By Shana Kongmun
What is charity?
I had an interesting chat with a local
businesswoman (and Rotary member!) last night about what charity and
community means to Thai people. She pointed out the large number of Rotary
Clubs in Chiang Mai and the good works they do noting that Thai people
generally do donate to charity but added, “Thai people do charitable work
but for them it means giving money, not donating labor.”
Chiang Mai has many charitable organizations that are run by Thais, and in
fact, the wise foundation member would appeal to the much larger and broader
based local Thai community for funding; Thai people are often extremely
generous when it comes to aiding others. The floods in Bangkok are a key
case in point, despite the fact that Chiang Mai itself was also hit by
flooding, caravans of goods were sent to Bangkok to help the residents there
who had lost everything in the floods. There was certainly no shortage of
generosity although many were concerned that their donations would not reach
their intended recipients.
I had to point out to this local businesswoman that while her observation
regarding charity is true of the city, the small villages and the
countryside is very different, or at least that has been my experience of
many years living in village. Villagers tend to be more insular in that they
prefer to help each other first before helping a nameless stranger. But is
it any less of a charitable act to help your neighbor out when they have
lost everything to a fire or the main breadwinner to disease? Is it more
selfish to help the people you see suffering as opposed to those you do not
know? When resources are limited, as they usually are in small villages and
communities, charity becomes more of how best to help those around you then
how best to help everyone else. This can be in the way of funds, labor or
even something as generous as taking in a child whose parents have died and
raising them side by side with your own children, a common enough occurrence
in places where everyone knows everyone else.
In a big city people are more disconnected from their community, from their
neighbors and from each other. While Chiang Mai is certainly not the
anonymous big city of Bangkok it does offer some anonymity if a person
chooses and there is less interaction between those at the upper income tier
and those at the lower income tier, unlike in a small village where a family
or person’s hardships are visible to all.
So, in this charitable season I have made an effort, albeit ever so small,
to highlight functions, events, and to donate not only space in the paper
but my own funds to charitable causes big and small. I hope that the
newspaper helps to create and reinforce a community feeling, we are, after
all, in this together!
Chiangmai Mail Publishing Co. Ltd.
209/5 Moo 6, T.Faham,
A.Muang, Chiang Mai 50000
Tel. 053 852 557, 081-302 0126 Fax. 053 260 738
Copyright © 2004 Chiangmai Mail. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.