Kangaroos, Snakes, Dead Dogs and the Temple of No Return: Helping Aids Suffers in 'Magnificent Thailand' Part 4

By Paul Sinclair (One World One People) 14/08/02

''My job is to help AIDS patients die peacefully and in as little pain as possible. Some people say my work is futile, because the patients are going to die anyway. My answer is: we're all going to die one day. Surely we should be providing these people with kindness and mercy. If we turn our backs on them, how can we call ourselves human?'' - Dr Alongkot Dikkapanyo


G'Day all you champions, how are things down your respective ends of the swamp?

A patient at
Wat Phra Baht Nam Pru.

© Courtesy of Wat Phra
Baht Nam Phu

I've been having a fine time here. Every night I have been out, lurking around my mum's property catching mostly grey kangaroos with the torch light. It's so easy because there's heaps of them around our local area. For some reason if you light them up, they just freeze dead still and give you this stupefied look as if to say "How long are you gonna shine that thing on me for? I have to stay out here eating grass all night. How long are you prepared to stay out here for, fella?"

There's also wallabies, koalas, possums, dingoes, cockatoos, parrots, rainbow lorikeets, magpies, butcher birds, kookaburras, billbies, bandicoots, snakes, ducks, lamas, horses, cows, chickens and my cat.

But without further delay, let's stick the arm out, flag down a passing tuk tuk, negotiate a reasonable price, leap into the back and become as personally involved, as possible, in the noise, hustle, bustle and excitement, that is magnificent Thailand!

Now, in my last email I was busy having fun at the university up to my old tricks encouraging the monks to lose their imitation American accents, (acquired by listening to American radio) in favour of a superior Australian one. The results were starting to pay off! Very, very, funny!

In other news, one of the dogs died from a snakebite, which caused a positive sign of hope for all the world's people. Don't worry I'll explain! The headman of the house, who I later learnt was a Muslim, together with one of the novice Buddhist monks and myself, dug a grave for it. Then we wrapped it carefully in newspapers and buried it. When we had finished the Muslim man explained something to the novice monk who then went and found two sticks, bound them together to make a cross and planted it at the head of the grave. Both of them obviously, thought I was a Christian. Well, I was totally blown away by this beautiful act of respect. I have taken it as an encouraging sign that it is indeed possible that the world's people can come to not only accept each other's rights to their own beliefs, but also show respect for those beliefs to. I hope and pray my small contribution to the world with One World One People for Peace Organisation can successfully help with this, even if its only in a very small way.

I also received another great gift. I was taken to a very special place called Wat Phra Baht Nam Phu, in Lopburi Province, to meet another of Thailand's most famous monks; Dr Alongkot Dikkapanyo. We arrived too late in the day to catch the legend himself, but more importantly, we were shown his wonderful work. Years ago, this absolute mega champion upset heaps of people by converting the local temple into a hospice for people with full-blown AIDs. (I'll shortly explain why) Today it has 400 beds and is one of the only places Thais with AIDs can come to be cared for and die with some dignity.

Unfortunately a lot of Thais know very little about the transmission of HIV / AIDs, so if someone contracts it, they are usually shunned and abandoned by their families, friends and communities. A lot of the people think that you can "catch AIDs" just from being in the same room as an AIDs sufferer.

When I was being shown around the temple, I was shown a table with tens of thousands of neatly tied white bundles. They each contained the cremated bones and ashes of an AIDs patient. The Temple normally sends these remains by post to the patients' families, but these bundles had been sent back. The families had refused to accept them because they still thought they could "catch AIDs" from them.

Add to all this the following facts: Thailand is now fourth in the world for the most AIDs patients per head of the population. Every day, another 600 Thais contract the HIV virus and presently, nine Thais die from AIDS every hour. Also, it has long been the Thai Culture for men to visit sex workers. (Maybe as much as 70% of the male Thai population) Considering all this, it's really not too hard to see a human catastrophe of massive proportions in the making.

Plenty of women and children suffer from the disease as well. The majority of the temple's female patients are wives who contracted HIV from their husbands who visited prostitutes. Sometimes this can lead to HIV-positive children, who don't usually survive past their fifth birthday. One could only imagine what living and dieing in such pain must be like for a small child.

Lastly, the Thai Government's main solution to all this is to leave families to care for AIDS sufferers. Unfortunately, this hasn't worked since most families are afraid of "catching AIDS" simply by being around the patient.

So after being taken on an eye opening tour of this magnificent place, I decided its time for 'Nurse Paul' to make a come back. Unfortunately though, I've had to sign up to volunteer for September, because I was flying out of the country the next day. It has to be done though. Not only because they are overwhelmed and need as much help as they can get, but also because I have loads I need to learn about. This is the kind of place that really, really, really, needs to be written about and featured on the One World One People website. More on this to come! Well that's Thailand June - July 2002 for you.

Till next time, take care all you champions.



Click here to view images from Wat Phra Baht Nam Phu, Thailand


Other articles in the series:

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

Glorious Thailand, Part 2, The Splenderous Work of a Little Monk, 15 July 2002

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

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

 

If you are interested in volunteering at Wat Phra Baht Nam Phu they can be contacted through:

http://www.aidstemple.th.org/ email : temple@ksc.th.com
Tel : +66(0) 749-8766-7

Any Doctors or medically trained people interested in volunteering here or helping out in other ways please click here.

A patient in his last days at Wat Phra Baht Nam Phu
What Phra Baht Nam Phu

One World One People, 29 August 2002
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