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Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV

by Siam-Care Foundation
Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV
Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV
Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV
Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV
Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV
Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV
Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV
Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV

Siam-Care often welcomes volunteers. Lisanne van Hasselaar is one of them. She joined us on several prison visits and wanted to share her experiences. This is her story

I found myself lucky to join the female staff of Siam-Care to the woman prison. We went there to train and educate a group of prisoners about HIV. And I was amazed by what I saw here. So I would like to share this with you.

It was a large group with various women. One young, the other old, some very womanly and the other boyish. At first some of them were a little reserved, but after a game they warmed up. Then, we started singing. And I have never seen a group of woman singing so loud, with so much power and with so much joy. All the women where clapping, laughing and singing. For them it was a moment of happiness, with no thinking about their situation. 

After breaking the ice, the staff started with a pre-test and started explaining about the spread of HIV. And they did it in an amazing and interactive way. With little cups of water and a syringe. One of the woman had ‘infected water’ and the others were clean. All the woman had to take a little bit of water of their own cup and put it into another cup. This represented having sexual intercourse. They did this several times and in the end we had to test the water. In the end, half of the group had infected water. It was a fun and effective way of explaining about the spread of HIV.

This way, the woman had a fun activity and they learned something. By participating in this training they had to pay attention and they will remember the message better. In the coming weeks the staff will come back to do more of these trainings. And at the end they will do a post-test, so we will know if the trainings are effective. I really think the staff does a great job with the woman in this prison.

In 2019 Siam-Care conducted 48 training sessions in 7 different prisons. For every kind of prison there is a different approach. It is a lot of work, but the results are good. So they keep on doing this great work. 

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Siam-Care often welcomes volunteers. This time, our current volunteer Lisanne van Hasselaar would like to share her experience of visiting a prison in Bangkok. This is her story.

On a regular basis, Siam-Care visits the hospital-section of the highly secured Klong Prem prison in Bangkok. I was privaleged to join the team this day, so I can tell you what I have seen and what Siam-Care is doing here. Most inmates we visite in this prison, are infected with and tb. Unfortunately, if you have HIV in Thailand, you are worth nothing in the eyes of many. In our eyes though, this is a big fat lie.

Pasport control, going through a heavy door, through a bodyscan portal, a human bodyscan and yet another highly secured door. We were inside, and I felt it immediately. Groups of prisoners were watching us, maybe they do this all the time or maybe it is because I am a foreinger. Some of them were trying to make eyecontact, and smiled at me. Others were just looking without showing any emotion. Some were looking sick, some looked healthy, some were wearing cuffs and some did not. Did it feel safe? Not at all, to be honest. Thankfully I know Siam-Care comes here every two weeks, to coach, consult, teach and listen to the inmates, so I knew I didn't have to be afraid. Once we got in, we soon started talking with some inmates.

Touched my heart
Of course I don’t speak Thai, so I had the chance to observe the inmates and the staff of Siam-Care. The first man we talked to was kind, he looked at both of us and told us freely about his situation. Despite the fact that his situation was not good at all. Although I did not understand him, this man touched my heart. That was because of what I read in his eyes. I saw a glimpse of hope; a hope for a better life; ahope for a good future. We explained to him some things about his disease(s) and listened to what he wanted to tell us. We could see from his attitude that he liked that we were listening. It felt like he even appreciated that I was listening, someone who couldn't understand a word. So the conversation with this man was successful. Especially because at the end of the conversation, in his eyes, I did see hope and even a spark of joy. That was very precious, both for me and him.

Lost all hope
The contrast with the second prisoner was very big. He was almost going to be released, so I expected to see some joy there. But when this man looked straight into my eyes, I got a lump in my throat. There was no hope in his eyes, no joy. His eyes were cold and dark. This man had lost all hope for a better life, perhaps that is because he feels he is not worth it. Afterwards P' Wan (staff of Siam-Care) told me that he intends to continue his life the way he did before. I am afraid that the chance that he will die soon or will return to Klong Prem is high.

Listening ear
I think that this man gave up. And P' Wan did what she could, she tried to convince him, give good advice. But I wonder whether he will listen. So now you might perhaps wonder: Is the work of Siam-Care for nothing? Well, I can only give one answer to that: absolutely not! We may not get through to every prisoner, but every person we can help is worth it. Like the first man, who walked away from our table full of hope and a spark of joy. That man knows that we think it is worth it. And in the end that's what they all have to learn. They need to know that they are worth it even if they have HIV. This is what Siam-Care does in this prison. They explain about HIV, what it does to your body and how you can stop it from spreading to others. But they mainly offer a listening ear, they support the prisoners and bring hope. That is something invaluable.

