Many people know Mundo Exchange and Laekplian Lokgatat in Thailand have our volunteer program, where we connect international volunteers with local village schools. We also focus on local connections and local volunteers! Of our various community development programs we always try to incorporate members of the local community to engage with each other and help each other.
Some elders in poverty are forgotten or cast aside by their families (for a variety of reasons), and part of our community development and elder care program is to “adopt” these elders and make sure they are being checked in on. If there is a physical problem, we alert the local clinic to go to the house and address it. However their mental and emotional health is just as important! Even if their physical health is ok, the elders we work with either live alone or with neglectful family and caretakers. Many elders we work with feel quite lonely.
Yaai means grandmother in Thai language, but one of our oldest elders we affectionately call “Yaai”. Yaai has extended family next door, and after years of consistent visits and caring they have opened up more and allowed her to enter into their lives, but overall she feels lonely with no one to talk to.
We humans are social creatures. We grow up with parents, often siblings, sometimes extended family. We go to school with our peers, and enter dorm life in university. We enter the work force and work alongside others in offices and out in various professional fields, meet for happy hours, weekends away with friends. We grow up surrounded by people and yet as we age our social circles get smaller and smaller. Social isolation and loneliness can lead to adverse health risks such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, cognitive declines, and weakened immune systems.
Over the years we have made sure to try and remedy social isolation and loneliness in elders through frequent social visits. We try to being local volunteers from our communities to connect with and socialise with elders like Yaai. It’s one thing for farangs to visit, we love each other but the language barrier often makes it difficult to deeply conenct and for elders to truly feel heard and understood. Bringing along local volunteers allows for elders and younger generations to connect, learn from each other, and reach the deep understanding that can break through feelings of loneliness.