The Importance of Community Spirit During COVID-19 and Beyond
Published on: June 12, 2020
Staying home didn’t stop Khun Oramat from being proactive with seeking out a way to help the community. With the help of her community, they made more than 10,000 face shields for hospitals at a time when they were needed the most.
By Vana Kasemsri
For some families staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic meant more time could be spent with each other and where possible, to partake in activities to benefit their communities and good causes. One fine example was from Khun Oramat Tianpreecha, who took time during the lockdown in Bangkok to make face shields for Thai medical teams, who were giving their all to help the community during this unprecedented crisis.
Khun Oramat is a single mother who started a property business after she retired from full-time office work. Now 90% of her villas are occupied by expat families close to international schools in Bangna.
When news of the pandemic broke, and international schools started to close down, followed by company employees having to work from home, Khun Oramat needed to act fast to comply with government regulations. She prepared for dozens of families to be essentially stuck within compounds for several months.
Her security staff was kept busy with “temperature checks” and checkpoints, but her sales office team would not have much to do! Despite many businesses having to lay off people or send their workers back to their home provinces, Khun Oramat was determined to keep all her staff employed and hopefully, busy. Hence the idea of the face shield project was born.
After a friend introduced a Thai Red Cross project for the elderly, Khun Oramat was determined to make her own contribution. The Red Cross had a short video teaching the elderly how to make face shields as there were big demands from every hospital in the country.
She visited the Thai Red Cross to donate for them to purchase materials to make the face shields but instead returned home with face shield making materials herself!
Her daughter and granddaughters saw the materials and were eager to help. They set up a small production line inside the house, but the production line was not moving fast enough. After several days, Khun Oramat decided to set up the production line outside her home, with a couple of tables and chairs lined up under shady trees and enlisted her sales staff to help.
Days passed under the shade of the old communal trees and her efforts paid-off handsomely as she was able to box up over 1000 face shields, all sent to the neediest medical teams in different Bangkok Hospitals.
As the “housebound” period extended into April, many of her expat neighbors living within the villa compound saw her “face shield” making activity progressing. Every morning, with an eye for fun but meaningful outdoor activity to be involved in, they volunteered and joined in. The original production line expanded from the original two tables to seat all volunteer helpers who came each day. After their daily morning walks, families would stop by and contribute to the work before heading back home.
After weeks of progress, Khun Oramat and her neighborhood families were able to deliver 2000 more face shields to Thai hospitals before running out of the initial materials brought back from her first Red Cross visit.
Khun Oramat posted her activities on Facebook, hoping to gain more support to continue the work. Her prayers were answered as friends and neighbors praised her and sent over more materials. Many companies, whose employees were working at home also donated more materials. Khun Oramat and her family were able to continue with the face shield project until the end of April until, again, materials ran out.
By the beginning of May, hospitals had increasing government support and other donors, and Khun Oramat realized they no longer needed more donations of face shields. She can be extremely proud that by the end of April, she had sent over 10,000 “home-made” face shields to hospitals around Thailand responding to the hospitals who had contacted her personally through her Facebook posts.
She was happy to say that many of the face shields worn by medical staff at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn Hospital, Srithanya Hospital and other provincial hospitals such as Songkhla Nakharin Hospital and HRH Queen Sirikit Hospital in Sattahip to name a few, were made by her Fantasia Villas expat occupants and her family. They felt so fortunate to have had the chance to contribute.
As the pandemic situation has improved dramatically, Khun Oramat and her family have decided not to obtain any more donations for her face shield making project. She wants to now focus on other ways to help Thai communities and is actively looking for her next initiative. Khun Oramat also recognized that it can be extremely rewarding for expat communities living in Thailand to help those in need. After the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be a good time to make a greater contribution.
I am honored to have had the chance to meet and speak to Khun Oramat, who has inspired me and others in many ways to work selflessly for a cause. She was so passionate about doing good for the country. She was a true representative of a vibrant family-oriented expat community, helping to set up good examples for her family and community to do good for Thailand.
As we live in a world with so many unpredictable events, we must stay true to our values, and if there are opportunities to do good for the country and the communities, we should take them! I am certain that Khun Oramat will come into our minds when we are looking for inspiration or new ideas to do good. I truly feel that she uniquely represented a generation of grandmothers who believed in always setting good examples for their grandchildren. Isn’t this what we are all looking for – good examples for our kids?
For those interested in Face Shield making techniques, please send a message to Khun Oramat via her Facebook page at facebook.com/Fantasiavillath
Photos courtesy of the author.
About the Author
Vana Kasemsri, a Thai national born in the US, has lived overseas for a significant part of her life. She has been a BAMBI volunteer and now works for B Grimm Company, overseeing their charity and conservation projects. Vana enjoys spending her free time exploring Bangkok and its surrounding provinces with her family. She hopes to share her views and travel experiences with newcomers to Thailand and BAMBI members. You can email her at email@example.com.
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