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Another Thread About Giving Money To Thais


chiangmaibruce

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There seems to have been a proliferation of threads about giving money to Thais lately, or at least to Thai ladies anyway. And of course twice a week someone insists on starting a new thread about the value of the Baht. Without wanting to come across as any sort of moral compass, I thought I'd put forward a slightly different perspective on both.

Last weekend my wife and her mother went to visit a sick friend who lives in our village. She had kidney failure and her family could not afford treatment (presumably dialysis), let alone the kidney transplant that she probably needed. This was the first I heard about her plight. As someone with poor Thai language skills I am all too often the last to know.

She was bed-ridden and relied on her family for everything. They managed to borrow a special bed from the hospital on the day my wife visited. It would help them take care of her, but it wouldn't fit through the doorway. She was going to have to sleep outside somewhere, maybe in a shed. I'm not sure what they eventually organized, but anyway just two days later she died.

She was the same age as me, and had a daughter about 4 years old. The girl was riding around on her bike today, in her special 'party dress', too young I guess to realize what has happened. The lady's husband has a serious drinking problem but in the last few months he has been looking a lot better, perhaps trying to pull it together for his family.

My wife and I went round to their house yesterday to help a little with early preparations for the death ceremony. My wife happened to ask about the coffin - apparently the one they were using then was borrowed as they couldn't afford to buy one. Some members of the family then came to our house late today to see if we could donate the money they needed to do so.

I am the only farang here. There was one living here when I arrived, a drunk who lived with a series of houseboys. He disappeared though when he ran out of money (after unsuccessfully trying to borrow some from me).

This is the first time I have been asked for anything like this (I mean apart from the things that everyone in the village contributes to, like money for electricity for the temple or house-warming parties). For all their problems, they are mostly good people here. So I am pretty sure they would only ask if they were desperate.

I often joke with my wife about building up our bank of "positive Buddha points" for doing good deeds like saving lizards from her dogs, etc. Apparently you earn a lot of points for buying a coffin (for someone else), not that this was a key factor in our decision as to whether to help.

One of our neighbours has no arms. He was a painter who admits he was careless at the end of a long day, and touched electric wires. He used to be an alcoholic and beat his wife before the accident, but then suddenly he needed her for everything. Karma, huh? But she was there for him. And despite the odd times that he has fallen off the wagon since then, she is still there for him. He spends his days 'raking' fallen leaves with his feet and talking to his collection of sickly dogs.

Another woman who lived down the road was also an alcoholic, with a boy about 4-5 years old who was often fed by neighbours, and two teenage daughters. The boy would witness god only knows what when his mother returned home in a stupor with her latest man friend. She financed her drinking career by taking out successive loans against the value of her house. I almost had to grab her at a local celebration one day when she tried to kick her son whilst drunk. Luckily a distant relative and respected local lady quickly stepped in to shepherd the boy to safety. A few short months later she was in a mental hospital as by then she could not remember her family. She staged a partial recovery and came home only to resume drinking. Within months she too was dead.

Also living a short distance away was a very pleasant lady who was our local recycling person. I often saw her ride past with her on her rattly old motorbike pulling her little trailer of salvaged bits and pieces. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer and her condition quickly deteriorated. During this time her daughter, who was unmarried and still attending university, became pregnant to her younger unemployed boyfriend. Within three months sadly she was gone. Her daughter refused an abortion and unfortunately her mother's thoughts in her final days centred on worrying about how her daughter would manage. She had some insurance but apparently most of that went towards costs associated with the death ceremony (incl. whisky).

So outside the gated estates and some distance from the bright lights and beer bars, this is the reality here. At home in farangland the decision whether to give to charity (or however you want to describe it) is detached and clinical, and easily avoided. I certainly managed to avoid it pretty well, as most of us do. But there is personal tragedy all around us here in Thailand.

Why is there so much tragedy? There is the Thais lax approach to 'healthy' lifestyle and personal safety – and their lack of thought regarding spending and saving their money. So you could say that they bring it on themselves. Why can't they be more careful? Put money away for a 'rainy day' just as we were taught to do?

Then again - Why don't we who live/d in the affluent west with nice cars and nice houses in nice suburbs, smile any more? Why do some women & girls there literally starve themselves to death when they can afford the best food? I guess we have our reasons too.

And without meaning to be an apologist for foolish behaviour, there are other factors to be considered. Things like a lack of anything that could be called real leadership, a deeply flawed education system, low salaries, little workplace safety, and of course virtually no social welfare.

So by all means fellow TV posters, keep sending those money transfers, if you feel a need. With any luck some of it will flow though to help the sort of people who really need it - rather than just financing new mobile phones. If you find yourself in a giving frame of mind though, there are alternative recipients out there. Orphanages spring to mind, for example. Perhaps you could even suggest a small reallocation of funds along these lines with your lady friend. The manner in which she reacts might tell you just how "different from the others" she really is.

Some time or another we could probably all use some of those "positive points".

Perhaps sometimes by not giving we are ripping ourselves off.

I am not under any allusion though that the application of money alone will change people's behaviour, let alone affect any sort of lasting fix. And this applies whether the issue is stopping a global recession, or stopping a woman working in a bar.

