Project #7304

Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV

by Siam-Care Foundation

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.

Broken wings
Broken wings

A group of women, dressed in blue. Isolated from the outside world. And a little bird, free to fly out. Singer Anouk from The Netherlands once sang a strange song about birds. When I was in the prison for women, this song suddenly made sense.

As part of our activities, the women did a little performance. One of them carried a sign ‘HIV-infected’. Facing her with disgust, another woman took a step back and shivered. We all laughed about it. But in my heart, it made me cry. This time it was a performance, but outside prison it happens every day. Sometimes being yourself is wrong apparently.

Though the women seem happy when we visit them, their faces sometimes show something else. Some of the inmates are young, but look old and tired. Sometimes they smile, but seconds later they sadly stare at the sky. Their minds wander off, who knows what their futures will look like?

A small bird flew into the group and landed on the shoulder of a young woman. The woman told me proudly: “that’s our bird, we take care of it”. I watched how the bird flew to different women and made them smile for a while. It made me think of the song of Dutch singer Anouk. “Birds falling down the rooftops, out of the sky like raindrops. No air, no pride. That’s why birds don’t fly.” I never understood the lyrics, but now I do. When you have been a prisoner and you have HIV, you are considered amongst the lowest of Thai society. With no air and no pride, you are like a bird with one wing. Even your hope can turn into fear.

But hope is strong. And we come to prison to repair the other wing. We come to give back hope and dignity. We tell the women about their value, despite of their illness. We share God’s love and teach them self-confidence. And we hope that one day, when they are released from prison, they will spread out their wings and fly.

HIV in prison: an open secret

She cried: “Can you please call my old mom and tell her I miss her?” Over 2000 women are being kept in the Correctional Institution in Patum Thani Thailand, mainly because of drugs. A lot of them feel ashamed of being in prison and never told their families where they are. They just ‘disappeared’, leaving their families without a clue. This week we paid our first visit to this prison, where we will support HIV-infected woman.

“We started to work in the Correctional Institution this week”, tells Siam-Care’s staff members Ongard. “The prison staff had heard of Siam-Care from other prisons that we work in and wanted us to help them out. All inmates had to do a blood test for HIV/AIDS before we came, even if they did not want to. Some of the women just found out that they are infected a couple minuts before we visited them. The impact on their lives is huge and thankfully we could help them immediately. The women were scared and had a lot of questions: “Will I die? Can I still eat beef?” We gave information about health and living with their infection. Most of the women feel lonely in prison and felt cheered up after we visited them. Especially because we brought them donuts; they are not used to specials treats like that anymore. When you’re in a difficult position small things can give you hope, like aomeone who simply listens to your story or even a donut.

Fighting for the future
Coming months we’ll keep visiting the inmates. We usually start with some recreational games, to break the ice. In the meanwhile we will tell them how to use their medicines. The first time the infected women had to come to the hospital, other prisoners looked at them through the bars. Hence everyone in prison knows about their health status. That is why the women feel very exposed and vulnerable. They see themselves as sick and infectious and have a negative self image and low self esteem.. Due to your donations we are able to help them. You enable us to change the attitude of these women towards HIV/AIDS. We want the women to feel confident and show them that they still have a future. Because hope for the future, gives new energy to fight for it. And that can make a big difference in their lives.

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Organization Information

Siam-Care Foundation

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