Successful Happy Food Program Shifting Focus to those Most in Need

11 Jul 2020

“Samaikhang lost her husband during the lockdown, she now raises her 2 children on her own, living near Ban Tai area on Koh Phangan Island. Samaikhang was one of the first to be helped by Happy Food, which has distributed 60,000 kilos of rice and 5,000 cooked meals in the past three months. Happy Food ensures that she, her children – and many others - don't go hungry during this difficult period.
Samaikhang lost her husband during the lockdown, and now she is raising her 2 children on her own.
Samaikhang's story is just one of many I heard while following the Happy Food team at their two food distribution locations on the island this Monday. And one can easily imagine that there are hundreds of more similar stories.

To be more sustainable and to provide support for those who most need it, from 6th July onwards, Happy Food is changing their strategy from distributing 8000 kilos of rice for about 2000 people per week to distributing a food and non-food package (“Happy Bag”) for the 300 most vulnerable ones on the island every two weeks (the Thai community is identifying another 100 elderly Thai people who are without support, so Happy Food will distribute 400 Happy Bag in the next phase).

While uploading the Happy Bags to the truck, Ole Norheim, Happy Food’s founder, as well as an ex-UN peacekeeper, told me, “With the help of the local Myanmar leaders, we now have identified the most vulnerable ones such as single mothers, pregnant women, small children, disabled and elderly who are unemployed and with no saving.” He explained further, different from the mass distributions in the past, Happy Food will now pass the Happy Bags to the Myanmar leaders, then delegate them to distribute the food to these targeted ones. 
About 7-8 volunteers used 6.5 hours to pack these 300 “Happy Bags” (bags with donated food and non-food items prepared by Happy Food).
The four Myanmar leaders are responsible for four distribution points respectively: 1. Thong Nai Pan, 2. Chaloklum to Sri Thanu, 3. Haad Rin and 4. Thongsala to Bantai. I followed one of the trucks to the distribution point of area 2.Chaloklum to Sri Thanu: Wat Samai Kongka. There I saw Jonat, one of the local Myanmar leaders was diligently calling the recipients one by one to remind them to come to collect the Happy Bags. For those who are unable to come due to disability or no money to buy petrol, he said he would bring the food to them directly in the villages.

Seeing the recipients and their children arriving one by one and collected the packages, their sincere big smiles could melt everybody’s heart.

Ole said that Happy Food had about 900 thousand Baht (about 28,804 USD) in the reserve, to prepare for the worse before it would get better, he estimated that it could be enough for 5 months’ distribution. He said, “As donations are still coming in, we plan to do this for 6 months, then we will see what will happen.”
Ole Norheim, founder of Happy Food, prepare Happy Bags for later distribution.
At distribute point of area 4. Thongsala to Bantai, I also met Yee Win who had an accident which makes her impossible to go to work. Through the translation of a Happy Food volunteer, I knew that she still struggled to pay her rent, and she was very happy that Happy Food’s donation was allowing her to survive.

Text and photos by Pink Lee

No matter how much you have donated, please know that you have empowered these resilient Myanmar foreign workers to keep their hopes and smiles. Please spread this story, so more of them will be benefited.
The Happy Bags include milk, eggs, instant noodles, onions, garlic, soap, cooking oil, washing powder, 2000g of rice, dish-washing detergent.  Some other packages also have dried chilli, toys and dish-washing sponge.

Both local and foreign volunteers help to upload the 300 Happy Bags to the trucks.

Jonat, one of the Myanmar leaders, diligently calls the recipients one by one to come to collect the Happy Bags.

This truck full of Happy Bags is going to one of the food distribution point: Wat Samai Kongka.

After receiving the Happy Bag, a recipient and her son smile brightly.

One could feel that the recipients are grateful for the food donation.

Happily going home after collecting their food.

Yee Win had an accident which makes it impossible for her to go to work.

Post by: Pink Lee