The devastating effects of Covid-19
The failure of the 2020 SOS Rice Appeal
It was around twenty years ago that a Belgian man asked Father Ray, ‘how can I help you?’
Father Ray’s reply was simple, ‘my children need rice.’
That was all it took to start SOS Rice and it had taken place every year.
Over three days, always in early December, and on the birthday of the late king, the children stand outside supermarkets, handing out leaflets asking people to buy an extra bag of rice and donate it to us.
We never collect enough to last us a full year, but we do collect enough to last a few weeks, on average around 10,000 kgs (22,000 pounds) each December.
People also donate cash, which we use to buy food throughout the year. Money that allows us to buy cooking oil, salt, fresh fruit and veg, meat and fish.
2020 we knew would be tough, but never fully realised just how bad it would be.
I was up at the Village and saw a pile of food, the kids told me that this is what they had collected at the supermarkets; it was enough for dinner that day and two meals the following day.
Picture the scene. Hundreds of children and teenagers, all gathering together with our students in wheelchairs and the blind youngsters, holding tightly onto to their white canes.
Young girls in Santa dresses, tinsel in their hair and boys in traditional clothing, trying their best to have fun without getting dirty.
It is the evening of December 24th and we are going around the local hotels to sing carols for the guests. We have had so many requests from hotels that we have asked a school located 30kms away to come to Pattaya and help, they have sent two groups.
The blind children sing beautifully and the disabled students were led by three young Muslims girls wearing hijabs, and who love to sing Christmas carols. Our children from the Village are not the greatest of singers, but they look cute and they are loud.
At 6pm seven buses left in all directions and travel all over Pattaya to different hotels. We visited thirty hotels, and the aim of the evening is to sing Christmas carols and collect money.
Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?
But that was a few years ago, that was in the past.
Christmas 2020, we got quite excited and hopeful when in the middle of December we started to receive phone calls from hotels asking us to visit and sing for the guests.
Our children rehearsed every night after school, but then as Christmas drew nearer we once again received many phone calls, all cancelling. There were no guests at the hotels, no one booked so we had no one to sing to, and just as important, there no one to make donations.
A few years ago we sang at thirty hotels, this year, two hotels and one supermarket.
Can you help?
We had no intention of making another large scale appeal. After the one we made in April last year, we thought we would be back to normal by now, that the borders would be open and Pattaya would be packed with tourists.
But that is not the case. Thailand had gone through weeks, months, without a single case of Covid-19, then in December several cases were discovered and the number has been rising daily.
Pattaya is empty, according to reports tens of thousands of workers have left the city, returning to their home towns and villages.