When you help people, meet them where they are: Understand that their circumstances may be more difficult than yours but do not become lost within that or be overwhelmed with sadness. Be encouraged by what life has given you and that you are able to give back, be encouraged by the help that you provide, be encouraged by what you will learn, be encouraged by the loving memories you will share – smile, share, love, laugh, and grow.
I met Emma the Founder, President, and Nurse of Jungle Aid a few weeks ago in Hua-Hin with the Bangkok Volunteers Meetup group that I am a part of (previous blog post https://gettingtoknowtheworld.com/2013/01/13/1698/). Jungle Aid provides medical care to the Karen people refugees from Myanmar that live in the jungles of Thailand. On January 26th I joined Jungle Aid (Emma and Maria) and 5 other volunteers to meet and help the Karen People of Bon Luk village in Keang Kra Chan National Park (approximately a 5 hour drive from Hua-Hin where we left from). Bon Luk village is the most remote village that Jungle Aid helps but we got there virtually 100% by SUVs, with the exception of a 15 minute walk. Approximately 500 people live in the village with minimal access to health care (there is a small clinic near by), they have some electricity via solar panels brought in by “The Queen’s Project” (the only electricity I saw it in use was for fans in their weaving shop), and most of the homes are small structures made of bamboo.
The journey to Bon Luk Village was quite beautiful. We rode the jungle to get there so as you can imagine there were plenty of tropical plants and amazing views from every angle. Luckily we were in a 4 wheel drive vehicle because there were some roller coaster like moments on the unpaved road. When we arrived we parked the cars and quickly ate our lunch that we brought with us, and took a about a 15 minute walk across a bridge and into the village carrying medical supplies, tooth brushes clothes, toys, paper, and crayons. We met the community members under a large pavilion and got to work.
Emma and Subatra (Suba, is another volunteer and friend that is a doctor) saw patients and I assisted them by logging the patients information (name, age, condition, medication given, follow-up needed); a group of 3 volunteers conducted a survey of the village, assessing how many people lived there, what the living conditions were, their overall health, education, etc…; and the other volunteers played with the children, taught the kids how to use the toothbrushes, and gave out the toys and clothing.
Most of the people that Emma and Suba saw had worm infestations which is more than likely due to poor hygiene, luckily Jungle Aid had a large supply of medicine to get rid of the worms. There was also a cold that was going around and they were given vitamin C, and paracetamol (Tylenol) to help with that. Most of the women worked at the “Queen’s Project’s” weaving shop and suffered from back and shoulder pains due to working in the same position for hours, Emma gave them a menthol rub to use and suggested that they take breaks to stretch. One person was believed to have tuberculosis, there was a child with asthma, a man with an unknown growth on his foot that needed to be drained, a woman who had an unknown illness on her nose that hurt and bled, and a little girl who had abscesses on her head. I had the pleasure of meeting this precious little girl and giving my first hair cut to her- she had several abscesses on her head so her hair needed to be cut, the boils were medicated, and her mom was taught how to clean her. Some of the patients had been sick for months or years and had not even gone to the clinic that is near by. Jungle Aid provides an invaluable service of direct health care and also follows-up with patients that may need additional care at a hospital by bringing them to the hospital and paying for their treatment. Not only does Jungle Aid provide medical care but more importantly they let the Karen people know that others care about them.
The team that assessed the village told us that about 80% of the children attend school; they do not currently record information about births, deaths, health, etc…; the women that work in the weaving shop earn 100 BHT a day and get a commission of 1,000- 3,000 BHT depending on the item sold; there is a small store in the village; 9 of the 10 out house toilets were in decent condition – ceramic squatting toilets with decent sewage system that did not drain into the river, 1 was a whole in the ground; there is a malaria health worker in the area that visits various villages to diagnose and treat malaria, they are allowed to grow eggplants which is provided by the Queens Project but they are not allowed to grow other plants or to keep animals; they do not always have enough rice for everyone to eat. Jungle Aid will use the assessment to determine future donations needed and other ways to sustainably aid the community.
Overall I had an amazing experience, it was an amazing opportunity to learn (I have an interest in health care), I met wonderful people, and I got to have a glimpse of a different way of life. And a bonus, on our ride back we rode through “Elephant Country” and saw three massive wild elephants! I am looking forward to volunteering with Jungle Aid again.
Thank you to Emma and Maria for taking all of us along with you, to Celilu the organizer of the Bangkok Volunteers group for introducing us to Jungle Aid, to Khun Paron for providing the volunteers with a place to stay, and to all of the volunteers who took pictures.
- Medical and Education Trip 24th November 2012 (gettingtoknowtheworld.com)