Health
 Thailand
Project #7304

Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV

by Siam-Care Foundation
Vetted

We are very pleased to introduce to you, the latest addition to our prison team: Krutmuang Pongsagon. He is a young man who is an ex inmate himself. He wants to use his experience to help other inmates and is very compassionate towards them.

Growing up without his parents, Krutmuang ended up in the crime scene and started selling drugs. At one point he got arrested and ended up in a juvenile prison outside of Bangkok. In prison he was visited by a missionary and he became a Christian. His life was changed and after a couple of years, Krutmuang was released from prison. 

Different life
It has been many years since Krutmuang was in prison. Since he was released he really changed his ways. He got a job in a cafe that reaches out to university students and tries to counsel and help them during their study. He liked his job but really wanted to get in touch with inmates again. Not to be one of them, but to help them and warn them for the risks of an criminal lifestyle, full of drugs and (unprotected) sex. He knew one of the staff members of Siam-Care and after talking to them, Siam-Care offered him a job.

Easy to relate to each other
Krutmuang is a tough guy, with tattoos on his arms. He knows what it is like to be in prison. Hence it is easy for him to relate to prisoners and also easy for prisoners to relate to him. They believe him and have respect for him. He is a great addition to our team and will hopefully stay with Siam-Care for a long time. He did many prison visits with Siam-Care already over the past few months and showed that he has a lot of potential as a prison worker.

This time we won't share a specific story about one of our prisoners. In stead we will give you an overview of what we have done in 2015. And a quick summary of what our project looks like, for those who aren't familiar with Siam-Care.

Siam-Care’s goal is to help the marginalised in the Thai society. The HIV infected prisoners have two major cultural stigma attached to them - both of which society views as “unclean”. By giving them a second chance, we not only help the prisoners in their immediate surroundings, but we also help to rehabilitate them to reintegrate into the society they live in. For over 7 years, Siam-Care has been working with the Department of Corrections to help prisoners, especially those who are HIV infected, to gain more understanding about the virus and the different treatment and prescriptions of ARV that they can take. We have established a trust and good working relation with the government agency throughout our time there. Siam-Care works to fight against stigma and discrimination through raising awareness and counselling activities, helping the prisoners to become aware of the hope that they have at another chance in life.

What we did in 2015
Siam-Care’s staffs have worked to focus on two prisons in 2015. The new approach this year: to provide counselling to those who are not infected as well as to raise awareness and to eradicate preconceptions of living with those who are HIV infected. Many of our activities are fun and light-hearted, designed to lower the tense atmosphere of life inside a prison. The practical information provided means that other prisoners are less afraid to spend time with those who are HIV infected. Furthermore, the prisoners who are infected are provided crucial information, not only on their condition, but also regarding their social rights to free treatment and government benefits to help them combat the virus inside their bodies. Just like every year, Siam-Care’s staff and a large group of volunteers, sang Christmas carols in prison. This year we were also given the opportunity to explain why Christmas is celebrated. The event was much appreciated by both prison staff and the inmates. Also we handed out gift boxes with basic supplies, in both the male and female prison.

Result of the program
Siam-Care made 20 visits to the men’s prison hospital and the woman’s prison rehabilitation facility in 2015. The result of these program meant that over 70 prisoners received the assistance and counselling of Siam Care this year. We decided, this year, to conduct a session with non-infected and infected prisoners to raise awareness. The result is a better understanding between these two groups in living together. We were also engaged on the personal level through one-on-one counselling, ensuring that every individual person is cared for.

Our prison program in 2015 in numbers
2 prisons are part of Siam-Care’s prison
70 total prisoners helped this year. 35 male / 35 female
10 visits to the men’s prison hospital
10 visits to the woman’s prison rehabilitation facility.
300 prisoners received a gift package with Christmas, which were filled with underwair, tooth brush, soap, a little booklet about the gospel

Every 2 weeks Siam-Care visits a woman’s prison close to Bangkok. We meet many woman, who all have their own story. We would like to introduce you to Ang, a 33 year old mother of 2 children and sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Siam-Care’s goal for the prison project is two-fold. First of all we teach the inmates about HIV and other sexual transmitted diseases. In this way we help the inmates to protect themselves and to prevent the virus from spreading. Our second goal is to encourage woman and give them some love. Often prisoners have no one visiting them, our staff are the only people from the outsite world they see. Ang has two children, but their father, Ang’s ex-husband, doesn’t want the children to visit their mother.

A little distraction
Today we start with a game, to break the ice. Ang has a big smile on her face and is one of the most fanatic people in the game. She doesn’t win, but this doesn’t matter to her. She is happy that Siam-Care brings her some distraction from her boring prison life. She was arrested 3 years ago, because she was selling drugs. Forced by poverty, Ang was tempted to make some ‘easy money’. Her children needed to eat and Ang couldn’t find a regular job. She was caught by the police the very first time she delivered drugs to a customer.

