Nuan is on her motorbike and on her way to work, rain or shine, by 5:30AM most days. She wakes up in the morning and checks the roof warily, looking for new leaks and making sure the kids’ clothes and beds are still dry if it has been raining during the night. Her husband, Jong, is up and getting the kids ready to be at school on time for the 8AM announcements before going to his part time job chopping kindling.
The roof and walls of Nuan’s home are nailed together layers of dilapidated sheet metal, sunlight shining through the jagged edges of the rusted and deteriorating tin. I can see the light filtering through into her house, and not through a window or open door, it’s shining through the numerous holes in the ceiling and walls. Besides, there are no doors or windows in Jong and Nuan’s home.
The house has no walls to separate rooms, just elevated areas, mattresses separated by mosquito nets. Clothes hang neatly on beams to the right and the left, an open air closet. The floor is the earth, dirt turning to mud in the rain. If they want to use the toilet, they must cross the yard to a separate building.
It’s almost like a rural dollhouse – the kitchen area, beds, closet, lounging area; all of this contained in one big open space on display, privacy a concept nearly non-existent in this design.
Nuan has two kids of her own, one twenty year old son who no longer lives at home and one son, as well as her two nephews, all three of whom are aged ten years old and younger. Due to a series of unfortunate events and economic hardship, Nuan and Jong have been raising their two nephews as their own for the past four years, although they have been with these boys since birth.
Nuan , the eldest of three sisters, has a steady job at a hotel. Jong went down to part time work so that one of them is always available to take care of the boys and transport them school and back. Nuan works two different shifts at the hotel so that she can sometimes be there in the mornings to help her husband and see the boys off. Of her two younger sisters, one has a rubber farm about 30km away and the other went to the south of Thailand to look for work.
It hasn’t always been this way. Five years ago, Nuan and her sister lived together with their families on the property. Together they ran a local family business selling food at a stall and they were doing quite well for themselves. The rubber industry was booming and income was steady. Then things changed. Nuan’s sister’s husband had an affair with a Laos woman and ran off across the border, taking all of their savings and leaving his wife and kids alone and penniless. In the early 2000’s everyone invested in rubber and started their own rubber farms, but once output exceeded demand the industry crashed. At it’s peak, farmers could get around 90 baht ($3)/kg of raw rubber. Today the price of rubber has dropped to around 18 baht ($0.60)/kg.
Nuan makes, on average, less than $320 a month. This is more than minimum wage and more than many make in this region. As it stands now, minimum wage is about $10 per DAY. That is an 8 hour work day for just a $10 take home. It is common for people, like her sister, to go south in search of factory jobs or something else that brings in more money than they can earn here at home. It’s common for parents to leave their children with relatives and move in search of higher paying jobs to raise and support their children. Both sisters send money to Nuan when they can, but it is not enough. Jong can make around $160 a month during summer and winter, but only between $30-$60 during the rainy season. The consistent $320 a month that Nuan makes at work, coupled with the inconsistent supplementary income from her husband’s part time work and sporadic payments from her sisters, is all they have to feed the five of them and keep the kids up to date on their school fees, uniforms, and materials.
Despite this hardship, I rarely see Nuan without a smile on her face. Even though she has taken on the burden of raising her nephews and balances on the edge of poverty, she radiates joy. Her love for these boys keeps her going. Nuan’s resistance to despair in the face of adversity is both amazing and inspiring. She is very industrious, saving every penny they earn for raising the boys. With her New Years bonus she invested in some pigs to make some extra money. She does everything in her power to give her son and nephews an education and a future, and we want to help her.
Mundo Exchange and Laekplian Lokgatat want to give Nuan and her family a new roof; one that will keep them dry this rainy season and for years to come. I cannot imagine the emotional and psychological toll not having a dry place to live takes on someone. We want them to fall asleep at night knowing in the morning they won’t wake up to wet uniforms , or cold from wet blankets that have been soaked during the night. We want the family to be able to have a roof that prevents water from dripping dangerously onto electrical outlets and wires.
We want Nuan and Jong to be able to come back to a dry house after biking home through the rain, and the kids to have a safe and dry place to learn and do their homework.
Everyone deserves to have their basic needs met. Living in conditions of constant stress creates a mental fatigue and can lead to depression. A new roof over their heads will help alleviate some of the stress of basic survival and health, and Nuan and her family go to sleep with the comfort of knowing they will remain dry through the night.
Thanks to donations from friends and supporters of Mundo Exchange, we already have about $1,000 raised to help improve this family’s living conditions. We estimate that for this project we need about another $500 to cover building materials and local labor fees. If you want to be a part of bringing relief to Nuan, Jong, and their three boys please donate. Every little bit helps!