The Free Food Friday programme started in March 2020, like most bright ideas, after a few drinks! The Covid 19 pandemic was tightening its contagious claws around the globe and dominated the world’s media.
Thailand reacted very swiftly to contain the outbreak; however, the media in Thailand was running rife with speculation about the sources of the pandemic. Some media sources suggested that ‘farang’ expats and tourists were to blame and that ‘farangs’ come to Thailand, take what they want and give nothing back.
This made me think about what we could do to help the community being devastated by the pandemic and refute the idea that we expats and tourists don’t care about Thailand. We do!
So, I contacted my friend Paul at The Richmond Bar, Jomtien, and asked if we could get something going. I particularly wanted this to focus on Jomtien as Pattaya was starting to get some free foodbanks up and running, plus I wanted to develop a sense of community in Jomtien.
So, I said to Paul that I would kick start the initiative with my own money. Paul and his wife Joy said they would match the amount.
Our first Friday was a baptism of fire to say the least!
We’d managed to get some more money and help from a few other people and our team was born! Bart Simpson, Paul and Joy, the girls from The Richmond and myself would have our work cut out for us.
We catered for about 150 people and got word out via social media. The shock came to us when over 400 people started to queue down Jomtien Beach Road! We were woefully unprepared for such numbers. Thankfully, local bars and businesses rallied round and we managed to feed everyone. The community spirit had started!
We were shocked and moved by the sheer numbers and desperation that Covid had caused, not just to Thais but to Russians, Germans, French, Malaysians and Brits! We realised that we had to continue, ramp up our operations, and get much better prepared.
Donations started to come in (we have never asked for donations). More help arrived to prepare the food bags, which is very physical and time consuming.
The following Friday we fed over 1000 people! This became the ‘norm’ for us and we all realised that this was no flash in the pan. We were in this for the long haul. We got T-shirts made up and wore kilts every Friday! We did this so it could add a bit of lightheartedness to a dire situation. The Thais loved the kilts (particularly the elder ladies)!
Word spread fast that there were some crazy ‘farangs’ wearing skirts and orange shirts giving out free food.
Donations came flooding in from around the world, even from people that have never been to Jomtien! Fabulous 103 FM helped us provide even more food to those less fortunate. The community spirit had really got going.
The team has grown exponentially since that first Friday. What started as five people trying to do something for our local community, is now over 30, plus all those who have donated and given up their time for our cause. Now there are bars and businesses all pitching in so we can continue to help those in our community that have lost jobs, homes, family members and are still struggling today due to the lack of tourism in the area.
The charity continues to do Free Food Friday and now also has a charity shop to help fund our free food project. The Richmond Charity Shop, also on Soi Welcome, accepts donations of clothes, books, toys, and just about anything to help fund Free Food Fridays. (Contact Joy phone and Line: 098-961-8599.)
I would like to think that not only have we grown as a team but as individuals too. It has been a truly humbling experience that, on occasions, is heartbreaking, heart-warming and a real wake up call to the devastation that Covid has caused.
If I may take a moment to thank some wonderful people, without them we could never have done this. Paul and Joy and the wonderful girls at The Richmond Bar, Bart, Jan, Iain, Steve, and Heath to name but a few. Thank you Pattaya police who helped us on every occasion.
Thanks to Fabulous 103 FM and everyone that has contributed to this amazing adventure. Please keep it going.
Free Food Fridays continue with the next event on Friday, 20th November at 4 PM from the Richmond Soi Welcome.
Note: Paul, dressed up as Donald Trump, will have his head shaved on his birthday, 23rd November at 9pm, at the Richmond Sports Bar and Guesthouse, Soi Welcome, Jomtien. All money raised will be used for Free Food Friday.