Many people know Mundo Exchange connects international volunteers with local village schools through our volunteer program in Thailand. We are also busy finding local volunteers! We always try to incorporate members of the local community into our various community development projects. Our goal is to engage with each other and help each other grow together. Taking care of and checking in on elders is a major component to our work here, and we rely on the help of local volunteers.
Some elders in poverty are forgotten or cast aside by their families for a wide variety of reasons. Part of our community development and elder care program is to “adopt” these elders and make sure they are being checked in on.
In the case of 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 and depressed.
Yaai means grandmother in Thai language. Our oldest elder, yaai Charlie, we affectionately just call “Yaai”. Yaai has extended family next door and at first we didn’t see them much. 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.
Humans are social creatures. In childhood we grow up with parents, often siblings, sometimes extended family. As teenagers go to school with our peers and proceed to enter dorm life in university. Adulthood finds us joining the work force and working alongside others all day. We meet for happy hours, dinners, and weekends away with friends. We grow up surrounded by people 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 bring local volunteers from our communities to connect with elders like Yaai. It’s one thing for farangs to visit; we love each other but the language barrier often makes it difficult for elders to truly feel heard and understood. Bringing along local volunteers helps elders and younger generations to connect, learn from each other, and reach the deep understanding that can break through feelings of loneliness.