My name is Tania Garby, and here's a little story for you to smile at! In 1986, I dated a guy named Richard Dimitri who happened to be my first ever boyfriend; I was 15. We lost touch for 23 years and he found me again on facebook last year which made us reconnect this past July in Jasper & stronger than ever. Rich is the reason why I'm here today writing, as he brings out the best in me and makes me grow at a rate I didn't think existed. I told Rich the story you're about to read and he insisted I write it down...when I say "insisted", I mean it! :)
December 2004, the Tsunami hit a big part of Thailand leaving thousands of people homeless with lost lives of loved ones. Before it created this chaos, my friend Sophie and I were planning a Thai dinner for the Jasper community in Alberta, looking to give the proceeds to a charity. Then, the Tsunami hit a big part of the Khao Lak coast in Thailand, not too far from Phuket. We decided that the money we’d raise would go towards the victims of the Tsunami.
When the word was out, Treks and travel (local travel agency) generously donated a ticket for us to go to Thailand so we can bring the proceeds ourselves and directly help people in need. (We shared the costs of the other ticket.) We manage to raise $3500 that one evening with donations and proceeds from the dinner. The whole $3500 was to be spent in helping the ones in need.Our goal was to make a difference in at least one family.
At first, not knowing where to start, we made sure the monks had clean water to wash and drink for a while. Then, we asked Pong, the guy that owned the guest house where we stayed at, if he knew anyone in major need of help. Pong witnessed the Tsunami, saving many lives. His heart is made of gold; everyday, he was looking for ways to help someone; we couldn’t have done this much of a difference without him! A man named Semer and his wife were people he knew for a long time. Semer was one of the few vendors selling eggs and chicken at the market. His wife had a little stand of “Pa loe” (5 spice steamed pork). They had savings but kept them in their bungalow, like most people do in Thailand; then the Tsunami hit leaving them empty handed in every way.
They had debts towards the chicken farmer and the egg farmer. We asked what would Semer do if he had money, he replied that he would pay his debts first, of course; then he would build platforms under their house. The government had provided them with temporary housing; a very basic room made of tin sheets on pillars with just enough room underneath to stand up. Since the ground was clay, and the monsoon was just around the corner, building platforms was a priority. These would allow them to cook and hang out with friends and neighbors while staying dry.
First, we went with Semer and his wife to both farmers and paid their debts. His wife was often crying of joy and disbelief. We also bought Semer’s wife new dentures, as hers were cracked and she couldn’t eat properly. We then built platforms with Pong’s help, knowledge and generosity; he’s an angel himself! We met a carpenter that was volunteering for the Mercy foundation and gathered a few of the Thai people from the little “village” to help us help them.
Lunches were brought out in the morning, since money was no longer an option and the government wasn’t providing enough food for everyone.
After we returned to Canada, I met someone that had just come back from Thailand; as I was browsing through his pictures, I saw the same platforms we had built but somewhere I didn’t recognize. Happily of the ripple effect, I exclaimed how cool it was that they continued what we had started. “It’s you!” he said with a big smile on his face. He then informed me that once we had left, some volunteers continued building platforms throughout the entire village, that was extending down a little hill. The story then states that a generous man came along and bought fridges for each family! I wasn’t there to witness it, but if this is true, good on him!
To see there are many of us out there that reach out to help someone gives me hope and makes me wanna be an even better person. Through actions, the intention is to make this world a better place...thanks Rich! You’ve had a huge impact on my life to this day, and I believe you always will!