Some TV posters make the point that it is not the farangs responsibility to support the lady (or her family). True in part. But to some degree it is everyone's responsibility to look out for those around us. It has to be. The tough part is weighing up all the various competing or conflicting issues to arrive at a decision that we can feel good about, or at least can live with.

I would be interested to hear about others' views on this subject. I already know I'm a loser, so we can take those posts as having already been read, thank you.

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Good point. :o Interesting post,certainly gets you thinking.I support a young boy(As well as my Thai family) who otherwise could not afford to go to school.He is now like a son to me.I also support a young girl near Chiang mai for her schooling through Compassion and my friends support children in an orphanage in Petchaburi.It is a good feeling when you see their smiles. :D

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well i guess if your gonna give,give wisely.

as for the cost of the funeral,some food for the monks plus a little donation to the temple.use a cardboard coffin,they do this in the west now,why spend a fortune on something thats going to be burnt.

the village you live in sounds like a typical thai village,with its typical ailments,and all the incidents you have recorded re alcohol,accidents or premature deaths through lack of taking care of oneself or a lack of free hospital care are all to blame.

there is no answer,thais would take it in their stride as its a part of their life,but for us who come from the west and know there's some better way its hard to witness these things,but being a farang here you can only do so much,so weigh how best to donate what you can afford to.

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well i guess if your gonna give,give wisely.

as for the cost of the funeral,some food for the monks plus a little donation to the temple.use a cardboard coffin,they do this in the west now,why spend a fortune on something thats going to be burnt.

the village you live in sounds like a typical thai village,with its typical ailments,and all the incidents you have recorded re alcohol,accidents or premature deaths through lack of taking care of oneself or a lack of free hospital care are all to blame.

there is no answer,thais would take it in their stride as its a part of their life,but for us who come from the west and know there's some better way its hard to witness these things,but being a farang here you can only do so much,so weigh how best to donate what you can afford to.

Thats sooo true! It makes you cringe when you see people digging their own hole,and know there is nothing you can do about it. :o

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thats nice that you help out tritex,cant say i do in the same way,but i do help out back on the farm from time to time.i remember teaching english in a village school near si sa ket years ago,and was amazed at how well dressed the pupils were and how polite,always smiling.the govt. instituted school lunch for the kids and a thai teacher said sometimes when things were bad(bad harvest etc)it was the only meal the children got.

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thats nice that you help out tritex,cant say i do in the same way,but i do help out back on the farm from time to time.i remember teaching english in a village school near si sa ket years ago,and was amazed at how well dressed the pupils were and how polite,always smiling.the govt. instituted school lunch for the kids and a thai teacher said sometimes when things were bad(bad harvest etc)it was the only meal the children got.

I think it also comes down to finances,as i am not retired i have a bit extra to help some people that need it.Also it is a "feel good" thing,i guess kind of like giving Christmas gifts,you know?I have seen where some kids only get that meal you are talking about,quite sad.But unfortunately,it is impossible to help every kid in Thailand that needs it.Only the government could do that,so nice to have a few billion baht to throw around on your favourite soccer team! :o

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Then again - Why don't we who live/d in the affluent west with nice cars and nice houses in nice suburbs..............,

Good post. The only problem I had with it was the above comment. While I don't pretend that the extent of poverty and misery are nearly as prevalent in the West as they are in Thailand, I can tell you first hand that there are plenty of people hurting in the so called "developed" countries as well and all indications are that there will be a lot more in the next few years as the world economy continues to decline.

If you are not the kind of person who would help your neighbour in need in the West then you probably aren't the type who would help anyone here either.

If you are so inclined to help those in need, and bless you if you are, then the only thing I would add to your post would be to re-emphasize to take care that the money you give gets to those who truly need help and is not skimmed off by the many who would steal it for their own benefit.

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I dont think you are a loser,and I am happy reading your story but I think a 100 or a 150 years back in europe it was not much better,I was not there but I have been told by my parents that even before the second world war,the wife's went to the factory gate at friday's to meet their husbands and collect the salaries other wise it would be spent in the pubs.There was so much poverty and misery that the men went to the pubs to try to forget that for a while,also having big family's.

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Some time or another we could probably all use some of those "positive points".

Perhaps sometimes by not giving we are ripping ourselves off.

I am not under any allusion though that the application of money alone will change people's behaviour, let alone affect any sort of lasting fix. And this applies whether the issue is stopping a global recession, or stopping a woman working in a bar.

Some TV posters make the point that it is not the farangs responsibility to support the lady (or her family). True in part. But to some degree it is everyone's responsibility to look out for those around us. It has to be. The tough part is weighing up all the various competing or conflicting issues to arrive at a decision that we can feel good about, or at least can live with.

My wife has always to go some place to do "merit". I always joke about "merit" and "demerit" points and the great bookkeeper in the sky (because someone has to keep a record of all these "positive" points, right ?)

Anyway, I don't want to start any big philosophical discussion but I believe in a "balanced" universe, whatever you receive, you should give something equivalent. Without trying to change the world, I try to do everyday something good, if only because it makes me feel good.

