Where’s Your Mama Gone?
I can’t stand do gooders. They really get on my nerves in fact I hate them. I hate tin shakers, fund raisers, bible bashers, Guardian readers, lefties, feminists, dreadlocked feminists, Civil Servants' wives, tree huggers and primary school
teachers. Out of genuine disdain when I meet somebody like that I get my copy of the Sunday Sport out and mention women with big knockers as loudly as I can to keep them away from me, and for my money that’s how things should be.
Now I’ll spare you the details of my woes of late, and if you know me you’ll have heard about them ad nauseum and if you don’t know me hearing them won’t enrich your life, but I was sat in my serviced condotel last night free from the curses of alcohol and loose women wondering how I could improve my karma, my standing, my aura my outlook. I was in need of some gratification. After a bit of finger drumming I came up with the ingenious idea of visiting one of Bangkok’s many orphanages. The plan was to saunter up about midday with the sun brightening my day, walk in with a pack of biscuits to be greeted by thirty or forty underprivileged but happy kids, dish out the biscuits, teach them how to sing “The famous Man United went to Rome to see the Pope”, video it to stick on YouTube, walk off with the Swedish volunteer nurse's phone number and an instant halo and hugely improved karma to boot.
It didn’t happen like that.
The one I picked as the lucky recipient of my aura was the Kevorkian Foundation on Sukhumvit 26 (Soi Than Ying Phuangrathana Prapai). It’s a foundation that looks after 19 orphans with HIV/AIDS. If like me you’re a child of the eighties you think that somebody diagnosed with HIV does the following things, makes friends with their mother again, goes for long walks in the countryside on autumn days, pretends they wouldn’t have changed the way they’d lived, finds religion, has a BBC 2 documentary made about them and waits the two years it takes for the disease to take hold and put them on the ferry to Valhalla. Fortunately that’s not the case these days. With anti retroviral medication infected people can lead a pretty normal life and expect a reasonably full life span. I know because I‘ve got a mate who’s living with it. They think his normal life expectancy may be reduced by between 5 and 10%, which if you hold it against my legacy of booze, smoke, dangerous sports, fried foods, stressful jobs and the occasional all nighter in the nineties (nice one our kid!) he’s probably going to see me out. That’s in the UK where he gets the medicine buckshee, freemans, gratis on the NHS but as we all know “Thailand no same same”.
It took a while to eventually find the place, because like everything in Thailand it’s inadequately signposted. It looks nothing like you’d expect it to. I was a bit disappointed not to be met by a sea of waving arms and toothless grins, being taught to sing a nursery rhyme by a nun or something. What I actually got was a normal-sized, 70’s Bangkok townhouse, a bit world weary but homely. A woman met me and I told her I’d come to visit. One of the first things she said was “we need rice”.
She took me inside and there were two young boys sat at a table eating. One was disabled and had trouble controlling his legs while the other seemed able bodied. The woman told me that the other 17 kids were at school. I tried to make conversation with them but there was a bit of an age and language gap. They seemed like normal kids, and I asked the lady “Is there anything I can do to help?”
She said “Yes we need rice”.
I expected them to want to share my football skills or learn the alphabet or something but what they wanted was food. I looked around the place and along one wall was a load of tidy boxes with the names of kids and some artwork they’d personalised it with. “Prem” had drawn a la manga character on his.
The lady told me she could get a bloke to give me a lift to the supermarket so I nodded my head and waited for him to show up. While I was waiting I started to do a few sums. I can eat easily 300 baht worth of food a day, times that by 19and it's
nearly 6,000 baht. Times that by 30 is 180,000 baht in food alone for a month to keep the kids who were at school fed. Then there’s the building and clothes and books. Apparently school fees are 50 baht a day per kid and then there’s
the Anti Viral medication which I’m sure isn’t cheap, and what about if the kids get ill, or the building needs repairing, or electricity or water. Then there are wages for three or four staff who are permanently on site to be de
facto mums and dads to the kids.
An oldish bloke turned up and took me in his car to Carrefour. I asked him his name and he said he didn’t have one (I think that’s what he said, my Thai isn’t as good as it used to be). I spent 1,300 baht on rice and milk which is about all I had on me at the time. When we got back I took the stuff into the house and asked the lady what they did for money. She said that Linda Der Kervonian puts 100,000 baht a month into the foundation and the rest is topped up by donations. She gave me a leaflet that says they want the kids to lead normal lives, which with ARV’s they can so long as they stay on them, but they need to keep the supply and that doesn’t come free.
The kids I saw seemed well looked after, but it’s only as a result of people’s goodwill that that happens. Before I left I signed the visitors' book. The person prior to me had shown up a week previously and “played pass the parcel with the kids”.
As I said before I’m not a do gooder. I don’t like them. If you want to go and get gratified by grateful smiling kids I didn’t get that so I doubt you will either but next time you go out on the piss on Friday night why not go out two or three hours later and donate the 1000 baht you’d save to the kids at Kevorkian Foundation (email@example.com).
I’m not trying to spoil your fun. I know a lot of people are experiencing austerity at the moment and we can all feel like we’re being tickled by the feather of misfortune at times but 6,000 baht will keep one of those kids in medication and education for a month, and next time you’re down Cowboy bragging about getting your brown badge, spare a thought for people like Linda Der Kervonian who clear up the mess you might be leaving behind.
Good on you for making the effort to find the place, to go there and to do something about it.
On a personal note I have always been reluctant to give money, especially when you don't know how it is going to be used so the idea of going to a supermarket and buying necessary supplies seems like a good idea.