By: Rosalie Tieges
The first case of Covid19 outside of China was reported in Thailand in January 2020.
Today the virus has affected people, the economy and - on a more positive note that is - the environment, all over the world.
Like many others our Foundations's headquarters and forest school property in the south of Thailand is now closed in efforts to slow down the spread of the virus. The property is closed until at least the 15th of May on which further regulations by the local government will be implemented and communicated to us all.
This means that the forest school is closed for all students, the Ecologic nature retreat & camp is closed and also the Special School for students with special need students is closed. The school for students with special needs follows public school holidays and the timing was kind to us at least : April is public school summer holiday in Thailand: at this point in time our students school holiday is simply extended with two extra weeks.
Of course we all hope that the virus can be contained before the new school year but the course of the spread in other countries forces us to not sit back and enjoy the holiday, but to rather make plans and prepare for possible extended closure of the school and property, and the expected drastic impact this will have on the lively hood of all the people who are dependent of the foundation and the resort. Just like for millions of people all over the world this pandemic has far stretching effects on our foundation, our children, our team and family's.
Its important in these times to not panic, stay positive, kind, be flexible and resilient.
These are extreme times and it looks like no one's life will remain unaffected. Millions of people, including our local team and the parents of our students live from paycheck to paycheck and unfortunately there is little to no government support to be expected for people in Thailand.
Millions will loose their job and cases of abuse and violence are expected to increase rapidly accordingly. The challenge for all of us is to do what we can to help others, to do the best we can to survive this crisis and to use these time in isolation wisely to reflect, focus and seize the opportunity's that are created in times like this as well.
Below I have set out an overview on TCDF's action steps for the upcoming months.
I kindly invite all of our friends, sponsors, ambassadors and volunteers to reach out to me personally if you have questions, good ideas or want to help from your own desk at home.
Our children in the various Educational support programs
The students of the Special School have an extended holiday of two weeks until further notice from the Thai Government. When the school is ready to reopen we will -together with the caretakers and the local authorities -asses the need and the options to catch up on those missed weeks. All forest school camps and student groups have been postponed until further notice too, following advise and regulations by the local health care authorities. Scholarships are not affected yet as the public school system is scheduled to reopen in May as planned until further notice.
Our children in the various Medial Care programs
The impact of the Covid19 virus is expected to drastically increase the need for medical support by TCDF. We are now postponing any non emergency hospital visits -such as planned operations -to protect our children's safety and ease the pressure on our hospitals. Child abuse cases are expected to rise and we expect increased cases of need for medical support, hospital visits, emergency care, outreach care and nutritional support also due to parents loosing jobs.
Farm & sustainability
TCDF has been a front runner and has always worked towards local sustainability for both food and finance. This disaster only strengthens our belief in sustainable living on a local level and sharing this knowledge with others through education.
We are thankful to have received a big sponsorship of the WOR and their farmers community towards the expedition of the TCDF farm in 2019. Due to the closure of the property the farm produce is no longer bought by Ecologic, however TCDF can maintain several jobs for the team by all working together on the land and selling the organic produce to local people through Facebook and planned drive through pick ups.
Unfortunately as the investment and big expansion of the farm is just recent the produce on the farm is still very limited and will not maintain the project very long and unpaid leave for the team is sadly inevitable.
Sponsors who have donated to TCDF can rest assure that their donation is safe and respected by us as always. All donations to TCDF will be used solemnly for the programs for which you have donated just like normal and not used to keep the team afloat or anything else. If the Special School stays is forced to stay closed for a longer period of time and this will effect your donation then we will communicate this again at that due time. If the school stays closed the daily budget of the Special School will decrease but the needed budget for medical care, outreach programs and the emergency program is expected to drastically increase. We hope for your support in relocating your donation if needed but will ask for the permission of our sponsors on a case to case manner if that need arises.
On 17th and 18th March we called in the complete teams of both the TCDF foundation as well as Ecologic Thailand Resort for Charity (22 full time staff members from teachers, to gardeners to yoga instructor to carpenters to outreach workers- all sitting 2 meters apart of course :) - and together looked into the situation and brainstormed on actions to take to survive this together. We looked at the possible courses of direction for the next two months that are government regulated, but also planning ahead towards possible outcomes for the next 6 and 12 months.
In short this is the result: About half of the team decided to take unpaid leave and retreat to their own villages, be with their family and invest this time in their own farms. Luckily these months are harvesting season for betel nuts followed by the fruit seasons for durian and then mangosteen and rambutan all the way through to August. If the Chinese market stays open the people who own some land will have a good chance to sell their produce and have a good income.
The other half of the team does not have a farm to retreat to and is fully dependent of the income at TCDF and/ or Ecologic. For this team, mostly the teachers, we have rescheduled their tasks and created jobs on the farm. These are jobs that are normally done by farmers from the community. However in this case the farmers of the community are not allowed to enter the premises and they prefer to work on the fruit plantations hidden high up in the hills as well. Our team will take over their jobs until the situation is back to normal and the property is reopened.
Unfortunately as the investment and big expansion of the farm is just recent the produce on the farm is still very limited and not enough to cover the basic salary of the team for a long period of time. For people from our international network who plan to visit TCDF and stay at Ecologic in the years ahead we can ask to consider supporting our team through these times by purchasing a gift card. A Gift card can be purchased for any amount and can be used at Ecologic for any expense during your stay within the next 5 years: yoga, meals, drinks, snorkelling, your bungalow....
This support could help our team through the rough times ahead and might be just another reason for our international friends and family to keep dreaming of better times and travels ahead!
Take care of yourselves and loved ones!
Founder Thai Child Development Foundation