The past year has seen so many people in Phuket doing their utmost to help those whose lives have been nigh torn apart by financial devastation brought on by the ongoing COVID economic crisis that it is difficult to estimate just how many there have been.
As the island went into lockdown last April, relief campaigns were launched all over the island by a host of very good-hearted people doing the best they could to help those in immediate need, many left without enough money to buy even food.
Yet many of those efforts, with all the good they were doing, were fractious at best. The two key aspects that were handled very well were that, first and foremost, relief supplies were getting to most of the people in need, and second, that the efforts were very localised with relief-campaign organisers each focusing on the people and the areas they knew best.
Considering the circumstances and the speed that the relief efforts were rolled out, this is in no way a criticism. These aspects are purely the result of the need for a quick response to the immediate situation, and the people who stepped up are no less than heroes for their efforts.
Today, as we head towards a year of living under the brunt of the economic impact of the COVID-19 prevention policies, many of these initial campaigns have faded due to lack of donations, and lack of resources.
As Andrea Edwards, an active member of One Phuket, said so clearly this week: “We have witnessed our community rising to meet the challenge and we have many heroes and heroines doing so much to help those in need. But as the months turn into a year, funds are running dry, communities are left without help, people do not have enough food to eat, jobs are not coming back, and those on the ground, doing the work to help those most impacted, are getting exhausted.”
Now experts are warning that the worst may be yet to come if there is no recovery in at least domestic tourism. Assistant Professor Dr Chayanon Phucharoen, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, Prince of Songkla University (PSU) Phuket campus, also warns that to avoid what he called a “difficult situation” Phuket would need to have even more domestic tourists than we had in the months immediately following the first lockdown last year. And that is while people throughout the rest of the country also continue to struggle to make ends meet.
Specifically regarding foreigners, Phuket has always been blessed with a host of people – expats, retirees and tourists alike – who all came here with open hearts. That is the type of life that attracted them to Phuket, and despite all the complaining posted online, it remains the fundamental reason why they stay.
To all those who have the time or the ability to help provide donations, we call on you to step up to give only just what you can to support One Phuket. Donations are always welcome, but do not shy away if all you can give is some time to lend a hand. Just an extra pair of hands can make a big difference in getting help to where it is needed most.