Stranded in Thailand, Longchar is currently volunteering for 'ForOldy' and engaged in meeting and interacting with elderly Thai people.
Morung Express News
Kohima | May 13
27 year old Tongpang Longchar had just completed a program in Bangkok and was set to return home to Nagaland when he heard of the nationwide lockdown in India on March 25. His flight which was scheduled on April 9 was cancelled.
A volunteer and Initiator for Initiatives of change (IofC), Longchar went to Thailand as a volunteer tutor for SENS program (The School of English for Engaged Social Service).
Stranded in a foreign country with no relatives, and quickly running out of cash, Longchar feared the worst if his stay was extended. However, Longchar found shelter and warmth in the hospitality of the Thais as well as friends and well-wishers. And in the midst of finding support in a foreign land amid a worldwide pandemic, Longchar is also giving back by volunteering for an NGO that takes care of the elderly.
For over a week, Longchar and three other students were taken care by Pi (elder sister in Thai) Topsi.
Later, Longchar and his friends moved in with Pi Oranuch who runs 'ForOldy', an NGO working for elderly welfare in Thailand. “Here, I am currently residing with Raj Kumar, student of SENS program from Chhattisgarh, India. All our food items and necessary has been taken care by INEB (International Network of Engaged Buddhist), and global anonymous well-wishers who we have been connected to, through various platforms,” Longchar told The Morung Express.
Longchar and his friend Raj are also currently volunteering for 'ForOldy' where they are engaged in meeting and interacting with elderly Thai people from different communities, while also distributing relief bags. “I have also participated in discussions and personal sharing with the elderly community in their wellbeing circles,” said Longchar.
Being stranded in a foreign country has not wavered the passion of the young social worker who is also currently engaged in supporting Northeastern citizens stranded across India, with the help of “Happiness volunteers” which is a part of IoFC India volunteer networking platform. Longchar helps network the stranded with local “Happiness volunteers” spread across India in providing support and assistance, such as connecting them to local ration distributor, police, door to door relief and even financial assist in emergency cases.
“I have been playing a small role of networking with various NE and other regional core members to establish networks. Meanwhile, listening to the people stranded all over and spreading positive attitude has helped me to fulfill my role as a social worker at this time of crisis. We just need a little kindness in all we do,” Longchar remarked.
Uncertainty of returning home
It’s been over a month since Longchar has been stranded with no confirmed date of his return home. Longchar and his Indian friends had contacted the Indian Embassy at Thailand. "They did not answer our call at first or the mail. So, all of us tried until one of us got through. They asked us to share all the details like our passport copy and personal details through email and responded us to be patient regarding the details of return. So, we made calls regarding any financial support or guidance but so far they have not been able to respond to our concerns," stated Longchar.
In his last call to the Indian embassy at the beginning of May, Longchar was assured by the Embassy that will help them get their flights but at higher flight rate. “Now it has been a week, I heard Indian government announced return flights from some listed nations but Thailand was not mentioned. I am still awaiting the Embassy for response on flight schedules,” said Longchar as he also shared his concern over flight fare and the cost of his quarantine once he returns home.
Meanwhile Longchar acknowledged the decision taken by the Royal Thai Government to allow the extension of Visa for all temporary foreign nationals till the end of July 2020. “If not, hundreds of foreigners like me would have to rush in confined offices to update our stay and it’s a long process where I might accidentally get infected by COVID.”
Also sharing his experience on how the Royal Thai Government contained the epidemic, he said it was not done “by using forceful or flash lockdowns but it handled calmly by creating awareness about situation and making announcements that the nation might take a serious action.”
“The people were somehow made aware, and finally they didn’t lockdown the country. What I noticed was strict curfews from 10pm to 4 am, social distancing law, mask and sanitizer protocols. The people were advised and told not to travel unnecessarily which was also handled by the Thai royal police,” Longchar added.