Chào bạn Hanoi!

Hi everybody,

I have arrived in Hanoi nearly three weeks ago, but have been totally overwhelmed with work, unfortunately not for Omakua. Lesly is still in France (also for work) and will join me in Asia next month.

I hope to soon find the time to meet up with some NGOs and write interesting articles for you. Two of my housemates are involved with NGOs, one taking care of dogs that have saved from Vietnam’s dog meat industry, and the other working for an agricultural NGO. So, there are some interesting articles ahead 🙂

Lisa

Arrived in Phuket!

Hi everybody,

Just to let you know that we are back in Thailand, and will stay in Phuket for some weeks.

Phuket is known to be one of Thailand’s main tourism destinations, with heavy partying in Patong Beach (this is not where we stay 😉

We have already contacted several NGOs working in different fields and are curious to learn more about the humanitarian and environmental stakes in Phuket.

You will read more soon,
Lesly & Lisa

Give Chakrii a second chance!

We are super happy to present our new project! 🙂

Chakrii needs our help to get off the streets! Being without his family, he has been living on the streets for many years. Help him to leave the streets of Chiang Mai’s red light district, and to get back to school.

Click here for more information.

Happy New Year! Omakua review 2015

2015 was the year, we started Omakua on the field in Thailand. We have started blogging about NGOs in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and have realised two amazing projects. While most experiences we made were 100% positive, there have been ups and downs all along the year.

Meeting amazingly dedicated people

For our blog we focused on meeting small scale NGOs, and have met so many dedicated people. Saovenee Nilavongse from the Friends For all Children Foundation, who dedicates her life to disabled children, in only one to mention.

Read our blog articles about NGOs we have encountered

We had to change our strategy

While our initial plan was to meet people in need during our travels, we rapidly realised that is not as easy as imagined – at least in Thailand. Most of those being in need do not speak English, and many not even Thai. Further, Thai people do not necessarily voice their needs, and it is difficult to know who needs what. We changed our strategy and cooperated with NGOs which have been in Thailand for many years, and which know the needs of the people. This was a very good alternative.

Projects – two successes and one setback

We thought to be able to realise more projects in one year, but as it turned out identifying needs, setting up a cooperation with other NGOs, and preparing and realising even a small project takes a considerable amount of time. For working in Thailand, one must be patient.

Both projects we have realised have been an amazing experience. Worachai Intakaew who works for the Community Development Centre in a village close to the Burmese border, and with whom we worked on the project “A bathroom for Jun” has been the most committed partner we could have asked for. Further, working with the CDCE on project proposal writing has been a very interesting experience for Lisa.

We also learned that development work can sometimes be frustrating. After weeks of effort, our third project “Sunshine for ARK’s dogs” has been cancelled four days before its realisation.

Read what happened.

Religion does not make people good – people chose to be good

Before coming to Thailand, we imagined that Buddhist people are keener to humanitarian work, even though their main motivation might be good karma. However, most NGOs we met have a non-religious or Christian background, and were led by foreigners. The only Thai-led NGO we met was the FFAC, and the only Buddhist one the Foundation to Encourage the Potential of Disabled Persons.

We learned that many Thais consider unfortunate people deserve their faith for bad actions in their previous life, and prefer donating to temples for good karma. We have even heard of cases where monks advise against donating to charity, and call for donations to temples. It seems like Buddhism as an institution – just like most other big religions – is about one thing: Money. And we did not getting started on corruption.

We had a very happy year 2015

Thailand and its people have welcomes us so warmly, and we are grateful for every experience. We have had great support from our families and friends whom we would to thank very much <3. We had the chance to see beautiful landscapes, temples and animals, and have met amazing people. Sometimes life was busy between our respective jobs, the work for Omakua, visa-runs and immigration offices, but we appreciated (almost) every moment of it. We became vegetarians and started a zero waste lifestyle which we do to our best, giving the conditions in South East Asia. 2015 has been the year of positive change, new experiences, small and big adventures.

What does 2016 bring?

In December we have moved to Bali and will continue the work for Omakua from here. We have spent the last three weeks figuring out accommodation, visa stuff and where to get a decent internet connection for our jobs. Lesly is currently working on redesigning our website and blog which will look awesome! We are also working on a project in cooperation with Urban Light (Thailand) which will soon be presented on our website.

 

We both wish all of you a very joyful 2016, full of happiness and good health!

Hi Bali!

We have arrived in Bali one week ago, and we have moved to a shared house close to Canggu. Our first impressions of Bali are amazing, and we can’t wait to discover the island and its inhabitants.

For now, we still work on a project in Thailand which will go over the period of one year, and which we can supervise from Indonesia. There will be more information on our website soon.

After the holidays, we will start to discover the humanitarian stakes of Bali with you on this blog.

See you soon!

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What happened to the project “Sunshine for ARK’s dogs“?

In cooperation with Blue Tail International we established a project for the dog shelter ARK. The goal was to build an outside enclosure for sick dogs which for now live in small cages. The sick dogs cannot leave their cages, because of a contamination risk for the other dogs.

For more information, read our blog article about Blue Tail and ARK.

We spent a lot of time and effort for the preparation of the project. We have visited ARK multiple times in order to determine the location of the enclosure, take measures, set a budget, and to find a volunteer engineer who could help us with the construction of the outside enclosure. We then presented the project on our website and conducted a social media campaign in order to collect the necessary funds.