Edited by Pierrot
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Good post Bruce, and something I think about.

Village life for my wife's family is tough. They work hard and they drink pretty hard at night, probably due to boredom and a social activity. As a result of the drinking, hard work and inadequate diet, it seems someone in the village is always sick, in hospital or had died at a young age. There are a few old timers around that look 80, but are probably closer to 60.

It's a really hard decision as when to help out with money. I let my wife decide when to give and how much, but we always try to help out and the funeral money system is actually pretty well managed, but I'm sure there are some that just don't have the family and social network to help out. Sometimes I ask my wife should we help with the hospital bills, but more often than not, she doesn't. Some of those people have died. Could I have saved them with more money? I often have trouble with that question.

I pay for 5 kids to go to school that would not have otherwise been able to afford to go. That includes boarding or transport fees, school fees and a small allowance. My view is that its better to try and break the cycle of low education and farm work with some of the children being more educated and hopefully afford their family a better future.

I always get hit up for new soccer uniforms by the Chief of Police and I donated a bit of my old gym and boxing equipment to the village for the boys to use.

No doubt, I am seen as rich and a few baht here and there in not a problem for me...but where to draw that line has always been a dilemma.

The other thing I have done is asked my sister to collect all the old kids clothes from her and her friends and donate them to the Village. I am very touched to see the clothes shared out equally and no greed or hoarding. To these kids, they are new clothes, and the pride in their faces when they have new clothes or shoes...even if they don't quite fit...is priceless. My point is that money isn't always needed...there is a lot that everyone can do to help out.

Giving money to a "girl" is not guarantee how much money actually flows back to the village...and in my limited experience, once new phones, clothes, drinks and partying and money "loaned" to friends...not much actually flows back.

I look forward to other views.

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Then again - Why don't we who live/d in the affluent west with nice cars and nice houses in nice suburbs..............,

Good post. The only problem I had with it was the above comment. While I don't pretend that the extent of poverty and misery are nearly as prevalent in the West as they are in Thailand, I can tell you first hand that there are plenty of people hurting in the so called "developed" countries as well

Point taken. By "we" I was generalising about Thaivisa users (many of whom appear to be more affluent than the average) rather than talking about everyone who lives in a western country. Yes there is tragedy everywhere but at least in the west the Government is ready to help out, albeit imperfectly.

To those who mentioned the need to be sure that donations were not diverted from intended recipients, no arguments there. A small example - For a time I did some volunteer helping at the local after school 'school'. We were just about to go back to Australia so I went to a bookshop and bought a pile of books for kids of different ages. I told the teacher and he suggested that he hold them for the time being and distribute them at the upcoming Xmas party. I agreed and we left. On returning a a few months later. I found out that he had not given them out, he had held them on the basis that they would be arguments amongst the kids if he distributed them - and they might be lost etc. I accepted that, with reservations.

After returning from a subsequent trip to Australia we found out that the teacher has closed the school and left (taking the books with him). He didn't even tell the parents he was closing the school, he just used the eldest boy to cover for him and came less and less often - until he disappeared altogether!

Some good responses guys, esp. DLocke, thanks

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Thanks, Bruce for a very touching and moving story. My former B/F's small Issan village of around 200 people sounds a lot like that one. They just shrugged at bad luck and got on with life. So different from Westerners who look for some one to sue and to blame.

Peter

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fuc_k me, you're a depressing cun_t...

Aw, who said one man can't make a difference? Each of us has within the capacity to contribute in a way that makes the world a better place.

Your contribution was to move this thread back up to the top of the page, so that the story of these courageous yet troubled people could reach an even greater audience.

Thank you, friend :o

I too found myself as the only westerner in the village at the funeral of my wife's father. It was pointed out to me that it was my duty to buy everything anybody wished to eat or drink at the funeral as this was their custom. Being new to Thailand and way before anything like Thaivisa existed, I decided to be that one man who would contribute to make the world a better place. It's not easy when you are 'it' especially if you are on a basic government teacher's salary with no other resources to your name.

Still, though some may scoff at you for putting your hand in your pocket and probably taking a bit of a bath at least you can look at yourself in the mirror with some respect. Perhaps the day may come when you will be in need of some kind of assistance (not necesseraly financial) and your good Karma may cause the assistance to appear. Let's hope so!

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A great post that does the OP much good credit (Buddhist credit or otherwise).

When I asked a similar question about the contrast between my experience and that of others I received the following answer.

".... all people carry a burden in life, you may not see it, it may not be with them today, but at some time in life or perhaps all our life we carry some unbearable burden. It is part of the human condition.

Kindness and compassion in word and deed to all who we meet lifts their burden an ours."

Now kindness and compassion in word and deed to all those we meet is almost certainly impossible for all but the saints among us, but it is something to strive for and it seems to me the OPs post is a step in the right direction.

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Thanks, chiangmaibruce, for the remarks.

When we live in a community here, we share things. Our Thai partners exchange food, share meals together, talk across the fence, care for the drunk's family, care for the sick, etc. We attend funerals and cremations, etc. Community. Too bad we did not have more of that back home.

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