A Catholic congregation of nuns in Bangkok, Thailand, has launched a feeding program for the poor dubbed “One Hand Meal for One Baht” project.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Sisters congregation announced that it will be distributing food to about 200 people in an urban poor area in Bangkok monthly for only one Baht (0,028 USD) a meal.
The initiative aims to help the poor people in the Buddhist Klong Toei area and to foster inter-religious dialogue through what the nuns described as a “dialogue of life.”
“Two years ago, something new happened,” said Sister Orapin of the religious congregation, adding that Pope Francis’ call “to go out of our houses and schools and serve the poor at the borders of our society” inspired them.
“It implores us to take action for them,” said the nun. “We did not have to go too far to meet the poor because our school is only a few blocks away from the biggest slum area in Bangkok called Klong Toei,” she added.
At least 6.8 percent of the population of Thailand lives below the national poverty line. The district of Klong Toei at the center of Bangkok is home to about 100,000 people.
“Our superior asked some of us to join the effort with the Xaverian Missionary Fathers who have a community in Klong Toei,” said Sister Orapin.
The nuns started to visit the community and got to know the families and the challenges they face, such as violence, drugs, abuse, and poverty.
“We could not solve all their problems because we have other competencies, but we could show empathy and relief that they struggle for everyday food,” said Sister Orapin.
“We ask for a symbolic participation fee of one baht so the people feel that they are part of the project and not only passive recipients of charity,” she said.
Thailand, a Buddhist majority country, is Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, after Indonesia.
In 2018, its per capita Gross Domestic Product or GDP (US$7,273.56) ranked fourth in Southeast Asia, trailing Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia.
As of 2019, Thailand had 388,000 Catholics, accounting for roughly half of the country’s 69 million people.
Thailand’s Catholic Church is divided into two archdioceses, nine dioceses, and 502 parishes.