Before the term Coronavirus was a household word, Natalie “Bin” Narkprasert was busy running the two businesses that she had started up herself, one in eCommerce, and the other specialising in interior design for rental properties.
The fallout from the global pandemic put both her businesses on hiatus and, like so many others, she suddenly found herself with plenty of time on her hands. At the same time, she realised that certain communities in Bangkok were extremely vulnerable to the ill effects of the economic collapse, and so she decided to do what she could to help. Despite having no background or experience at all in the NGO sphere, she used Facebook to launch a page she simply entitled ‘COVID Thailand Aid’. In less than two months her fledgling charitable initiative has raised over THB 2 million for those in need.
How long has COVID Thailand Aid been in operation?
Since March 17th, 2020, when I had the idea to help seniors to make their lives easier during COVID-19. I pulled an all-nighter in order to start setting things up and be launched in the morning. I created a Facebook group and posted things I did around my area to help seniors, and I invited 10-20 people I knew. It grew quickly from there. People wanted to support what I was doing and reached out via messenger. I wrote about on my Facebook wall.
Were you surprised when the initiative grew so rapidly?
Yes. My simple goal of helping 100 people has been exceeded well beyond my wildest expectations. To date, COVID Thailand Aid has helped over 15,500 people across Thailand. We are now raising 3 million Baht, and so far we’ve achieved 2 million of that.
Where, and who, do you target within the Kingdom?
Most of our work is in Bangkok but we help nationwide. The aid is going straight to the people. When we get requests from a foundation or community, we do an inspection first and work with the community leaders, volunteers, and foundations in that area to coordinate and get things done. Every province is different. We help everyone, but especially highly vulnerable groups such as the elderly, jobless and homeless, disabled, blind, refugees, low-income families, orphans, and now animal shelters this week. We’ve given out over 5,000 care packages, 8,000 hot meals, and supported over 2,300 front-liners, including nurses, police, and other professionals. We have no bureaucracy, no salaries, and no overhead costs. We are just focused on helping as many people as possible. And each 500 THB donation can help a family for a month, or up to 16 homeless people. We also collect any donated items, such as clothes, toys, etc., and donate directly to communities in need. What we desperately need are adult diapers, alcohol gel, soap, dry foods, and milk powders.
How many people are part of COVID Thailand Aid?
We currently have 430+ volunteers – and counting – who together represent 23 nationalities. On March 17th, it was just me. One by one, each volunteer reached out via messenger and LINE app as the word spread from one volunteer to another. There’s a core team of 12 volunteers who are helping, on a very frequent basis, to plan, coordinate, and execute things. Up until last week, we all had never met nor seen each other’s faces. We did a Zoom call to celebrate our 1 million THB milestone, and it was truly a surreal moment to think that we’d been talking every day for hours but had no clue what each other looked like. I’m so grateful for the volunteers, and for the technology available that lets us accomplish our goals.
How can people get involved if they want to donate their time?
We need all the help we can get in various areas, from marketing and project coordination, to reaching out to companies so that we can help more people. Whatever a person’s normal day job is, we can leverage their skills. People can also help us pack care packages (on the weekdays).
What’s it like to be a volunteer?
I have so many touching stories. During packing sessions, we see a lot of camaraderie and noble actions which gives me a lot of hope. We often run out of items to fill care packages because we pack a lot. Many times, a volunteer will disappear to go to 7-11 (even in the rain sometimes!) to buy the missing amount of whatever’s needed, or, if they live close by, they’ve gone back home and returned with the amount we needed without us asking anything. I have so many stories like this. It really inspires me and goes to show that collectively we can do so much together, and that we will get through COVID-19. And it’s people of all ages doing incredible things. We have a volunteer James, aged 11, who started making and selling hand sanitizers and donated the 2,040 THB he raised to COVID Thailand Aid so that we could help more people.
Contact by Facebook:facebook.com/covidthailandaid
Contact by LINE: @covidbangkokaid
Contact by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more here.