AN ODE TO BANGKOK
At the end of 2014, we started splitting our time between Bangkok and New York, making this city of 10.5 million our second home. Bangkok is the real-time manifestation of the Chaos Theory – extreme juxtaposition of old and new, smoke and serenity, tropical oasis and concrete jungle existing harmoniously together. From the start we were immersed into a multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary and most of all warm and welcoming community. For Chom, it was coming home after being away for many years, for me, there was always a familiarity with Bangkok as some of my family members moved here since the late 1970's from Taiwan. Here, you can wake up in the morning having dreamt of making something, that next day you can get it made if not in Bangkok then the provinces outside of it, making things by hand is alive and well. This was how we found indigo.
Philip and Saks in Sakon Nakhon, 2015, Photo by Chomwan
In 2015 we went on our first road trip to Sakon Nakhon in search of indigo, driving the 13 hours with our friend Saks. Saks is also a NYC transplant, born and raised in NYC to Thai parents moving back to Bangkok just a year before we did. In New York, he was a doctor but felt a calling to come back to the motherland where he would embark upon his journey to help at-risk and vulnerable communities. In 2013 he founded a non-profit called SATI, "sati" is Pali-Sanskrit for mindfulness; but also acting with “sati” towards others is to have empathy for all living creatures. Saks has built SATI into a platform that explores diverse ways to support at-risk and vulnerable communities in Bangkok and beyond. SATI engages individuals and groups of different disciplines to be part of the support network; working with chefs to create a social food kitchen and develop skills; with photographers for art therapy for at-risk youths; working with his gym to create wellness programs as preventive medicine; creating an indigo-dyeing program with us for skills development for at-risk youths and refugees in Bangkok. All this in addition to practical development projects such clean water pumps for rural communities. The work they do is awesome! With the current pandemic, focus has been shifted to relief due to the urgency and enormity of impact on vulnerable communities, SATI together with several strategic partners founded COVID RELIEF BANGKOK. Find out more about the initiative below.
In common with other cities in the world, this last month has been surreal, Bangkok’s famously jammed roads are void of cars, sidewalks free of street vendors and shrines empty of worshippers. The impact of COVID-19 is not lost upon the city nor the rest of the country. It also poses questions to us about how we will address the work we do in the countryside especially when the youth may not come to the city as there will be no jobs, how do we play a role in making traditional craft skills that have been passed onto them through their ancestors relevant to them? How do we make traditional knowledge enticing to the youth when bright lights, big city is what they strive for? These are questions that are on our mind. In the meantime, we are deeply grateful for the community that we have in Bangkok. Community is everything here.
As Bangkok prepares to transition back to a new normal, our thoughts are with our friends in New York City and around the world. We will get through this together.
FROM BANGKOK WITH LOVE.
- Philip Huang and Chomwan Weeraworawit-Huang
Written with the dust on the window in Thai: I am hungry.
BANGKOK COVID RELIEF
Established at the beginning of April, COVID RELIEF BANGKOK, is a coalition of organizations that includes SATI, Scholars of Sustenance and Urban Studies Lab with support from Bangkok 1899 and the Thai Health Volunteers Foundation to provide immediate relief to Bangkok’s vulnerable communities suffering from the impact of COVID-19. COVID RELIEF uses demographics data collected by Urban Studies Lab to identify and locate the most in-need communities. With the crisis, the deep-rooted infrastructural inequalities of the city became more apparent and the worst hit in Bangkok are the elderly and low-income households who rely on daily wages to support their families. Immediate relief is needed for these communities and has been mobilized this past month with support from donors and volunteers. Long term, economic pain is expected and beyond the urgent relief that has been mobilized for high-risk, low-income and elderly communities, a recovery and development plan is required. The recovery phase will be focused upon mental health, creating job opportunities, skills-building as well as micro-financing. After this will be the development phase that looks at how to create sustained development to improve livelihood in the long-run. We are in this for the long haul, as Saks explains it, these are the immediate needs but with the way that our economies are so intrinsically linked, the compound impact of this will need to be addressed and support required will be ongoing.
For this current phase, every 300 baht (10 USD) donation provides a package consisting of sanitation items and food supplies for a family (4 people). Strategic support and partnerships to help create opportunities will play a huge part of this too. Every gesture helps.
CLICK TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BANGKOK COVID RELIEF AND SEE HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT.
COVID RELIEF BANGKOK photographs by Numchok S. Courtesy of SATI. 1) Hungry, 2) Saks at a COVID RELIEF drop in Bangkok, 3) Him during a Covid Relief drop
FOOD FOR THE SOUL
100 SMILE MEALS is an initiative founded by Chef Chalee Kader of 100 Mahaseth and PhoMarrow. It offers free meals for frontline workers and volunteers as well as communities in need. Big up to the chefs donating their time and resources to this. CLICK TO LEARN MORE ABOUT 100 SMILE MEALS AND SEE HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT.