Southern Thailand

The Tsunami of 2004 rendered a severe blow to Southeast Asia with Thailand receiving a heavy share of destruction, economic devastation, and the loss of life. Islands in the southern portion of the country were especially impacted by the tsunami. Located 10 miles northeast of Phuket, the island of Ko Yao Yai suffered some of the worst losses. Everyone was impacted by the tsunami. It’s not uncommon to hear of families losing more than one member who was washed out to sea.

The Sustainable Research Foundation (SDRF), a Thai government approved non-profit organization, responded to the invitation of the Fisheries Department and the community leadership of the island. SDRF is focusing on the marine aqua-cultural production of grouper, pearl oysters, and spiny lobsters in order to help local fishing communities effectively address both their own needs and the needs of their marine environment. Other social needs have also been addressed with the renovation and expansion of a local school and the provision of scholarships.

SDRF also responded to another sort of tsunami--the HIV/AIDS pandemic. SDRF staff responded to a request for assistance from two women affected with HIV/AIDS, Toon and Srinuan, and began working with them to address their situation. The SDRF staff provided encouragement to these women and other marginalized people by encouraging them to establish HIV/AIDS support groups. These groups were introduced to more effective utilization of local public health resources so they could learn to better take care of themselves. By learning what needed to be done to address HIV/AIDS, receiving medical attention at local hospitals, many people’s conditions improved. That improvement was noticed by others who were affected with HIV/AIDS and SDRF’s advocacy movement began to swell. SDRF also worked with the HIV/AIDS affected communities by promoting education of children of HIV/AIDS affected parents. Unfortunately, Toon died of complications from her illness. However, Srinuan carried on this work of compassion and now serves as a coordinator of HIV/AIDS affected community leaders in seven provinces.

This work of compassion has inspired the HIV/AIDS community and to date over 600 people are part of this advocacy movement. Having been ostracized by their own families, they found a new family amongst themselves in the HIV/AIDS affected communities. The more they met, the more they wanted to meet and share with each other. These groups now interact with one another on a regular basis.

Cultured pearls

Srinuan and her family with Ho Kim (R)

SDRF’s Role in Southern Thailand

Ko Yao Yai Island
In response to the invitation of local and regional government authorities, SDRF has facilitated renovation and expansion of local schools, offered scholarships for children, and researched avenues of educational improvement. SDRF also works with the Public Health Departments to address HIV/AIDS challenges.

In addition, SDRF established the Phil Keillor Marine Research Institute (PKMRI). PKMRI focuses on breeding marine life that is fast disappearing from local waters and has high value for both the local fishing communities and the local and international market. Examples of high value marine life are Grouper, Spiny Lobster, and Pearl Oysters. Each of these groups has several varieties.

PKMRI exists to:
• Revive local marine environment through breeding and releasing marine life back into the waters off the Island of Ko Yao Yai.
• Enable local fishing communities to raise value added marine products in floating cages and research local indigenous knowledge on this vocation.
• Train local practitioners as well as interested organizations and individuals in the art of breeding and raising disappearing local marine life.
• Provide profits that will cover SDRF’s budget and enable other development projects in the region.

HIV/AIDS Affected Communities
According to the Thai Public Health Department, southern Thailand has one of the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS infection in the country. Over the past three years, SDRF has reached out to these communities located in seven provinces in the region through the encouragement of an advocacy movement on their behalf. As participants in this movement experienced improved health, others who are in the same situation took note and were drawn to seeking assistance and now participate in HIV/AIDS support groups and fellowships. Over 600 participants have emerged from within these communities. SDRF’s purpose is to ensure that leaders of this movement are enabled, equipped, and empowered to meet the social needs of these communities.

SDRF is committed to helping these communities address their needs, but does not have the resources to do this consistently. A collaborative project with a North American faith based community is currently underway. The project is designed to make it possible for SDRF to touch the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS, and will enable them to have hope for a better life within their own communities. The project will establish the Center for HIV/AIDS Affected Communities (CHAC) in Songkhla, Thailand, and will allow CHAC to address the basic needs of these marginalized communities. The center’s main purpose is to empower these communities throughout the region.

The objectives of CHAC are to:
• Act as a support base for the seven provincial HIV/AIDS communities that are part of this network in the region.
• Focus on leadership development for the growing number of groups (new communities) in the network.
• Continue the work of linking the different communities with government run hospitals in the different provinces that provide training and medical assistance to
• HIV/AIDS communities and their children.
• Manage a program focused on helping community members to develop jobs and livelihoods which most of them do not have at this time.
• Enable children of HIV/AIDS infected families to pursue their education through scholarships and connections to educational resources in their own provinces.
• Act as a temporary resting place and shelter for people in these HIV/AIDS communities who need a place to stay. It will also seek to help those without viable housing to build housing according to a low-cost housing plan developed by SDRF.
• Act as a meeting place for HIV/AIDS community support groups throughout the region.

Projects for Southern Thailand

Phil Keillor Marine Research Institute
The Phil Keillor Marine Research Institute on Koh Yao Island.

The expansion of the new MRI nursery system. The MRI is focused on the production of 3 different fish for grow-out in floating cages by local fishing communities in the Kho Yao area and by CHAC members – HIV/AIDS communities in 7 provinces of south Thailand. The 3 fish are “while sea bass,” ocean tilapia (created by the MRI), and estuary grouper. Funds are needed to build new nursery systems so that the MRI can expand its production of fingerlings which will be used to grow out to one kilo weight in floating cages. Estimated cost = $50,000

A fund for enabling MRI staff to interact with CHAC and help set up the proposed CHAC fish farm in Songkhla. MRI staff will help the CHAC leadership construct the new farm as a nursery for the 3 varieties of fish that the MRI is specializing in:white sea bass, ocean tilapia, estuary grouper. The MRI staff will also train the CHAC staff to run the farm and to disseminate the resulting fingerlings for grow-out to HIV/AIDS communities in 7 provinces of south Thailand. Estimated cost of MRI training role = $25,000.

HIV/AIDS Ministry to Marginalized Communities
The construction of a new CHAC “Center” The SDRF needs help constructing a new building that will provide multiple services to the 9 HIV/AIDS communities in which we are working in 7 provinces. The “Center” will provide temporary housing for CHAC members in time of need (a hostel); it will also have a “clinic”, registered with the public health department and linked to local hospitals, so that CHAC can address the medical needs of local people – teams from the states can work out of this clinic to both treat and teach in the wider communities, both HIV/AIDS and uninfected communities.
Estimated Cost = $70,000

The set up of a livelihood fish farm in south Thailand (Songkhla) that will act as a dissemination center for fish fingerlings which CHAC members will raise out in floating cages in surrounding ocean areas (lagoons, estuaries, etc.). The MRI will be directly connected to this project – they will supply the fish stock (while sea bass, red “tuptim” tilapia, estuary grouper) for the start up of the farm and will guide it as it develops. Estimated cost of CHAC Fish Farm set up: $150,000

Grants and contributions projects may be forwarded on behalf of SDRF through Global Development Network (GDN):

Global Development Network Corporation
C/o Mr. Chuck Gietzel
360 W. Washington Ave. #402
Madison, WI 53703

You can also contribute online here.

Contributions are tax deductible. Please make a notation for which project you wish to support in the memo section of your contribution. Thank you!