For five years, Pattanachai Sakkawee sold street food just outside a mall in one of the busiest parts of Bangkok. Come rain or shine, the 36-year-old would set up his stall and prepare kang tai pla pad hang, a deliciously spicy southern Thai dish of fried fish kidneys that locals usually eat with rice. He loved his work, especially getting to know his customers, and was able to generate enough money to support his wife and three children, the youngest of whom is only four months old.
But when the pandemic hit Thailand early last year and malls shuttered as a result, Sakkawee’s family lost its only source of income. The economic impact was exacerbated by the fact that Sakkawee, who is blind, had limited access to other job opportunities.
While the ongoing pandemic has affected all corners of society, its impact has been most acutely felt by the disenfranchised. According to an International Labour Organisation study released in June, the COVID-19 crisis has been particularly detrimental to Thailand’s vulnerable groups, especially informal workers like Sakkawee. The report said the number of working poor in the country was expected to rise to at least 11% of the total employed population this year.
As president of the Thai Association of the Blind Community, Sakkawee is well aware of the plight of those like himself. The foundation provides support to some 30,000 people with visual impairments. Many of them worked as masseuses, sold lottery tickets or sang on the streets – occupations that became unviable during the lockdown.
“We were receiving numerous requests for help from our members and others from visually impaired communities,” Sakkawee recalled. It was at this time that Lazada Thailand reached out to his association to offer help in the midst of the pandemic. “It was like a miracle,” he said.
WATCH: The Thai Association of the Blind Community Receives LazadaCARES boxes
The eCommerce platform was looking for ways to help Thai communities affected by the pandemic. Working with some of its brand partners, it launched LazadaCARES during its 9.9 shopping event to donate and deliver care packages to nine charitable organisations, including the Thai Association of the Blind Community. Through this initiative, Thai shoppers were able to convert their LazCoin rewards into care boxes that contained a variety of daily essentials, such as instant rice porridge, cereal, bottled waters, vitamin waters, antibacterial shower gels and bathroom cleaning products. During the campaign, a total of 99,999 care boxes were delivered to those most affected by the pandemic and recent floods that had swept across the country.
“The LazadaCARES boxes came at the time we needed them the most, during the many months when we couldn’t go out to work,” Sakkawee said. “We are so grateful to the brands and shoppers who participated in this campaign. Because of their generosity, more than 20,000 households with at least one family member who is blind received care boxes.”
Seeing the overwhelming support for the LazadaCARES initiative, the eCommerce platform extended it for 11.11, its biggest one-day shopping festival. Boxes delivered during this campaign contained mainly medical items and healthcare supplies, such as COVID-19 test kits, oximeters, thermometers, alcohol gels and face masks.
As the nation starts to open up again and as vaccination rates rise, the prospect of being able to return to work is welcome news for many like Sakkawee, although it’s still tinged with an awareness that the pandemic is far from over.
“We are glad we can be going back out again to work, but who knows when we may have to shut down again,” Sakkawee said. “We can only take each day as it comes, but I think the best of humanity also shines the brightest during dark days. I’m sure that we can overcome whatever challenges are still ahead of us.”
Kwang Pimchaya is a manager with the public relations team at Lazada Thailand.
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