PHUKET: There aren’t many places to turn to in Thailand for the many thousands of destitute, HIV-positive women who have been cast out of their home communities due to ignorance, but the Life Home Project (LHP) on Phuket’s Sireh Island accepts such women from all over the nation, warmly welcoming them into their family.
Last month, the LHP took in four new cases, all from Songkhla province. The women joined the 17 other adults and 20 children, aged 3 to 16, already residing at the home.
Project director Daoroong “Joojee” Rodsomnam says: “Here they receive shelter, food, water, electricity, clothes and everything else they need, free of charge, as well as some vocational training.”
It’s an unprejudiced environment that lets the women and children have a better life, she says.
The LHP is a non-governmental organization set up as a charitable foundation under Thai law.
“Our project does not have a main sponsor. We just run on donations and apply for government funding. We don’t have a regular source of funding from month to month,” she notes.
But this is a special month for the LHP and the women it cares for. The St Patrick’s Ball, which was held in Phuket late last month, raised over 1 million baht (approx US$ 30,000) from ticket sales and an auction. On top of that, the Irish government donated an additional 300,000 baht.
“The people were very generous and it was a wonderful event. It means a lot to the women at the LHP and myself. We are very excited about what we can do and the people we can help with this money,” Joojee said.
The 300,000 baht donation from the Irish Government will go toward repairing and maintaining the five-year-old home and its problematic water supply system.
The remainder will help the LHP continue to provide for its residents, fund its scholarship program for 170 children with AIDS, and buy materials the women need to learn new vocations like sewing, painting and handicraft production.
“We will try to make this money last,” Joojee explains.
Although they do a good job alleviating the physical and social trauma that comes with HIV/Aids, the LHP is well aware that prevention and education are the best ways to mitigate the spread of the disease.
The reason the women end up at the home is all too often the same, she explains.
“When her family and community find out she has HIV, they don’t want to take care of her because they are afraid [of becoming infected themselves]. Often, [the infected person] also loses her job.
“We [try to] discuss the situation with the family and inform them about Aids. We tell them that they can have contact with the infected person without catching it themselves, and that it is not dangerous because HIV does not spread by touch.
“Someone who gets infected with HIV is still the same person. That’s what these families need to realize,” Joojee says.
The LHP also runs an Aids awareness program in schools throughout Phuket.
According to the Phuket Public Health Office, there were 7,162 registered HIV patients in Phuket as of last month. This represents an increase of 212 cases over the past seven months.
If you would like to help the LHP, telephone 076-614060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Alexandra Andersson
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