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Looking out for those who look out for our Phuket community



Benjawan Tamphanuwat, 66, from Bangkok, is the president of the Kusoldharm Rescue Foundation. She first served as head of the organization from 2000-2002, then took up the post again in 2009.

Here, she talks about the importance of maintaining a positive, productive and safe working environment so that rescue workers, both paid and volunteer, can work together as a harmonious team and be ready for any situation they may face.

PHUKET: The Kusoldharm Rescue Foundation was established on September 27, 1976. The original purpose of the organization was to form a team of workers who would collect bodies that had been abandoned, buried in random places or involved in an accident. Workers would be called to retrieve the bodies; then they would pray for the deceased and have a funeral ceremony so that the person’s soul could move on.

We did this because of our faith, and we did it to help others.

A group of 19 people made up the original administration board when Kusoldharm was founded. Now, there are 50 paid staff and about 300 volunteers, some of whom have been working with us for almost 20 years.

The foundation has evolved and adapted since its modest beginning more than 40 years ago. Nowadays, we do a lot of social and charity work apart from our duties as a rescue foundation.

It is no secret that this is a hard job. Not many people would willingly do the work that our staff do. Most are volunteers and the staff are paid little.

I am always watching over my staff very closely. People in our foundation must love each other and always have a positive attitude, as our job is to help others.

I work hard to gain the trust and respect of my staff, and if one of our members is disrespectful or causes any problems, I will not keep him or her around.

I greatly admire my staff and volunteers for having the heart to help other people while asking for little or nothing in return.

Every worker must pass a training course with the Phuket Provincial Health Office in order to take part in lifesaving missions. The course includes CPR certifications, first aid techniques and more.

Our workers are normally associated with the grisly business of saving lives on the road, but we also train them in marine search and rescue. We are having to adapt to the ever-increasing number of water-related accidents on and near the island. Many of our staff members and volunteers have learned essential techniques to save others, and even themselves, in the case of a marine emergency.

We must be ready to deal with anything – on land or in the sea.

The organization is run solely on donations. However, we never send our staff out to collect money. The only way a donation can be made is by visiting our headquarters in Phuket Town.

Our focus is on Phuket, but we also help out if there is an accident or disaster in other provinces.

For example, in 1989, a plane crashed in Phang Nga, and many people died. The Kusoldharm Foundation coordinated with Phang Nga provincial authorities in retrieving bodies from the crash site.

And of course when the 2004 tsunami hit, our workers served tirelessly.

We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and all of our services are done for free.

No one is forced to join our team. They all follow their heart and passion, and most volunteer. I believe that is why we are still here and why we are always getting stronger.


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