A Day in the Life of Prateep
Rangsita Sirivanich follows a day in the life of Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, the woman who has been hailed as ďSlumís AngelĒ for her dedication to educating children in Bangkokís Klong Toey slum area and who is still very actively known as one of Thailandís top social workers.
Bangkok Post Magazine 10/05/07
ďThose whoíve never been probably canít imagine how vast Klong Toey slum is and how overwhelming the problems can be.Ē
At 5:45 am, I quietly rise from my bed, light three incense sticks and say my daily morning
prayer to Lord Buddha. Then I creep downstairs and do a couple of rounds of brisk walking around the house for 30 minutes, with a portable radio plugged into my ears to catch up with the news. The newspaper deliveryman arrives just when I am about to finish my exercise, so I skim the headlines before preparing breakfast for my two teenage sons. Mostly that involves warming up some leftovers from the night before, or frying some fish for them to eat with porridge. Sometimes I might make one of their favourite dishes, such as eggs, sunny-side-up, or fried pork with garlic and
pepper. After theyíve left for school itís my turn to have a bite to eat before getting ready for work. Usually I leave for work, at the Duang Prateep Foundation in the Klong Toey slum area, at 8 am, however with important guests arriving soon from Japan I try to set off earlier.
On arriving at the office the first order of the day is to check all the paperwork from yesterday and have a brief meeting with my staff to follow-up on our welcoming plans for Japanese guests who arrive in a few days. Theyíre a Japanese cosmetics company whose annual objective is to make a donation to support any charitable organisations they see fit (and I really hope that this year theyíll choose to give funding to help the Thai children our foundation looks after.) We want to take them
to our New Life for Abused Girls Project in Kanchanaburi, which has spawned from a very successful New Life for Abused Boys Project in Chumphon. The place is a shelter and a vocational training centre for up to 40 girls who have run away from their homes for reasons varying from family problems, sexual abuse, drug addiction, child trafficking and exploitation. We hope that by providing education and an environment that is close to nature, their health and hearts will soon be healed.
Another project that Iím very much involved with now is our tsunami rehabilitation centre in Amphur Ta Kua Pa, Phuket. This month alone I have travelled there three times to talk to the people who suffered from the disaster and oversee the construction of a facility that is supported by students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, USA. The students have been coming to help build facilities for our foundation for the last 16 years.
Lunch usually consists of some rice with two spicy dishes and two other less hot selections. The meal is one of the benefits provided to staff on a daily basis. If Iím not away, Iíll spend the afternoon visiting the slum areas to check on the progress of our community services. Today is the queue for Block 9, 10, 11 and 12 in the Klong Toey slum. We recently had reports that people there are being evicted by the Port Authority of Thailand and are in desperate need of places to stay. So what I do is listen and negotiate with the officials who look after the area. Those whoíve never been
here probably canít imagine how vast Klong Toey slum is and how overwhelming the problems can be.
By 5 pm Iím back at the foundationís office and clear out some paperwork. An hour later I decide to call it a day and head home to spend time with my children. My elder sister often cooks for us, warming up some of yesterdayís leftovers, while not forgetting to make my favourite bean mix of boiled red soy, green and white beans. which I eat instead of rice to boost my protein intake. We eat and watch some Thai drama on TV together until almost midnight (my eldest son is studying theatre arts). Then. I wash up, have a shower, say my prayer and tuck myself into bed at 1:30 am.