• Published Date: 16/07/2021
  • by: UNDP

The Massage of New Life, In the World Where Everyone Deserves a Chance

Have you heard of the wonder of Thai massage? The hands that heal your body, your pressure points, your soles, and maybe your soul too. Hands of a masseuse transfer energy to your muscles, and give life back into your exhausted body. The money flow in the Thai massage industry accounts to as high as 35 million baht. It is one of Thailand’s major exports (which is closed for now according to government measures) but the cost for a massage course is dear, ranging from a few thousands to even ten thousands.

 

Would you like to know how to learn massage for free? Just get into a prison after which

 

“not a single employer will hire you.”

 

While we live in a society where people hold a pessimistic attitude towards former prisoners, the owner of ‘Lila Thai Massage’ opens her arms to them. “Most employers deny jobs to former prisoners, and if they find out later they will force them to leave. Some just reduce their payment to the point where ex-inmates have to leave.”

 

Thailand’s proportion of female prisoners to 100,000 population is the highest in the world, even higher than the US. Statistics from the Department of Corrections tell us that 80 percent of female prisoners are imprisoned from drug cases, followed by theft. It is important to note that most of these cases are harmless, it causes no severe harm. Two out of three women in prison are breadwinners of their family, and two out of three did not finish compulsory education. It is not difficult to surmise from this that these women turn to ‘wrongdoings’ because they have no other choices left.

 

Many women who are imprisoned with drug cases meet a dead end to support their family, and they turn to drug-dealing as a solution to their daily expenses. A woman who was accused by her husband of dealing 25 tablets of amphetamine, was imprisoned for 6 years and fined 250,000 baht. And she did not enter the life of incarceration alone, she went with a baby in her 4 months of pregnancy.

 

“Ex-prisoners? What if they bring drugs in here?” A building owner asked with solemnity when Lila Massage wanted to open their shop in their building. The question was cloaked with the long-entrenched bias against prisoners, but answers later manifested itself to the owner, to see that giving a chance to former prisoners is to prevent repeated offense, and to change their lives. With the belief that no human wants to be confined, and ripped of freedom, this is the path where former prisoners can go on with their lives.

 

 

“If I had income like this, I wouldn’t have turned to drug-dealing.”

 

This is part of a telephone conversation between a massage therapist and her mother. The masseuse finished the 150-hour massage course provided by the Department of Skill Development during her incarceration. Some might wonder: Why do you choose to be a massage therapist? Why not something else? The answer is this: being a massage requires little to no investment. The prisoners can just get out of prison, and start their job right away.

 

Career building courses are one of the few good things in prison. Life in confinement is more difficult than one can imagine: crowded space, three blankets provided for you to DIY into a pillow, a bedsheet, or a blanket, you can shower with little water, and buy your own sanitary napkins with hard-earned money inside the prison. One baht in prison is a prized possession.

 

Not to mention pregnant women who bring another life in there with them. According to prison regulations, when a baby reaches one year of age, the incarcerated mother must send the baby outside where they have no idea whether their relatives, or the person they trust with their child, will take good care of them. And in cases where mothers have to leave their children with other people before they enter prison, they do not know if they can trust the caretaker. If a child had 200 baht to bring to school a day, they might get none now. Nothing is guaranteed of the wellbeing of the child. 

 

Change the society with one’s heart, and two hands.

Naowarat Thanasrisudarat, former Director of Female Correctional Institution in Chiangmai understands a mother’s heart, and difficulties in a woman’s life. She began her ‘Lila Thai Massage’ business after retirement which was supposed to be the time she got to rest after 42 years of hard work. But she knows that hardship, poverty, and equality does not end with her retirement. She decided to put up the “Ex-Inmates Working Center” sign in front of the massage shop, with the strong intention to tell society not to judge a former prisoner, before you get to know them.

 

Naowarat’s method is uncomplicated. She depends on sincerity, both with the customers, and the former female prisoners. If a customer just steps into the shop, they will understand the life of an imprisoned woman, and get to take their relaxed body back home. 

 

She does not consider her business a social innovation whose impact is wide and far. Naowarat just knows at heart that there are many former female inmates out there who need a chance, an understanding enterprise, and someone to look at them with bias before getting to know them and their potential. Throughout the ten years of Lila Massage, there were only three prisoners who got back to taking drugs for personal reasons. But it was only a few, compared to the hundred lives who got to build their future again here.

 

Still, there is more to do to prevent repeated offenses and to leave the old beliefs about prisoners behind. According to the Enforcement of Health Establishment Act, B.E. 2559, the health establishments are regulated and those working there must not commit crime related to sexual offense, property, or drug within one year before work.

 

The question here is, within one year that the women cannot work in the field, what other options do they have? Social bias only runs them out of options that they do not even have in the first place…

 

References:

https://www.bbc.com/thai/thailand-42594778

https://www.the101.world/life-in-prison/ 

https://knowledge.tijthailand.org/th/article/detail/promoting-the-social-reintegration-of-women-after-release

https://knowledge.tijthailand.org/publication/detail/47#book/

https://knowledge.tijthailand.org/th/article/detail/7

 http://library.nhrc.or.th/ULIB/dublin.php?ID=10886

 

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  • Published Date: 25/03/2021
  • by: UNDP

Mindventure: When passion becomes profession

Feeling lost is, somehow, a part of life.

The sense of loss may relate to education, work, or relationship. This feeling often blocks your feeling and emotion.

