Teammates For Kids Foundation And HFH Thailand Hand Over Health Center, Complete Over 50 Houses To Date In Tsunami-Hit Southern Thailand
Partnership To Build A Total Of 215 Houses And Community Center In Ranong Province; School Completed Earlier
RANONG, 22nd July 2010: The bright eyes of eight-year-old Boonsaran were fixed on his bowl of rice with stir-fried beef as he chewed his food slowly.
Hurried by his mother Hama, he hastily finished the last of his breakfast before taking a 10-minute walk to school in Suksamran district in Ranong province in the south of Thailand.
Boonsaran’s parents, Mudtakimt and Hama Phuengphan, are among some 50 tsunami-affected families who have received new homes from the U.S.-based Teammates for Kids Foundation co-founded by country singer Garth Brooks.
The foundation is partnering with Habitat for Humanity Thailand to build a total of 215 homes in three districts – Suksamran, Muang and Kapoe – in Ranong.
In addition, T4K Foundation is also supporting the construction of a health center which was completed at the end of June and a community center which will be completed by end-November.
The health center in Muang district, about an hour’s drive from Suksamran, is run by the district health office and provides free medical services to families including 70 Habitat families in the area. The services provided include treatment of minor illnesses and wounds and dental care. There is also a pharmacy located in the two-story center.
Boonsaran is attending a school in Suksamran which is funded by the foundation and can accommodate about 120 students. The new six-classroom building was built next to an existing public school and kindergarten. By recess time, Boonsaran had shaken off his morning lethargy to skip rope with several friends and run with abundant energy on the field.
Boonsaran’s father Mudtakimt, aged 42, and mother Hama, aged 40, work as rubber tappers three days in a week. Their day starts in the wee hours of the morning, either as hired labor together with some friends or on their own rubber plantation which Muktakimt’s father had left to him.
After expertly making cuts on the rubber trees, the tappers will return a few hours later to collect the sap. A solidifying agent is added and the hardened sap will then be rolled with a big wooden rolling pin before being pressed into thick flat sheets by machine at a shelter at the plantation. The rubber sheets are hung up to dry in the sun for a few days before being sold for about 140 baht each.
Mudtakimt and Hama can bring home about 9,000 baht (US$278) a month from tapping rubber.
When the Asian tsunami hit southern Thailand in December 2004, Mudtakimt’s boat was washed a few meters ashore from the river where he used to fish. Then he had turned to fishing while waiting for the saplings on his rubber plantation to mature. As his boat was badly damaged and he was reluctant to continue fishing, he started working on other people’s rubber plantations together with his wife.
Mudtakimt and Hama had lived in their old wooden house in Bang Kluay Nok village for 20 years before tearing it down to build their Habitat house, re-using some materials from the old house. They moved into their Habitat house made of cement blocks in November 2009.
The couple has three children – Supaporn, 21; Sukanya, 16; and Boonsaran, 8. Supaporn lives with her husband and two young daughters in Phuket province, about two hours’ drive away.
“Our old house would be flooded whenever it rained and it was also farther for the children to go to school. Our family had to have medicine regularly because of dust allergy. We also had problems with termites. I was especially worried that strangers would break into our house because our teenage daughter was living with us,” said Hama.
After living in their new house for over six months, Mudtakimt and Hama are already seeing benefits. “It is better for our daughter didn’t suffer from allergy. It is a cleaner place to live,” said Hama. Her husband added: “The new house is stronger; made of sturdier stuff. The children have their own space to study.”
The couple repays 1,053 baht per month for a seven-year loan.
After moving into their Habitat house, the couple built a toilet and kitchen area at the back of the house. They saved their wages from tapping rubber to pay for the extensions which cost about 20,000 to 30,000 baht. Mudtakimt and Hama have plans to build a roof overhang and plaster the walls of their toilet.
Their attractive house, which sports a coat of blue paint paid for by their eldest daughter and their husband, is already the talk of the village. “Our neighbors have commented that our house is pretty. Some have also started painting their houses,” said Hama.
Looking to the future, Hama said: “I hope Sukanya can be a university graduate. She is very bright. She wants to study marine science. I would like my son to have further education too if he is able to.”
The project funded by T4K is scheduled to be completed by June 2011.