Ning but couldn't afford to visit. Siam-Care was able to help them with bus fees to visit Ning. Also Siam-Care was able to  offer an educational sponsorship to Fern the daughter who is an outstanding student.

Now, after her release, Ning came to see us out at our centre in Bangkok seeing advice and counsel about  continuing her ARV medication (finding the right hospital, making the correct hospital card) and also asking counsel about job opportunities. Siam-Care was once again able to help her; Ning now received treatment from a hospital nearby and is in very good health.  Also we gave her a small loan to set up a street-side stall selling barbequed chicken and barbequed bread.

Ning is selling reasonable well, enough to cover the daily family costs and save up a little for Fern and the future. She is someone who is thankful for the new chance she got in life and resentful of her past action. She is a reformed mother determined to give Fern a better chance for the future so she won't have to make wrong choices as Ning did herself. Thanks to support from GlobalgGving Siam-Care was able to help Ning and many others have a hope for the future and keep their heads high after being released from prison! Thank you!

Links:

Oct 31, 2011

Prison flooded in Thailand

Siam-Care staff preparing emergency bags
Siam-Care staff preparing emergency bags

Siam-Care Thailand
October 2011 update on Prison Project
Prisons Flooded!

Many thanks to all of you who have support our prison project over the past months. With the persisting floods in central Thailand, we are all the more thankful and in need of assistance to help the many prisoners and their families in the flooded areas.
    As the floods started to rise, the prisons were affected as well. In the case of Ayutthaya prison the water came so quick that the move came too late and many had to wade through chest-deep water to get to the buses that brought them to other, mostly already overcrowded prisons.
    Phatum Thanee correctional Institute for female offenders is one of the places Siam-Care works, but we won't be going there for a while; now all that remains are the empty buildings as all 1200 female offenders were moved to the northeast. A good 6 hour bus ride  away from Bangkok. It is not difficult to understand that the receiving prisoners were not too happy; such a huge infulx in already overcrowded places is very difficult for all. We are happy to say that we remain in contact with the nurse who moved along with them all and is making sure all HIV positive women receive their medication.
    For many of the family members this is a real time of heart-ache; often they don't know where their loved ones are moved to an no one knows when they will be moved back and when visits will resume.
    From one of the main Bangkok male prisons, Bangkwang, many were moved over the past week. On Saturday busses left in the afternoon and a harrowing 19 hour bus drive followed; chained up two by two with only a little drinking water each and an occasional toilet stop, they arrived in the south the following morning. Then had to cue up for over an hour in the burning sun to receive a meager meal and find themselves in very overcrowded, and unhygienic circumstances. Many had not been able to inform their families they were moving and still many relatives remain in doubt as to the whereabouts of their loved-ones. Local embassies and the prison authorities can be called for this information.
    As the flooding is far from over, Siam-Care is working hard to let families know the whereabouts of their relatives and establish contact between them if possible. Also emergency supplies for affected families as well as much counseling by telephone and talking to children who are worried about their parent, take up a lot of our work at the moment. The staff are working hard and putting in extra hours and we are thankful for your support to us in all this.

A family that received supplies
A family that received supplies
Moving out of prison to higher grounds
Moving out of prison to higher grounds

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