On April 24 a devastating fire struck a slum community in the Rama 9 area of Bangkok. Fifty-one homes were destroyed leaving 178 people homeless, including 61 children and 117 adults. Among the homeless are four children with severe disabilities and 11 elderly residents.
The situation is dire. Most families in this community are headed by parents who work as day laborers, earning below the minimum daily wage (300 baht - approx. US $10.) Like most slum residents, they are already over-burdened with household debt. And following the fire they have lost what little they ever called their own.
The slum community leaders and residents have asked our Mercy Centre to assist.
Our outreach and housing teams are working hand in hand with the community. In addition to providing emergency assistance with food and shelter, we are helping the community to organize and petition government welfare and housing offices in order to rebuild the 51 homes as quickly as possible.
There are obstacles all along the way. Even removing the debris left in the wake of the fire is a major hurdle that requires petitioning government authorities. As soon as we can, we will start to rebuild.
Please help us as the need is urgent. The government will provide some support; and the community itself will provide much of the labor; but our own costs in rebuilding the community, home by home, are staggering. Please see the detailed housing costs below. Our out-of-pocket costs are 54,000 Thai Baht (approximately US $1,800) per home
Slum fires create chaos, especially when they hit squatter communities, like this one, where the residents have few or no rights to rebuild their homes on the land where they have lived their whole lives.
In the past 40 years we have come to the aid of dozens of communities throughout Bangkok – and built over 10,000 homes - following major slum fires. We know how to expedite construction and how to rebuild in ways that strengthen the community and make it safer. In every instance, we have needed additional support from our friends around the world.
Please help as you can today. The community needs to move quickly if it is to survive as a community. Please contact us if you would like more details. Pictured above - community residents left homeless; below, remnants of their homes.
Per home reconstruction costs: (Thai Baht)
Foundation pillars: 4,000
Door/Door frames: 2,000
Dry wall: 3,500
Screws, nails, bolts: 500
Toilet: 1000 Plus
Electric and Water: 20,000
Food/Emergency Aid: 1,000
Total Cost per home: 84,000 Thai Baht (note: 31 Baht = US $1)
Government Subsidy: 30,000
Mercy Centre’s Cost: 54,000 Baht per home (Approx. US $1,800)
A major fire occurred earlier this week in the Rama 9 slum community. One community member died; another is still missing; and forty-eight homes were destroyed. Mercy Social Workers are assisting the community – cooking food, bringing bedding, securing life’s daily necessities, and ensuring that the children are safe and healthy. We are coordinating with community leaders as well as housing and government authorities to rebuild every home lost to the fire.
In addition, earlier this week there was a second slum fire - this one in the Bon Kai slum community. Twenty homes were destroyed. We are surveying the damage, speaking with community leaders, and will update you with specific needs and requests for assistance regarding both fires next week.
Photo above: K. Prapai, a Mercy social worker, surveys the devastation in the Rama 9 slum community. Below, a food vendor's cart - and livelihood - are destroyed by the fire.
In the past 40 years, the Human Development Foundation has built over 10,000 homes following devastating slum fires.
In receiving his promotion to Second Lieutenant within the Port Authority Precinct of the Royal Thai Police, Khun Aumnaj Boonyamatee asked Fr. Joe to pin his new insignia to his police uniform. Of the many formal and informal ceremonial duties that Fr. Joe performs, he says that this one gave him great honor because Khun Aumnaj is a true slum hero: Second Lietenant Aumnaj works with our Mercy legal aid teams to protect the poorest and most vulnerable Klong Toey children.
Yesterday we celebrated the Songkran holiday – as we always do, according to Thai traditions – by giving honor to our elderly neighbors. Hundreds of Klong Toey slum grandmoms and granddads attended the ceremonies, led by the Monks from Wat Saphan, our local Temple. Fr. Joe and Sister Maria spoke to our elderly neighbors, thanking them for being the heart and soul of our beloved Klong Toey slum: “You gave birth to your children here,” Father Joe said, “and you raised your families here.... You are what make our slum a beautiful and holy place. We are what we are today because of you.”
We wish all our friends a very Happy Thai New Year! (Photo gallery here.)
We wish to share with you a feature article about Fr. Joe and Mercy Centre recently published in Ireland’s Sunday Business Post Magazine. You can view the article here. Please be a little patient – it may take a minute to download.
Thank you all, as always, for your friendship and support.
Usanee and the Mercy Teams
Our Scriptures say that Jesus fasted for 40 days & 40 nights. Then Angels came to minister to him. And I love that ancient story dating from the 3rd Century that the Angels went to visit Mary his Mother, asking her to cook Jesus' favorite food, so Mary cooked the food and the angels brought it to Jesus. His first meal after fasting.
And also I believe that the picture above is most probably one of the Angel Children bringing/sharing her food with Jesus. Why not! Our God is beyond space and time. And this Mogan Sea Gypsy girl, named Miss Gah Yeek, living in destitute poverty on an island 40 minutes by fast boat in the Andaman Sea off Thai shore - a tiny island where we teach school and save lives. She is bringing her lunch home and meets Jesus on the way. And I’m sure He Blessed her and ate a little bit to show politeness, (so she wouldn’t be offended) then asked her to take the rest home to her little brother & sister.
Of course, she’s a very real little girl. Her dad’s at sea, left their Island a couple days ago for a 3 weeks as an illegal ‘hire on’ Sea Gypsy on an illegal fishing boat, pointed past Myanmar towards India. When he left, he hugged her; gave her all the money he had which was about $.50 cents USD. Told her sternly to look after her little brother & sister. That he’d catch a big fish – her favorite kind - they could cook and have a big meal. Said he’d be back as soon as he could.
So we honor her dignity and position. As you would do for any angel! Noon time at our shack kindergarten… just dish out a huge triple-portion on her plate. The ritual is this: she eats her fill, tells teacher "my tummy is full." Then teacher gently scolds her for taking more on her plate than she can eat, but teacher says, "Miss Gah Yeek you must take the extra food home. Don’t waste food !!!!" And looking at her picture, as she walks home in the village - I’m so sure she has just met Jesus along the way and offered Him some.
Surely times change. Truths do not. So this year, let this be our Easter Story. We teach – save lives of Mogan Sea Gypsy children down in middle South Thailand. A few days ago a friend took this portrait of Miss Gah Yeek." A portrait of hope, love, suffering, hunger. Resurrection. Always hope – always a new tomorrow.
We at Mercy. Me, fr joe, and our team… dream dreams and know that tomorrow is going to be beautiful. Our Jesus has Died in terrible suffering, but has Risen … overcome all the bad stuff. And this little girl… well what do I say … perhaps… almost certainly that she has seen the very face of God and lived. And may you all do the same.
Pray for us – rejoice for us – party for us – help us …Even to know – to have met – to speak to this Mogan Sea Gypsy girl is an honor and a privilege. To be able to give her a meal – send her to school – teach her to read and write. That’s glory beyond belief. Glory none of us deserve here on this earth.
To you all, our Mercy Family - a Glorious Easter in which we all can share.
Fr Joe & all of us.