Naovanit Intarasakul, 53, is the director of a government-run shelter for the needy, Ban Mit Maitri. A Yala native, Ms Naovanit has degrees in social development from Rajabhat University in Yala and in management from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University. Here, she explains what her shelter can provide and suggests what ordinary people can do to help.
PHUKET: Phuket is one of Thailandís top tourism destinations. Many people move here to work because they believe the vibrant economy will make it easy to get a job and they will be able to earn more money here than elsewhere in the country.
But the more people that come, the more problems we have. Bigger cities have more social problems. There are a lot of people in need out there: homeless people, people with social problems, stateless people and people who came here from other provinces but failed to find a job.
By law, people who do not have a place to live and who are unable to earn enough money for basic amenities have the right to seek help from the government. The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security understands that this is very important.
There are nine people working at Ban Mit Maitri, including myself. We offer a temporary home where such people can stay for up to 45 days. Besides offering a place to stay, we provide food and medicine as needed.
We also provide basic job training so people can learn skills to make a living. Sometimes we can find placement for work and even arrange for people to stay with foster families.
We can even organize for people to return to their home province and take up temporary shelter at a Ministry of Social Development and Human Security home there.
However, there are some conditions for acceptance at our shelter. Those we take in must be Thai nationals, at least 18 years of age and without a family home to go to. They must be physically capable of taking care of themselves and carrying out day-to-day tasks.
Also, they must be free from contagious disease, of sound mind, and not addicted to drugs. If medical or mental care is required, we will make arrangements to ensure that care is given at an appropriate facility.
The biggest problem we face is that people do not know that the government offers this form of care. Also, accepting help is not for everyone; some people donít want our help or anyone elseís.
We can only help those who truly want help, and respect the decision of those who donít.
What I am worried about in Phuket is human trafficking, prostitution and drug addiction. We have very limited access to these groups. In two recent cases, we provided care to women who suffered psychological trauma. They were human-trafficking victims who were dumped as they were no longer wanted by their captors.
We received the women via Phuket Immigration as they were deported to Thailand. I do not know what they had been through. I do not even know if they were in Phuket before they went abroad.
Another group that worries me is the homeless. They are often unhealthy and have some form of illness. Most of them are living at temples or by the roadside.
When we make contact with homeless people who are willing to receive help, we send them to Vachira Phuket Hospital for treatment. When they are in better physical condition, the hospital staff contact us so we can find a place for them to live, or even a job, depending on what the homeless person would like.
What we need is for people to keep an open mind about such victims of society. They have the same rights as everyone else, so we should accept them as part of our society.
If you know of any people in dire personal circumstances, please contact us and let that person know he or has not been abandoned. We will send our staff to talk to them. We all have the right to a decent life.Ban Mit Maitri is located at 100/1 Phuket Gateway Moo 5, Mai Khao, Thalang. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel (24hrs): 076-348073. One Stop Crisis Center Hotline: 1300 (operated by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security).This article first appeared in the December 28 - January 3 issue of the hard-copy
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