HIV-infected since 14 years ago
Back to today’s session. During the training about HIV Ang listens carefully. She is HIV-infected herself, since she was 19 years old. Her children are not infected, because she always took her medication. Ang askes many questions and zealously makes notes. She wants to know every detail about the virus, so that she can prevent it from spreading.

Moments to treasure
After our session, before our staff goes back to Bangkok, Ang comes to our staff. She shares that she is a Christian and that is very thankful she can talk to other Christians (our staff). She asks us to pray with her and cries while we do this. Ang says she feels encouraged by our visits and that she is happy that we look after her. We only see her once every two weeks, but for her these moment are something she treasures. She feels loved and not so alone. There is not much we can do for her besides visiting her, but sometimes the little things we can do to encourage somebody, is just enough to keep somebody going.

Siam-Care often gives volunteers the opportunity to join their prison visits. Last month Mariet from the Netherlands came with Siam-Care to the Women's correctional institution of Pathum Thani. This is her story.

Imagine: you are in prison, you are HIV infected and because of that you are bullied, ignored. I don't think I would have been able to think positive about myself and my future.

My name is Mariët and I work as a volunteer for Siam-Care. Over the last couple of weeks I have seen how Siam-Care really cares (it's in the name) about people in a bad situation, like the HIV-infected prisoners. And how Siam-Care teaches about positive thinking in such dire situations.

Impressive results of 1 training
I've seen how Siam-Care in 1,5 hours teached 17 HIV-infected women in prison how to think and act positive. After the training the women told one by one what they had learned. It was amazing to hear their answers, I was quite impressed by what Siam-Care had achieved in such a short period. Wht the women shared? Here are some of their answers: 
- I've learned how to transform my negative thoughts  into positive thoughts.
- I've learned that I have a negative self image and that my negatieve thoughts subsequently cause negative actions as well.
- After the training I know that I'm not the only one in this situation, I've made new friends.
- I now challenge myself to think in a positive way about my future
- When I'm alone it's easy to have low self esteem and a negative self image, but now I understand the impact of my thoughts  on my feelings. I will try to change my wat of thinking so that I will feel better.

Bring hope together
If it wasn't for Siam-Care, nobody would tell the inmates that they are precious and valuable. Valuable enough to have a positive self image. Without Siam-Care nobody would teach the women how to have positive thoughts. And they wouldn't gather and make new friends. I hope you are touched by these women and the work that Siam-Care does among them. Thank you for making this possible by donating to this project. Together we can bring hope to people without hope.

 

Prison outreach
Prison outreach

Siam-Care has been visiting prisoners for many years now. Especially in the hospital section of the Klong Prem prison in Bangkok we have counselled hundreds of inmates. In this update we would like to share how we use your donations to make a difference for people in a dark place.

2 times a month 3 of our staff members reach out to the prisoners in the hospital section of the notorious Klong Prem prison. The section where we conduct our program is only for HIV-infected prisoners. Most of them only found out in prison that they were infected, which means they have very little knowledge of HIV/Aids. Therefore we always use one of our 2 monthly sessions so teach about HIV/Aids; how do you prevent the infection from spreading, why is it important to take your medication, etc. Most prisoners don’t stay long in the hospital section, every session we meet new people. Hence it is important to keep on sharing the basics of HIV/Aids.

Life after prison
But today we didn’t come to educate the inmates. The second of the 2 monthly session, we use to counsil prisoners and talk about their situation. Today we have decided to talk about the future, about life after prison. This is a difficult subject, since some inmates will never experience freedom again. Some of them will die in prison, others have to serve a life sentence in prison. Thankfully most of the prisoners will be released at some point, sometimes in a few months, sometimes in a few years or even decades.

Prove they can do good
During our session we challenge the inmates to draw their future. What will it look like? Some prisoners draw a big house and a big car. Some draw themselves working and making a lot of money. But the vast majority draws themselves being reunited with their family. They all feel like they have let down their parents, partners and children. They feel guilty and want to make up for what they have done. As Siam-Care we believe that everybody deserves a second chance. Even murderers, thiefs and rapists. Will you enable us to let the inmates dream about a better future? A future in which they will change their behaviour and get a second chance? Thank you for your donations, which allow us to give hope to people who have messed up once, but are dying to show the world that they can do good as well.

 

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Organization Information

Siam-Care Foundation

Location: Bangkok - Thailand
Website: http:/​/​www.siamcare.org
Project Leader:
Jan-Peter Kelder
Manager of Communications
Bangkok, Thailand

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