Back in 2016, this kind of feeling occurred to Kangsom-Chanakarn Kachonseree as well. At that time she was a high school student, the turning point of many aspects of life.

“I didn’t like myself. I thought who I was wasn’t ok. I was different. I wasn’t good enough. Other people didn’t accept me for who I was. Those thoughts kept me in silence. I didn’t really share it with anybody,” she recalled her own story before discovering her turning point by attending a camp implemented deep listening as a main tool. After the camp she felt better. “I learned that listening is a free gift. It’s the skill that is needed and if it can help me, it may work with others too.”

Ever since Kangsom always wants to pass on experience through organizing a camp that uses the same tool, deep listening. During her undergraduate studies she, together with her sister and friends hosted Gen-Mind camps for several times. The camp’s approach is encouraging school students to take better care of their mental health. Continuously, she also founded a coaching club in a university as a space to listen to each other. As she has accumulated her experience on this, she has got a clearer concept about self-knowledge and that inspired her to establish a social enterprise called Mindventure in October 2019.

The main Mindventure Team includes the two siblings Kangsom and Namwarn-Kantaporn Kachonseree. Three lecturers from the Faculty of Psychology, Chulalongkorn University are also the project’s consultants to ensure that Mindventure works theoretically and practically.

 

When passion becomes profession

When the two sisters take a step forward toward Mindventure, both seek for more knowledge. Kangsom becomes the first Thai group who is a certified teacher for Search Inside Yourself Leadership Program, Google-born mindfulness & Emotional Intelligence Leadership Training while Namwarn has taken courses on Enneagram and Satir so both have many inputs to create suitable modules for the target groups.

  If illustrating emotional level in one bar where the left side represents depression and the right side represents the healthy mind, Mindventure’s position is to work with those in the middle to the most-right of the bar.
“We would like to support them to have a healthy mind because there is still a gap when it comes to informal health and selfcare. We try to mitigate their risk to fall into the left part of the graph,” Kangsom explained that Mindventure uses the Department of Mental Health’s evaluation form for pre and post tests. In case the result showed that there is some signal indicating depression, the team would recommend them to consult professionals.

“What we’re doing is about prevention. We try to hit the point. We seek tools that support daily life so that we know what inspires us and what will make that inspiration sustain. We bring you to the root cause,” explained Kangsom.

 

 Everybody Deserves a Healthy Mind

Previously the Mindventure’s target group always focused on high school students. Though adults asked to participate, they were refused due to a concern that it would be difficult to create a safe and comfortable space for both generations. However, at present, the team is interested in expanding the target groups since the sense of loss may not be subject to particular ages. 

“People who carry pain of loss may not have the age limit. 25, 35 or even 45 years old could also suffer with this matter, so we tried to think out of the box of the original concept and seek for other possibilities,” Namwarn continued explaining that the cause of feeling of loss may come from the daily routine.

“Students wake up, then go to school, and follow the teachers’ advice. Repeating these activities routinely can be exhausting, similarly to workers whose routines are  waking up, eating, working, getting back home to eat, watching series, and sleep,” Namwarn explained while Kaengsom added that surrounding factors are also important. If the relationship with friends or parents is not smooth, it may be easy to feel lost when there is a lack of safe space and do not know who to turn into. Additionally, using social media or consuming media is another important factor affecting mental health. Because consuming such information and spending too much time on a screen could lead to comparing oneself with others. As a consequence, the person may blame oneself for not good enough.

In the past, Mindventure’s workshop collected fees directly from the participants. However, since the team participated in the Youth Co: Lab workshop, the team seeks for ways to provide greater access to join Mindventure. 

“We want this kind of learning tool to be accessible to everyone. We don’t want the economic status to be an obstacle so we are searching for new business models.” When Mindventure received funds to test the prototype, one of the findings was that the more expensive the workshop, the less applicants submitted. Not to mention the fact that the team’s attention is to give access to high school students. Therefore, setting a reasonable price is important.

“Now we have a better understanding that our customers and users may be different groups.” The model that high school students do not have to pay is what Kangsom is searching for. “We want to find someone who can sponsor. It could be a company or a person. This is our new task.” she added that perhaps adapting TOMS shoes’ model – every time when someone pays to join the program, there will be a person in need entitled to join the program for free.

 

Measuring and Evaluating the Effectiveness

After completing the workshop, the participants tend to feel better and more relaxing. These results are assessed through the post-workshop assessment. Additionally, once every three or six months, the team will randomly call former participants to see how they are doing.

“After participating in the Youth Co: Lab workshop, we had another idea for evaluation. We try to adjust our indicator to be more tangible, such as the amount of time spent on the screen,” Kangsom gave an example.

Reaching this point, we wondered how effective the form of workshop be in terms of tackling an issue on self awareness and value of life, “There are many tools that can be further elaborated. We can experiment to create self-learning, or you can set the content and standard for others to use as a teaching manual. ”Kangsom explained that she sees a lot of opportunities, but currently Mindventure is focusing on finding the suitable market, adding that they previously held a camp focusing on building facilitating and deep listening skills that the learners can apply with others.

“In the past when I suffered, I recovered by such methods, I became less suffering. Thus I think to apply such methods with others will be very fruitful. It is an insightful change that works from your mind, affects the perspective one has towards the world and could lead to behavioral change. However, we’re not restricting with only this approach. We are continuity searching for other methods as well. ”Kangsom concluded.

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