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The Red Cross of Italy provided help for Health Care in Remote Lomgao, Petchaboon

IMAGINE THE heartbreak in a family when a mother learns her only adult child is infected with HIV/aids. How will the parents cope with the deep despair of terminal illness in a child who may not live longer than themselves. This unexpected tragedy takes place in large urban centers as well as in remote areas such as Petchaboon province in northeasternThailand. The family members can learn how to successfully cope with the illness through health education and application in a home care setting.

In the late 1970’s, the Thai government set up the “Yupparaj Crown Prince Hospital Foundation” on the occasion of the Royal Wedding of HRH the Crown Prince. The Thai government and private citizens raised over 193 million Baht to construct 21 hospitals located in isolated remote border villages and outposts where the Armed Forces, the Police, civil service officials, volunteers and locals resided while working on behalf of Thailand. The objectives of the Foundation hospitals were to serve the military with proper medical care for the wounded and the and villagers who became ill with tropical diseases. Since the establishment of the Foundation, the 21 hospitals have grown in size and scope and have attracted development for cities with business centers to better serve local residents. After implementation 30 years ago, the YCPHF emphasis now is to serve the health needs of all members in the local communities.

In November 2008, the Yupparaj Crown Prince Hospital in Lomgao district of Petchaboon was the venue for two training workshops on health care. The medical staff selected sixty local residents to participate. The visionary financial sponsor of this program was the Red Cross of Italy, while the facilitators were a team of dedicated volunteers from Chiang Mai’s Red Cross Station 3 who have been working closely for the past twenty years with Mrs. Somboon Suprasert the project director.

The Lomgao district is an area with a considerable number of HIV+ infected persons facing much stigmatization from the public. The Yupparaj Lomgao Hospital offers antiviral drugs to those infected and, also, of great importance, saw the need to organize an HIV/Aids support group four years ago. Area statistics report that there are 600 persons carrying HIV+ in the district, and to date there are 120 members in the group. The hospital also takes distributes anti viral drugs to those infected.

Bringing another dimension to the treatment of this illness is the dream of Mrs. Somboon Suprasert who wants to see this model taught in other villages to benefit infected as well as affected people. As a researcher from the l970’s, Mrs. Somboon Suprasert has observed how Aids illness impacts every family, orphans and community. The health care message is a holistic care model easily adapted for these targeted groups. The training model focuses on the aspects of physical, psychological, social and alternative medicine such as healthful food, exercise for prevention and personal cleanliness. Close attention is given to mental hygiene using the practice of meditation.

The team of facilitators provides external motivation through sharing mutual experiences. A one day training workshop focuses on home care and imparts practical knowledge on how to develop the home care setting in the residences of HIV+ affected families. They learn to appreciate the idea that home care is the best support for sick family members.

Another direction of the workshop is toward Grandma Cares. A workshop was created to support this specific affected segment of seniors caring for youngsters whose parents have died of HIV/Aids. The life skills theory uses Buddhist teaching combined with World Health Organization (WHO) techniques to be applied in the daily life of grandma and child. Further knowledge offers support through meditation practice, exercise, modern child health care and psychological information. (Rotary International has designated this year to reduce child mortality rate by accident.)

In 2000, the Grandma Cares Project model received an award from the Zonta International District 17 Conference in Bangkok, Thailand as an outstanding worthy endeavor. It was given 4th ranking out of more than 100 projects submitted by over 140 Zonta clubs in the district of six countries.

As of June 2007, the Red Cross of Italy has designated financial grants to the team under Mrs. Somboon Suprasert’s supervision to lead these motivating workshops in Chiang Mai, Sarapaee, Sanpatong, Mae Ai, and Chiang Dao. Mr. Guiseppe Ungaro, Head of Delegation, Italian Red Cross Mission in Sri Lanka has accompanied every workshop to meet the people in need who benefited from receiving the health care knowledge. Mr. Ungaro felt the competency and cooperation of the Chiang Mai working team proved to be an excellent example and brought a six member team from Red Cross in Luang Prabang to observe and study the proven methods in Chiang Mai.

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