Sadly, the project has never been realised. Four days before the scheduled construction of the enclosure, the owner of ARK Dip has stopped all cooperation with Blue Tail and Omakua.

Even though we have been very sad about his decision, we understand Dip’s decision.

The Thai government has recently conducted several raids in different animal shelters and NGOs in Chiang Mai with the goal to find illegal workers. The goal was to chase down foreigners who get paid for their work in Thailand, without having a working permit.

Many NGOs in Thailand employ volunteers and workers which are in Thailand on a tourist visa. Many NGOs do register, because it is difficult and costly for NGOs to be officially recognised. Further, work permits can be expensive, too.

We do not pay ourselves with Omakua, and we thus do not fall into the category of illegal workers. Nevertheless, we understand that Dip does not want to continue to work with us.

In Thailand, the law and what happens on the field are two very different things, and corruption remains wide-spread. We think that Dip was scared of possible consequences if foreigners are seen on the ARK territory, even if it would have been legal.

It only needs one person with bad intentions and some pictures of foreigners building an enclosure, to Dip could have been pressured into paying a bribe. Many shelters in Chiang Mai have demanded their foreign volunteers and employees to stay away from work for a certain time, even those who actually have a work permit – just in case.

We have heard stories before from other NGOs which were asked to pay a “tax” which does not exist on paper by local authorities. Luckily, in the mentioned case, the person had high-placed contacts, and could continue the work after some phone calls. Dip clearly does not have the same contacts.

We have been touched very much by the whole situation, because everybody loses. First, the dogs which will stay in their small cages and will not be able to go outside, then Dip who will have to find new sponsors if he decides to build the enclosure in the future; further, the waste of time and effort for Blue Tail and Omakua, and the disappointment of our donors and volunteer engineer.

 

Our research for articles about the raid in Chiang Mai were fruitless. You can find below links to articles about similar incidents:

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/17/armed-thai-officials-raid-wildlife-rescue-ngo/
http://www.bangkokpost.com/archive/activist-says-60-70-parks-staff-raided-his-house/279857

 

It is important to underline that this is our point of view of the situation. The article does not reflect the opinion of ARK and Blue Tail International.

Visiting disabled persons in Mae Kae

On Tuesday, we have made a trip with Don Willcox and his wife Piranan to Mae Kae where were visited seven disabled persons who might need our help.

On site, we met with Worachai Intakaew who works for Mae Kae’s Community Development Centre which is a governmental structure. According to Don, it is difficult, if not impossible, to work in remote districts without informing and/or working with the local authorities. Don has good experiences working with Worachai and told us he is one of the most trustworthy men he knew.

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When we arrived in Mae Kae, we were surprised to learn that not only Worachai coming with us, but ten of his colleagues were joining to visit the disabled persons. Don explained that this is the way it is in Thailand and that there is no way of preventing the whole community department of joining the trip.

It is good that people get involved and want to help disabled persons, but we had the impression that certain of the government workers care more about taking group pictures than the person in need. We felt a little uncomfortable, invading a person’s house with a group of 15 people.

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Don explained that this is the way things happen in Thailand. We feel that we must accept the Thai way, even if we are not used to such proceedings.

We have to say that Worachai made a very good impression and we are sure that his intentions are good. He is one of the guys who really wants to help. Don took a lot of time to talk to the people we have visited; joking and making them laugh – it was very nice to see.

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We are currently discussing with Worachai how we can help Ms Jun Pirakaew. She is one of the disabled persons we have met Her situation has concerned particularly us. She is a 60 years old lady who is unable to walk after a stroke eight years ago. She and her husband are very poor and life in a small and badly equipped house.

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Despite our partly uneasy feeling during our visit in Mae Kae (due the present crowd of government officials) we want to support Ms Jun Pirakaew, because she really is in need. You will soon hear more about Ms Jun Pirakaew on our website.

Arrived in Chiang Mai

We have arrived in Chiang Mai and will contact NGOs in Chiang Mai in order to see how they work in the North of Thailand in comparaison to Bangkok. We will also visit FFAC, a foundation which works with orphants and which we have already met in Bangkok.

The city of Chiang Mai is in a valley, surrounded by mountains. In the province of Chiang Mai, 82,6% of the area is covered by forest while 11,2% is used for agriculture. Agriculture is one of the most important resources in the North of Thailand, especially rice cultivation. The North of Thailand counts many different ethnic groups. Close to the border to Myanmar, a lot of refugees live in camps. Humanitarian stakes are numerous and we will talk about it more in our future articles.

Rice field at Mae Wang near Chiang Mai. Thailand.

Many NGOs have an office in the North of Thailand. As the region is very rural, it is poorer than the touristic South. In addition to meet local NGOs, we will also travel around the city in order to meet the rural population.

Arrived in Bangkok

We have arrived in Bangkok and start our work for Omakua. At first we will make contact with local NGOs in order to learn more about the humanitarian work in Thailand.We want to know where help is needed and what difficulties we might encounter. Besides, we have started learning Thai. But it will take a little while before we can actually have a conversation.

 

Monday, 9 February, we will meet the Foundation Friends for all Children (FFAC). They work (as the name suggests) with children. You will learn more about FFAC once we have met them. 🙂