Elders in rural vllages live in conditions that you would not commonly see in western cultures. Not to say one is right and one is wrong, but they are both indeed vastly different from each other. When I close my eyes and think of my grandma, I envision her in her either padding about the house on carpeted floors or sitting on a couch (or chair) with plush comfy cushions and pillows, reading a book. In fact in general when I close my eyes and think of homes in the US, the same mental images come to mind. Windows and doors with screens, air conditioning, carpeted and hardware floors, a myriad of kitchen appliances, cozy couches to sprawl across….all of the creature comforts of western style homes.
A stark contrast to images of my Western home, Issan villages homes are decidedly structured around necessity instead of comfort. Many homes in the rural villages are made of cement or wood, usually with open doors and windows with wooden shutters and no screens to block mosquitos. Beds are mats or thin mattresses on the floor. Kitchens are open fire inside the house, usually no refridgerator and food is stored in hanging baskets to keep away the ants, rats, dogs, and other hungry creatures, and when you want to relax and enjoy time with company you sit together on the floor on woven mats. This style of home does not change as you age, and let me tell you my grandma would not last a week of sitting on a hard cement floor. These elders are STRONG!
Mundo Exchange and Laekplian Lokgatat have teamed up with another local partner foundation, Nam Suk Ma Hai, to help more people in need. Suwannee, a member of Nam Suk Ma Hai, is from the Chaiyaporn area in Buengkan Province. We went together to visit her mom and identify and assist elders in need That’s right, we’ve adopted more elders! 🙂
Many elders in poverty in this area suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoperosis. This stems from a lifetime of poor diet and inadequate health care. With the help of Nam Suk Ma Hai and local community members, we were able to identify four vulnerable elders in need of care packages.
Ruay is about 90 some odd years old and lives in extreme poverty. Her husband died nearly 20 years ago and she lives with her son who struggles with alcohol addiction and generally has to take care of herself. Oftentimes she has no food and has to ask her friends and neighbors for a little bit of food to make it through the month. While she has no refrigerator to store food she can cook over the fire at home. We hope to help sustain her through our care packages with nonperishable foods and eggs to boost her caloric intake to a healthy level and supply protein to her diet.
Riang is nearly 70 and her husband died about 12 years ago. One son lives next door. She was taking care of her neice, now 20, who was born with HIV and her parents have both died. However she now lives as alone as her neice’s disease progressed and she had to move to Nong Khai for more accessible treatment. She grows many fresh fruits and vegetables on her property and our care packages help provide bulk to her meals such as carbs and proteins.
Bun Mee has no husband and five children, one of which live with her. She is in her early 90s and has diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoperosis. The son that lives with her suffers from cancer and often has to be away from home to see the doctor. He also works in the rice field, so she is often home alone. Even though her son works, cancer treatment and transportation costs to see the doctor add up quickly and they live in poverty. On top of providing some protein and calcium in care packages, she also requested socks to stay warm. As you can see, her bed does not supply much insulation and the floors are tile or concrete, which can be quite cold to walk on in the mornings and evenings.
Bun Jaan is 96 years old. her husband died quite some time ago and she lives alone; her son lives next door and her daughters in a nearby village. Because she used to be the village shaman, she refrains from eating meat. Recently she fell out of bed, hitting both her head and her hip. She now sleeps on the floor on mats (depicted above) to reduce risk of further injuring herself with another fall. She is still in great spirits and her heart is strong, but her back, hips, and knee are in a lot of pain. Her daughter stays with her for most of the day and she says her mom cries when she has to go home at the end of the day. Our care packages included socks to keep her warm and non perishable food for her and her children to eat when food and funds are running low. We are working in finding ways to incorporate more protien in her diet to make up for the lack of meat.
As with our yaai in Nonsomboon, our Adopt an Elder program is about more than just care packages. We work to address the psychological and mental needs of elders as well. Many elders living alone, and especially in poverty, feel depressed, neglected, and at times scared of injury with no one around to help them. We connect with locals in the villages and come to visit elders together to help facilitate lasting connections and ensuring elders do not feel forgotten in their communities.