Pa Ruay passed away Saturday, June 17, 2023.
In early May of this year Pa Ruay was rushed to the hospital and admitted into the ER. Once there she was diagnosed with kidney failure and the doctors didn’t think she would make it out of the hospital. Dalyn was only admitted in to see her due to Mundo Exchange’s extensive work with the hospital and positive working relationship with the staff, otherwise it was family only. Dalyn was able to visit Pa Ruay and meet members of her family who came back home from around Thailand. Miraculously she was able to recover enough to return home after a short hospital stay, but the doctor warned that she was in her final days. Pa Ruay was moved into a relative’s more comfortable home and was able to spend her last month re-bonding with her children.
We became aquainted with Pa Ruay in October of 2020 when we started our Adopt an Elder program. Upon arriving to a run down house consisting of corroding sheet metal for walls, we walked through the doorless entryway to find Pa Ruay sitting on a thinly woven mat on the dirty concrete floor. The indoor cooking fire smoldering in the kitchen-cum-living room made the smoke tinged air sit heavily in the house.
She was already in her 90s and too old to work. Her husband had passed many years previous and out of her five children only one of her sons lived with her. While her husband was alive they were a fairly wealthy middle class family, but after his death the daughters were living in southern Thailand and the two sons squandered the family’s life savings, plunging themselves and Pa Ruay into poverty.
Her sons, who struggled with addiction, would siphen most of her monthly government stipend for alcohol and she would often struggle to feed both herself and the son still living at home. Pa Ruay spent the end of most months begging her neighbors for food just to survive. In this tight knit village community, even though neighbors were understanding, it was demoralizing to ask them for food and Ruay often felt lonely and depressed. Along with declining mental health, living and aging in poverty had created a myriad of physical health issues for her including diabetes and arthritis.
When we gave Pa Ruay her first care package, she teared up at the sight of food and cooking oil, knowing that this month she wouldn’t have to beg for some food as usual. Her sons were wary of us and I don’t think appreciated our presence, but as our visits persisted and they realized our care package support relied in part on good behavior, they seemed to calm down. At first it was just the Mundo team alongside a friend and her mom (who lived in the village) who would participate.
Pa Ruay’s demeanor gradually changed over time; through being more able to care for herself and her son, she re-gained some of her confidence and pride. More local volunteers from the village would join us and over the two and a half years that we worked with her, her neighbors began taking a more genuine interest in her and how she was doing instead of seeing her as just another person who was going to beg for food. Her sons still struggled with alcohol, but with more eyes on them they were unable to act as poorly as before and slowly they began to shape up. While life was still hard for Pa Ruay, it was better.
Ruay’s health scare and emergency hospital visit in May was a huge wake up call for the family. Her son, who was already doing much better than the first day we met him years ago, quit alcohol completely to focus on supporting, taking care of, and spending genuine time with his mom. Her daughters came up from the south to be there with her and when the doctor infomed the family that she was on her final days they moved her into a realtive’s home nearby, where she was much more comfortable and in a healthier environment.
Even with failing kidneys she looked much healthier, vibrant, and happier than the day we met her.
Srometimes we wonder if our little acts of kindness can really make a difference. We promise you that it can, and it does. You don’t need a grand guesture or a large donation to make a difference. Oftentimes people in poverty get overlooked or treated as less than human, even if inadvertently, and something as simple a hello and acknowledging their presence leaves a much bigger imact that you can imagine. Over our many years of helping those in impoverished communities we have seen firsthand the positive impact that these little acts can have.
The story of Pa Ruay is a perfect example; over the years that we worked with her we saw how each little act built on the previous act to ignite changes that created a better life for her. Through our long-standing involvement with her we demonstrated to those around her the value of her life as a fellow human, our care packages alleviated her basic need for food enough that she could begin to again connect with neighbors in a more interpersonal way, our visits and local volunteers provided companionship and assistance, and the increased involvement of others helped push her son to address his addiction and treat himself and his mom with more respect and care.
When we began the Adopt an Elder program one of our main goals was to help elders in poverty live out their final years with dignity and respect.
Through empirical evidence and family feedback, we are reaching that goal with our elders in the program. Through each little act of kindness cascading into the other, the quality of life for the elders we have connected with has improved in the final years before their deaths.
When we met Pa Ruay she lived with a troubled son alone and alienated, with poor mental and emotional health and increasing physical ailments she was unable to address. By the time she died she had access to better nutrition through our care packages and she had developed renewed relationships with her neighbors as well as being able to find comfort and peace in reconnecting with her family before she died.
Your donations are critical in helping us support these elders, and we would like to especially thank Arianna Harley and Rachel Doran for being monthly donors on Pa Ruay’s support team. Your donations helped create a better life for her in her final years, and that is truly priceless.
We are doing some time consuming but incredible work with elders in poverty, and we need your help to continue bringing dignity and compassionate care to elders in need. Please consider becoming a monthly donor by adopting an elder today and joining their support team. No donation is too small, and your donation will change someone’s life.
If giving monthly is not in your financial capabilities at the moment, you can also give a single donation, and that money will go towards supporting our elders in need.
If you know of someone who is wanting to donate to a nonprofit who will use their donation wisely, 100% of all donations to Mundo Exchange go into our field work and ongoing projects, so please share this or direct them to our organization.