By: AC Recio
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the daily lives of everyone, but especially those who live in developing countries. Thailand is a developing country with one of the largest wealth gaps in the world, according to 2018 Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse. The outbreak of COVID-19 has only made this inequality larger, disproportionately affecting informal workers and small family enterprises. And with the lockdown restrictions in place, majority of businesses remain close while much of the workforce remain out of work and short of cash.
Our featured #SEAtizens today are Supakit Kulchartvijit, the volunteer group “Little Brick” and Thai residents all over the country who have come up with a way to fight hunger in their communities.
Kulchartvijit, inspired by food-sharing projects in other countries, initially floated the concept of community pantries on Facebook. “We realized that many Thais are facing a crisis of no income and no money to buy food due to COVID-19,” said Kulchartvijit in an interview with Reuters. The idea was to set up a roadside cabinet or cupboard in an accessible location where people can “give what they can and take what they need.” People with extra food and beverages in their homes can place them in the community pantry while those most affected by the outbreak can take items as needed.
For the past two weeks, Kulchartvijit and volunteers from Little Brick have been setting up these “Pantries of Sharing” and encouraging people to donate any excess food they might have. “When I shared this idea with others, they were worried that people would take away all items or even steal the cabinet,” said Kulchartvijit in an interview with The Nation Thailand.
The team set up four cabinets in Bangkok and one in Rayong, hoping that people would find it in their hearts to share their blessings. Surely enough, the shelves began to gradually fill up, and even with people constantly taking their share of food for their daily needs, the cupboards would never empty. “This proved that Thais are generous to each other because no one intended to take away all items,” Kulchartvijit said in the same interview.
Kulchartvijit and the Little Brick team have also encouraged people to start their own community pantries and to share photos and videos online to spread the spirit of generosity in the country. Pantries of Sharing have since been found in 44 provinces in the country with more than 150 community pantries, a huge surge from the initial five cabinets in Bangkok and Rayong (source: Reuters). And with people keeping the pantries filled, it seems that sharing and collective cooperation is keeping citizens of Thailand alive and well-fed as they await medical solutions and action from their government.
SEA Wave magazine’s #SEAtizens initiative is a series of inspiring stories of people in Southeast Asia who champion the human spirit by demonstrating courage, ingenuity, generosity, and selflessness amidst the current crisis.