Interested in giving? Here’s how a pandemic charity works

A man receives a food donation at a charity event in Bangkok on April 28, 2020.

BANGKOK – With millions of people expected to lose their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, distributions of food and other essentials are becoming increasingly important for the poor.

But we can’t just set a table and give our pad krapao or in cash. Regulations on gatherings during the pandemic mean donors must take action, lest they suffer the consequences of the law.

A good example to follow is a recent distribution event held on Tuesday afternoon next to Wat Thewarat Khunchon in the Dusit district. There, Nuttinee Chavananikul, a senior manager of a food company, and 14 of his friends distributed food to residents with the help of the authorities.

Read: Expats across Thailand donate to Thais and migrant workers

Here is how she did it. Start by contacting your district office, or khet, and let them know about donation plans.

Once notified, the district office will find the most suitable locations for you; they are generally located near low-income communities.

The leaders of the local community will then be alerted. Coupons will be given in advance to community leaders with the amount corresponding to the number of food packages to be distributed.

Nuttinee Chavananikul at a charity event she and her friends hosted in Bangkok on April 28, 2020.

And on the day of the distribution, police and city hall officials will be present at the event to enforce temperature checks and ensure physical distancing is in place.

Tuesday afternoon, Nuttinee and his friends distributed 300 packed lunches. Recipients, who must wear face masks, have a choice of Hainan Chicken Rice, known as khao mun gay in Thai, or garnish with rice and roast duck. Each package, she said, costs around 35 baht.

She said she wanted to help locals and support food stores during the pandemic at the same time.

“But we also want to help small stores serving food that can barely survive, or those who don’t know how to deliver online,” Nuttinee said. “We visited many small restaurants.”

Nuttinee, wearing a mask and face shield, herself inspected the packed dinners on two tables before the start of the distribution to make sure everything was in order. There was no corporate logo or sponsor to be found; it was purely a charity of ordinary people, similar to what Thailand saw in other provinces recently.

City hall officials set up the queues. Dusit District Director Dicha Kongsri told the crowd that the district office was “just a bridge” for the charity of that day.

He later told me that there are 44 poor urban communities in Dusit, which is home to 96,000 people. These neighborhoods are usually chosen for charities like the one organized by Nuttinee.

“We will look at the poorest communities first,” said Dicha.

A man and a woman receive a food donation at a charity event in Bangkok on April 28, 2020.

As the line grew, it was evident that some of those in line were as old as the 70s while the youngest was six. A security guard from a nearby office building also passed by.

Security guard Therdsak Thaensab said he heard about free food from the community and requested a coupon before picking up the packaged food. He said free food helps; although he is still employed, the economic situation is difficult.

Then there’s Pamoon Moonsrinuan, a housekeeper in her 50s with her partially paralyzed son, picking up two packages.

Another man, Pongpetch Maekkaifah, 60, is a resident of the community. He is unemployed.

“This is the second time that we have come to look for food. I do not know the donors personally. It’s helpful, ”Pongpetch said.

It’s clear that many in the lines would need more help than a meal, and Nuttinee said she was fully aware that her help had its limits.

“I think no matter how much we help, it won’t be enough. There are so many people who are struggling, ”said Nuttinee. “If there is anything you can do, please do whatever you can.”

The government has come under scrutiny for its perceived reluctance to provide financial assistance to those in need. Cash donations for people with disabilities and farmers were only approved after weeks of debate.

Tuesday won’t be Nuttinee’s last charity effort. She and her friends have another week of food distribution in Bangkok before their common 200,000 baht money runs out.

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