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Satang (2012) is a 7 year old boy who lives with his mother Pla (1997) and sister Stamp (march 2014) in Bangkok, Thailand. Father Todsaphon (1996) was caught selling drugs and is now in prison. As this family has lost their breadwinner, Siam-Care looks after them.

The family is very poor and struggles hard to make ends meet. People from poor backgrounds are often being approached by drugsdealers, who need someone to deliver the drugs for them. Satang's father fell for this, as he was in serious need of money. Unfortunately, he was caught by the police. Siam-Care's prison project is more than just training for inmates. We also look after families who have lost their breadwinner.

Mother is former sponsor child
Mother Pla is unemployed because she has to take care of her children. Father Todsaphon use to have different jobs and accepted all the work that he ccould possibly find: repairing cars, cleaning, etc. He made around 4000 Thai Baht a month, which was absolutely not enough to survive on. Siam-Care knows this family because mother Pla used to receive an educational sponsorship because her parents were HIV-infected. With our support she was able to study, but ended up being pregnant at the age of 15. 

Room without a door
Satang and his mother and sister live in with father’s family. They live in a tiny room without a door; they have to enter the house through the window. Satang’s grandfather Pramoth is a monk and sometimes shares some of the food that other people give him because he is a monk. Unfortunately he drinks a lot as well and oftren lays on the floor, being very drunk.

Happy boy
Despite his dire situation, Satang is a happy and jovial boy. At the moment he studies in the first grade of kindergarten and after the summer holiday, he will start in the second grade. Because of his age it is hard to tell if he is a smart boy, but he likes to go to school and seems to be doing well.

 

 

 

 

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As you perhaps know, Siam-Care works with HIV-infected inmates. Many of them either get infected in prison, or only discover in prison that they are infected. Should all inmates perhaps be tested on arrival in prison? A Dutch student does her graduation thesis on this subject.

Some people argue that all inmates should be tested when they arrive in prison. Other's want prisoners to decide for themselves. Currently the policy in most Thai prisons is that inmates only get tested when they feel sick and/or show symptons of HIV. Siam-Care would like for all prisoners to at least have the opportunity to get tested, so that appropriate treatment can be provided as early as possible in the sickness-process. 

A dutch student from the Netherlands will do her thesis on this subject. From February until August this year, she will do interviews with prison staff, with inmates, and with Siam-Care staff. Her main goal is to bring all views together and come up with a suitable advice for Thai prisons. The student will also make a comparison of Thai prisons and prisons in the Netherlands, to see if they can learn from each other.

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Wong (not real name) is a 18 year-old boy, who will spend the next 10 years in prison and is HIV-infected. A while ago, he felt so depressed that he tried to kill himself. Thankfully, Siam-Care was able to help him.

Wong comes from Nakhom Phanom, a province near Bangkok, where he grew up together with his mother and 2 younger sisters. His father left the house just after his youngest sister was born. He started a new family and hasn't been in touch with Wong or his family for more than 10 years already. Wong's mother makes some money by growing vegetables and selling these at the local market. The family struggled hard to make ends meet and forces by the family's dire financial situation, Wong started selling drugs when he was only 14 years old.

Arrested and sentenced
During his first month as a drug runner, Wong made more than his mother makes in a whole year. He enjoyed his life, had many friends and did not worry about a single thing. Until he was arrested a couple weeks later. One of his clients set him up and called the police. Wong was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison. In prison, he underwent a medical test and discovered that he was HIV-infected.

End his life
Wong's world collapsed. He felt depressed after hearing about his condition that he tried to kill himself. Thankfully, the prison staff was able to save Wong and they contacted Siam-Care, as we work with HIV-infected prisoners. Our staff made an emergency visit to prison, as no regular visits were scheduled for that week. We talked with Wong and gave him an idea of was his future could look like. He felt relieved hearing that HIV-infected people can live a pretty normal life, as long as they take their ARV-medication. 

Started fighting again
This all happened a couple months ago and Wong is still in prison. There isn't much we can do for him. Just by informing him about his infection and offering him a shoulder to cry on, we gave him some hope. He still doesn't feel too happy as he will be in prison for many more years, but at least he is not fighting again. 

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Organization Information

Siam-Care Foundation

Location: Bangkok - Thailand
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Jan-Peter Kelder
Manager of Communications
Bangkok, Thailand

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