A Thai entrepreneur could not see people suffer in her home country amidst the coronavirus outbreak, so she decided to recruit a network of volunteers, including Michelin-starred chefs, to hand out care packages and freshly cooked food. Natalie Bin Narkprasert temporarily gave up her property and e-commerce businesses and family in Paris for the initiative.
It started when she was locked down by COVID-19 restrictions and stuck in Thailand. Spending time there, she noticed how her fellow Thai people were struggling. She thought of her own grandmother.
"She's 94 years old, and then I was really worried about her during COVID-19, like how is she going to cope and do things, so I just thought about all the people who are struggling during this time who might not even have a family or a home," she was quoted as saying.
Forming a network of chefs and volunteers
She decided to take things in her own hands and started recruiting volunteers and cooks to help those whose incomes were impacted. Chefs volunteered to help with the cooking process and offered their kitchens. Three of the restaurants involved have earned Michelin stars.
Her group is called the ‘COVID Thailand Aid’, and it has reportedly reached more than 30,000 people in more than 100 locations with care packages and freshly cooked food.
The 28-year-old bears Bangkok’s heat and distributes meals in small, low-income communities such as the settlements besides railway lines.
Most of the people who have been impacted are daily wage workers such as street vendors. Those working in small-scale sales jobs and as domestic help have also been affected.
The meals include protein-based dishes such as minced chicken and rice.
The team also hands out essential items during the pandemic like clothing, hand sanitisers and facemasks.
Narkprasert started out small, buying groceries for neighbourhoods in need, but now has more than 450 volunteers who pull together food donations and care packages in more than 32 provinces.
Her business career has come to a sudden halt, and she hasn't seen her husband for months. But she says she has no regrets.
She even thinks returning to her old life may be a challenge. This is, she said, "a really hard time to go back to it just because I still have this goal of helping more people".
"I can always make money later, but I just want to keep helping people for now and then we will see how it goes," she was quoted as saying.
Due to its high dependence on tourism, Thailand’s economy has been greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, the country is struggling to revive its reputation as a top tourist destination.
Migrant workers stuck in the country since the COVID-19 lockdown began in March are facing unclear immigration status and mounting bills. The migrant labourers are both locals from rural areas who came to work in bigger cities and foreigners from neighbouring countries such as Myanmar.
- With inputs from the Associated Press (AP).