The Corner Restaurant, located in one of the busiest and most affluent communities on the island, is a popular dining spot of choice for tourists, local expats and Cherngtalay-Laguna residents alike.
The spread of COVID-19 shut down businesses across the island, and many restaurants closed down when the subdistrict lockdown began, with very few staying open. Jens and Khun Arttie’s establishment was not left unaffected and remained open for takeaway & delivery, only. When the subdistrict lockdown came into effect, they decided to stay and sleep in the restaurant, as they would have been unable to help keep the restaurant running otherwise.
On April 14th, after a sleepless night, Jens and his staff cooked around 40 meals to hand out to members of the community who came to ask for rice and other food items. In less than a minute, the food and supplies they had put together were utterly exhausted.
It was then that they decided to establish the “Helping With Love” (HWL) initiative via Facebook. At first, friends and regulars to the restaurant started to contribute food & drinks, clothing, basic necessities and time to the effort. Now, after more than one month, their initiative has reached beyond the borders of Phuket, with many good-hearted ‘strangers’ from around the world contributing to their effort.
On average, the HWL initiative sees anywhere from 200 to 400 people every day, with some walking almost for an hour to the restaurant for food and essentials. Others queue in line with their kids for more than an hour until food & drinks are distributed daily at 5.00 pm. Volunteers help to hand out the goods, while the local health office has a representative attend to the long line outside the restaurant, checking people’s temperatures and ensuring everyone complies with the social distancing rules & regulations.
The team and volunteers have been out to experience first-hand how the lockdowns and job losses are affecting communities. The Burmese worker communities are some of the hardest-hit, with many living in barely sheltered homes with no relief in sight. Especially their kids and newborn suffer then most.
Now, with businesses slowly opening up, it will still take months for some of these families to find some form of financial stability. Even if a family member finds work, it will take them a month to receive their first paycheck – that’s if they can get past the initial probation period.
With new faces adding to the growing line of people every day, Jens and the team have met many families and heard about their individual hardship. One story, in particular, caught their attention – a young boy who, after speaking with his aunt, they found out had severe heart problems.
Young ‘Fluke’ has severe arrhythmia, and his heart has only three chambers instead of four. Coupled with several other severe health conditions, Fluke is in dire need of medical attention. The team have been rallying support to help him get the treatment he needs. Read his story on Jens’ post here.
Jens called out online commenters. “Some keyboard warriors have said that they have lived here in the area for years and never seen any poor people and that the amount of single-use plastic and paper is a hazard to the environment”, Jens explained after receiving some backlash on social media. “If that were the case, there wouldn’t be anyone lining up outside an hour and a half or two before the food gets handed out”- “Some environmental activists seemingly got their priorities wrong. You want to save the planet but not its people?” Jens added.
He emphasized that “No matter what you do, no good deed goes unpunished. Those complaining about the restrictions and commenting on our and other people’s humanitarian efforts, should better come out and help us, instead of sitting in their comfy villas. With his calculator in hand, he pointed out that many people’s spare change could feed hundreds of desperate families for weeks.
Jens and Khun Arttie would like to especially thank their Russian friends and the Russian community here in Cherngthalay-Laguna who, even before the lockdown began, filled their restaurant to capacity. “Russians have always been very kind and loyal to us, and their community were some of the first, and continue to support our HWL initiative by contributing food, clothing, resources and time – Thank you very much for that”, Jens added
Follow the work the team is doing on their Facebook page, and where you can spend an afternoon with the team helping to cook, pack and prepare care packages for the people who need it most. Get in touch with Jens at 066 164 9914 or email him directly at email@example.com.