Young Phet is one of the lucky ones. Now 2 years old, he is being raised by his great-grandmother, and growing up with the stability and support of family.
His great-grandmother, Yai Phat (below left) lost two of her sons when they were young. One drowned in the river by the temple at the age of eight. The second, Phet’s grandfather, died of an illness in his twenties and asked her to bring up his baby daughter following his death. Phet is the daughter’s son (again below right).
It is stories like Yai Phat’s, and the desire to help those less fortunate than themselves, that inspired Jodie and Chris to move with their daughters in 2007 from Australia to the slums of Klongtoey.
Living in the middle of the largest slum community in Thailand gave them direct experience of the issues and harsh realities people face on a daily basis. They set up Second Chance Bangkok, a shop selling used clothing and household items at the lowest possible price to those who can pay and donating to those who cannot.
Proceeds from the shop generate employment and fund other projects that support families in the slums. These include youth and kids’ clubs, support for children with special needs, education scholarships and medical programmes.
I visited Jodie, Chris and their family (below) to get a glimpse of life in the community.
Yai Sanga loves to spend time with Jodie’s daughter, Millie, whenever she can (below). She has lived in the slums for 40 years and watches out for Jodie’s family, keeping an eye on their place when they are away.
Her family lived through the fire that ravaged the slums 13 years ago, rendering her and many other people homeless for years.
Kaew and Millie are great friends. Kaew lives with his grandmother, Ba Lit, and his three siblings, including his elder sister who is blind as a result of an attempted abortion. His mother is a drug addict and is in prison much of the time, so it falls to Ba Lit to raise the children. She earns money to feed the family by collecting recyclable items from the streets.
Grandparents are the backbone of society in the slums. Khun Somsuk rocks his grandson to sleep while his wife naps on the floor.
We moved away from the house to see the Second Chance Bangkok shop and the extensive work they are doing there. On the way, we encountered this small group singing and playing makeshift instruments on the train line that backs onto the slums.
Khun Noy lives by the rail track and rarely gets further than this bench during the day.
Leaving the train line, we met a group of grandmothers who collaborate to raise an abandoned child from the community (below). The baby has fallen asleep with a formula milk bottle in his mouth – one of the key causes of rotten teeth among young children across the economically deprived areas of Thailand.
Increasingly immobile with cancer, Khun Id watches life in the street from his window above.
He was watching this little boy, Bang. The boy’s mother, barely a teenager herself, has difficulty meeting her growing baby’s needs. When we stopped to ask about him, we were asked if we’d take him in.
We return to see the mixed groups of local people who congregate in the square outside Jodie’s house in the late afternoon.
Young boys debate the rights and wrongs of the world (below).
Loan sharks are greatly feared and given a wide berth as they wait for their ‘clients’ to return home.
As we leave, we meet Manao (with her cousin below), who is raised by her alcoholic grandmother.
The grandmother accompanies Chris to the Klong Prem Prison each week to visit her son. Chris runs a weekly shuttle, taking people from the community to visit family members there. He also runs a support programme for inmates in the psychiatric unit, and visits prisoners with HIV/Aids.
May 8, 2011 – 8:21 pm Mark Wideman – Jackie the magic of your photography is your ability to capture the true human essence of your subjects. Amazing and moving. Doomo doomo doomo.
May 8, 2011 – 9:10 pm Jodie MacCartney – Jackie, I love seeing the pictures you captured in our neighbourhood…I love seeing these beautiful faces of the people we see everyday. You so wonderfully captured their beauty & courage and the warmth & life of the place we call home! We really appreciated your approach to the experience while you were here too – you were sensitive to people’s inhibitions, and were able to bring out people’s smiles! Thank you! Jodie
May 8, 2011 – 9:11 pm Helen Bunch – Just makes you realise how lucky we are and amazing how these people are smiling and laughing yet having to cope with such hard lives. H x
May 8, 2011 – 9:40 pm jackierado – Jodie, it was an honour to be a part of your community for a day. Seeing your dedication, humility, love and good humour was a humbling experience. What a special day, thank you for welcoming me so warmly. Helen, how right you are! It’s so easy to get caught up in our own lives and forget what other people have to deal with. Mark, thank you as always for your wonderful words.
May 9, 2011 – 2:16 am Anne & Gerry Barr – Jackie, Your photographs are wonderful I feel as if I’m there with you. As well as the pictures your comments help to bring understanding of how hard life can be for some families and children. – However it’s also truly heart warming to find indiviual families who put themselves out there to help others less fortunate
May 9, 2011 – 10:06 pm Chris biddle – Brilliant photos. Inspiring & very Moving.
May 9, 2011 – 10:35 pm Polly – Jackie, amazing photographs yet again ……. and such beautiful happy smiles on those faces which you wish the world for. And how uplifting to see families that literally do ‘give up everything’ by assisting these communities. Makes one comprehend what daily issues really matter. In addition I loved showing my kids these photos ……. thank you. Once again, more please!
May 9, 2011 – 10:42 pm jackierado – Lovely to hear from you – many thanks for the wonderful comments!
May 16, 2011 – 3:34 am Jill Andrews – Wow, I just saw my beautiful daughter Jodie and her family. Makes me feel very proud to have such a beautiful family who are so happy to help those who have nothing. What beautiful pictures. Jill
May 17, 2011 – 12:49 am Zsuzsa – Thank you for sharing your experiences, Jackie; your photographs are really wonderful and the comments most apt. Looking forward to your next adventure – you have a lot to give!