Tale of two sanctuaries

I found this story to be great and encouraging. It is great when those with wealth provide hope to those without.

Tale of two sanctuaries: Thai women’s facility inspired by South Australian care service, philanthropist says
By Mike Sexton

A Thai businessman turned philanthropist who created a sanctuary outside Bangkok for destitute women says he was inspired to start the charity by the work of South Australians during the Great Depression.

Arnop Chirakiti has poured his wealth into creating Baan Sudthavas (BSV) Thailand which has built a multi-purpose facility on the outskirts of the Thai capital.

The home, set in landscaped gardens, offers accommodation to impoverished elderly women including those suffering dementia.

“We [in Thailand] unfortunately don’t have a social safety net like in Australia,” Mr Chirakiti explained.

“That’s why if I can help those people called destitute I am happy to make their lives a little better.”

The project came out of a growing concern he had for those less fortunate than himself.

“I have been doing business for over 30 years and have accumulated financial resources,” he said.

“Now I would like to switch focus from accumulating resources for myself to making the resources I already have for the benefit of the people who need it.”

The Columbia University-educated businessman approached creating BSV in the same way he would any commercial deal - by researching in advance.

While on holidays in South Australia with his family, he sought advice from Richard Hearn who is the chief executive of local care service Resthaven.
Arnop Chirakiti
Photo: Arnop Chirakiti was inspired by South Australian care service Resthaven, which was created during the Great Depression. (ABC News)

“The call did come out of the blue,” Mr Hearn said.

“I think there was an immediate sense of common purpose and we were very impressed with the genuineness of what he was setting out to do.”

Although they come from different countries and eras, there was a similarity between the origins of both organisations.

Resthaven was opened by the Methodist Church during the Great Depression in response to the suffering of elderly impoverished women.

The idea was to create a “haven of rest” during their final years.

That ideal continues into the 21st century with Resthaven operating homes across South Australia.

“The first benefit we received from Resthaven and their staff was knowledge, experience and skill,” Mr Chirakiti said.

“We didn’t have any experience with aged care and it’s important with a start-up to have someone we can rely on just in case one day we are at our wits end [with] how to handle things - that is when we can call on Resthaven.”

Calling on Resthaven initially began as emails and Skype sessions between Mr Chirakiti and Restahaven’s workforce development manager Wendy Morey.

“Even though we have different religious roots - Arnop from his Buddhist faith and our Christianity - we shared common purpose and values,” she said.
The care home surrounded by landscaped gardens.
Photo: The home, set in landscaped gardens, offers accommodation to impoverished elderly women including those suffering from dementia. (Supplied)

The mentoring has turned to friendship and now the pair regularly speak about the joys and frustrations of the work.

Staff exchanges have been arranged and earlier this year the pair spoke jointly at a conference in Perth about the cooperative approach.

The friendship has now extended to the residents of both facilities with letters, emails and gifts being exchanged between Adelaide and Bangkok.

“I think it won’t be long into the future before we see Skype calls being made,” Ms Morey said.

Several years after a random inquiry seeking guidance, a relationship between diverse people and cultures has grown into a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas and knowledge.

“I believe people can learn from each other whatever the situation,” Mr Chirakiti said.

“We are learning from a well-established operator in a well-resourced country but Australia can learn from Thailand how we manage to come up with a solution under limited resources.”

Mr Hearn also said the relationship “is very positive”.

“He is a very giving person and at a personal level as a CEO I have been really inspired by his leadership and what he is achieving.”

One day they’ll realise that good people have the same values - nothing to do with Buddha, Christ, Mohammed or Dawkins.

That’s heartwarming and uplifting.

And Icey’s thing isn’t bad either.