Glorious Thailand Part 2: The 'Splendiferous' Work of a Little Monk

By Paul Sinclair (One World One People) 15/07/02

G'Day all you champions out there.

Coming to you now from the dry, sunburnt Land that is Oz. But before you join me here, lets return to Thailand as we walk along-side the rice fields, return the smiles of the friendly local people before reaching out a hand to pat the neighbourhood elephant. All this when too much Thailand could of never, ever, ever, have been enough!
A volunteer teaching a youngster the strings at
Wat Suan Kaew
Wat Suan Kaew Foundation

If you remember in my last email, I was very keen to make myself part of the furniture at Wat Suan Kaew, in order to learn about the marvellous handy work of Pra Payom for the socially disadvantaged. Well take your starting positions everyone because here we go!

Firstly I met smiling Mrs DuangJai. Everyone who has anything to do with this wonderful lady calls her 'Mummy' because she is like a loving mother to everyone. Over twenty years ago when Pra Payom was just starting his beautiful work, she went to interview him as part of her job at the time to do a report for a magazine. Finding him all alone, surrounded by mountains of paperwork, with no hope of getting on top of it on his own, Mrs Duangjai shortened the interview and got stuck into helping Pra Payom deal with it all. Of course, after she had done such a great job, Pra Payom asked her to come and work for him. But she declined and said she didn't want to be paid for helping with such work and instead offered to come and help out for free any time she had some spare time. A little while later she found she liked her work for Pra Payom so much that she became the fulltime secretary for the Suan Kaew Foundation. Next to Pra Payom she is the other driving force behind this wonderful work.

I was very privileged to have Mrs Duangjai take me for a tour around Wat Suan Kaew and well, words can be a poor means of sharing gloriously, sensational goings on and experiences, but here we go!

First of all we came across some monks teaching a group of newly released ex- prisoners. They were all sitting quietly, listening intently to what the monks were teaching them. Mrs Duangjai said "some of them, kill another, do many bad, bad things. Outside here they have bad thoughts all time, do many bad things. We give them food, somewhere to sleep and show them how to do job and give them job. We never have any trouble with them when they are here. They love us!" I said to her 'That's because you give them love.' She said with a smile "Yes!"

At Wat Suan Kaew these two rampagingly, extraordinary champions have set up a care unit for elderly people who have been abandoned by their families, as well as care homes for terminally ill people and mentally and physically disabled people. They even have an orphanage and nursery for poor kiddies to get free care and education.

Pra Payom has also set up a free moral camp for disadvantaged young kiddies to learn about good conduct and Buddhist principles during their summer holiday period. During the normal school period he also offers scholarship grants to children and homeless youth mostly from the poorer countryside who would otherwise never have a chance to go to school. He even gives poor youths the opportunity to earn money for their education by running small businesses at Wat San Kaew. This occurs during the summer vacation and they are given space to sell what they make.

Nearby he has a Job training centre to provide occupational training and support for any unskilled and disadvantaged people so they can learn a skill to make an independent, honest living.

If all this wasn't glorious enough he has also turned his attention to the ever growing problem of drug addiction in Thailand. To rehabilitate addicts, he gives them food, shelter and teachings to help them overcome their addiction. A lot of them in turn put the money they would normally have spent on their addictions into bamboo piggybanks made by the elderly people living at Wat San Kaew. This money is then used for emergencies and disaster relief. Pra Payom has an ongoing project to help any victims of floods, fires and other disasters.

To give you even more of an idea why Pra Payom has been called 'The Monk who cares for everyone', he once witnessed a man fighting with stray dogs for food scraps from a bin. His response to this was to set up a 'Goodwill Project' to give rich people an easy way to share their wealth with the most needy through donations. This venture, in turn, was so successful that he was able to set up what's been called 'The Poor Peoples Supermarket'. It is a large market where donations and surplus products are sold to poor people at heavily discounted prices. Bloody Magnificent!

In fact, so successful were all his projects that more and more poor people kept coming to Wat Suan Kaew. So what did this little champion do so he wouldn't run out of space and resources and have to turn people away? He decided to buy more land and make the whole operation completely self sufficient and environmentally sustainable. Firstly, he gave lectures and sold books and cassettes of his teachings to make enough money. The additional land which he then purchased with that money was then used for planting all manner of agricultural crops as well as providing training and new jobs to keep it all going. The result is that now they grow nearly all their own food and sell the rest. They even grow plants used in traditional medicine to treat those who can't afford medical treatment as well as rare plants to conserve their species. Astonishingly wondrous!

Speaking of which I noticed at one stage a smiling disabled man on crutches pass by us. Mrs Duangjai pointed to a beautiful, perfectly maintained herb garden. She said 'He does this, all by himself'. At Wat Suan Kaew nearly everyone does something to contribute.

Currently, Pra Payom and Mrs Duangjai are working with the King of Thailand on a model recycling plant to recycle everything. So there you go champions, could you imagine what would happen to world poverty if places like this started popping up all over the world? I can! It would be magnanimously splendiferous! (Splendiferous is a Don King word meaning more than amazingly amazing.) You might have noticed I've had to reach for the Thesaurus in an increasingly futile struggle to express everything adequately. But truly I can't find any words good enough for this! Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face that could well be permanent!

Finally, to end this email I will share a warming and very quick little story. Loads of people once wanted to put up a picture of Pra Payom to honour him at Wat Saun Kaew. He was so humble though, that he didn't want them to do this and in the end a compromise was reached. A lovely little shrine was erected that shows Pra Payom as a small boy with his young brothers peaking out of a window late at night watching their mum planting something. The story goes that Pra Payom had asked his mother if she could buy him a sweet so he could taste one for the first time but she couldn't afford it. So, she made many sacrifices and in the end, snuck outside late one night and planted a small banana palm in the garden. She did this so that when it grew up she could give Pra Payom a banana so he could taste what it was like to eat a sweet thing. Now Pra Payom encourages anyone who passes this plaque to think of their mothers and remember the love they have given us and the sacrifices they have made for us all.

Till next week champions, take care and bye now.



Click here to view images from Wat Suan Kaew, Thailand


Other articles in the series:

Helping the Poor and Socially Disadvantaged in 'Magnificent Thailand', Part 1, 30 June 2002

Glorious Thailand, Part 3, Helping Monks with English Practice, 28 July 2002

Glorious Thailand, Part 4, Helping Monks Care for AIDS Sufferers, 14 August 2002

Glorious Thailand, Part 5, Family: The Real Meaning of Being Human, 21 October 2002


If you are interested in volunteering at Wat Suan Kaew they can be contacted through:

www.suankaew.org

or

Wat Suan Kaew Bang-Yai District,
Bang-Lane Sub-District,
Nonthaburi Province 11140
Thailand

Tel : +66(0)-2921-5603-4 Ext. 118 ; 0-18509796
Fax : +66(0)-2595-1222

Volunteers at Wat Suan Kaew working in
one of the herb gardens
Wat Suan Kaew Foundation

One World One People, 24 January 2002
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