Charities: Paying it Forward in Pattaya
Anyone who’s ever had the opportunity to travel in the Land of Smiles, will likely return to their native country with fond memories of the delicious Thai food, the friendly smiles of the welcoming and friendly Thai people, and the raw natural beauty of the Kingdom of Thailand.
Land of Smiles & Contradictions
One aspect of the Land of Smiles that is not often noticed by the casual visitor is that it’s also a land of many contradictions, especially when it comes to its two and four legged haves and have-nots.
On its surface Thailand appears to be more than prosperous. But if you let your eyes wander past the prosperity with which you are confronted, you will notice that:
• Next to the construction of what will eventually be a glamorous new high-rise condominium building there is often a squalid shack without indoor plumbing.
• Sitting in the shadow cast by a gleaming new luxury automobile will be a beggar with a baby in tow, whose arms are outstretched in the hopes of receiving a 10 baht coin.
• In the alley just behind a highly recommended 5 star restaurant serving the finest of haute cuisine will be a pack of starving ‘soi’ or stray street dogs doing their best to survive on the mean streets of what appears to be paradise.
To Give or Not to Give
Statistics show that Thailand is indeed prosperous. According to the World Bank, since 2011, Thailand has been considered an upper-middle income economy. Its gross domestic product as of 2013 was ranked at $387 billion U.S. dollars – making it number 30 out of the 192 nations that were graded. In addition poverty in The Kingdom of Thailand has steadily declined from 67% in 1986 to a mere 11% in 2014.
While the above facts are financially speaking, great news for Thailand, some 7.5 million of its citizens are still living well below the poverty line and a great deal more are living just barely above it. One third of those are thought to have migrated to urban areas such as Bangkok and Pattaya.
A careful observer can’t help but notice vagrants sleeping rough on the streets, cripples begging for baht, and the poor rummaging in the rubbish for anything that is recyclable or that can be exchanged for cash. However tempting it may be to give a vagabond some baht for food or to offer the homeless enough to purchase a meal; as uncharitable as it may seem, it is highly recommended that you do not.
The reason for this is that there are actually criminal gangs that control the majority of Pattaya’s urban street beggars. Most of whom, actually receive a small salary to prey on the pity of strangers and to elicit money from passersby. Any donated money does not buy diapers or feed the destitute – it goes directly into the pockets of a gang boss.
No matter how good your intentions may have been, giving money directly to the poor on the streets of Pattaya will only ensure that they remain on the street, continue to be poor, and have no hope for a brighter future.
If you really want to make a difference, seek out one of Pattaya’s local charities instead. By doing this, you will not only know how your hard earned donation is being spent, you will also have the satisfaction of knowing that you are giving the less fortunate a hand up and not giving the lazy a handout.
Whether you wish to help improve the local environment, care for Thailand’s estimated 8.5 million stray dogs, provide medical care for the poor, or simply help educate orphan children, Pattaya has more than a few well known and well funded charities, as well as numerous lesser known charities from which to choose.
But no matter which charity you choose, never forget that any gift to a charity, no matter how small, is better than no gift at all.