CHINAG RAI – Improving water and sanitation for older people was the idea behind a recent “Water for life for older people” day which was held in the mountainous village of Akha Ayo in Chiang Rai Province, northern Thailand.
This annual event, held on 18 October, involved representatives from FOPDEV, HelpAge’s partner in Thailand, a local non-government organization, Hill Area Development Foundation and Prudential Life Insurance. Together, we worked with disadvantaged older people from the Akha ethnic minority group.
Sharing responsibility between all parties, including members of the local community, was a key success of the event. The event was instigated by volunteers from Prudential Bangkok, in partnership with FOPDEV, however all groups worked together to build toilets, water tanks and also plant trees. Involving the local community in the process increased both awareness and ownership of the initiative.
Overall three toilets and three water tanks with filters were installed. In addition, 100 trees were planted in the upper part of the mountain with the help of community members. The community will then work together to preserve the trees and forest.
No more forest toilet
I met Mrs Mee Tu, one of the beneficiaries of this project. She is 58 and a widow. Although a bit shy when talking to us, I could see how happy she was to have a new lavatory in her house. She said it was her first time she had received this kind of blessing. One of her sons helped us to build her new toilet.
She told us: “My house had no toilet. I used the forest as a toilet. I realise that poor sanitary conditions cause diseases, but I have no choice. Now I’m very happy to have a toilet. I don’t need to worry about slipping and falling in an accident in the forest anymore. I wish all you luck in your life and your work to help other poor older people”
A better future
FOPDEV, together with Prudential Bangkok and the Hill Area Development Foundation are now seeking to expand support provided to older people in this village who are poor and frail. This would be through a volunteer home care programme for ethnic minorities in Akha Ayo, especially informal settlers in Ratchadet Damrong, Doi Thong and Wat Phra Kaew communities.
It was a great experience for me to join this activity. I built friendships with others by sharing thoughts and aspirations on how to improve the lives of older people. By Marifer Arevalo
Find out more about HelpAge’s work to support older people in Thailand.