Acts of charity come in many forms – donating used clothes and books, giving up one’s free time, participating in organizations that assist charities, volunteering and donating money – all with the same endgame: to help ease suffering and raise the quality of lives for those less fortunate.
Thankfully here in Pattaya all of these forms of help have been in existence for decades.
A man who first came to the attention of Pattaya Mail some 9 years ago is Gerry Rasmus. Prior to coming to Thailand he lived in Hawaii, where he often cleaned the local beaches, and gave himself the lofty nickname Keeper of the Ocean (KOTO). He said in his earlier years he was an alcoholic drug user, but one day decided to give it all up and clean the beaches.
Esther, Gerry, Jolanda and Nisa all working together.
Gerry came to Thailand at the age of 63, waiting for his hard living to catch up with him and to take him to an early grave. But as he continued of clean beaches and feed stray dogs in Jomtien, he found that he had a bit more bounce in his step.
Now, at the age of 77, he can still be found on Jomtien Beach, picking up harmful cigarette butts, bottles and rubbish. He is something of a character and well liked in the community; he also has a keen following, which comprises the dogs that live around the beach area. Gerry feeds them treats and dried food, and tends to their various skin complaints and overall medical conditions when funds allow.
Gerry helps out a homeless Thai man.
In addition he provides toothbrushes, water, and basic first aid to children from construction camps and the many homeless people around the Jomtien area.
He relies solely on donations, sometimes from companies, mostly from individuals, but this of course can at times be hugely challenging, especially if the economy is somewhat sluggish.
One day whilst taking care of the dogs, Gerry was approached by two very friendly women who said they were dog lovers and delighted to see the work he was doing.
They introduced themselves as Jolanda and Esther, twin sisters from Switzerland, who were now retired and living in Thailand.
Jolanda formerly worked as a programmer in a bank and Esther as a book keeper. When they retired they moved to Australia and spent two years settling in, and were looking at investing in land and property. However, the piece of land they were interested in was going to be purchased by the roads department and their investment would be diluted.
Gerry with Jolanda & Esther hand out toothbrushes and toothpaste to families from the construction camps.
It was time for a re-think. One of the sister’s sons who was living in Pattaya invited them to come and visit the Land of Smiles. When they took him up on his offer, they fell in love with Pattaya. Within just one week they purchased a home.
Both are dog lovers and sometimes pay for vet bills for local Thais’ pets. They also bought a wheelchair for the son of a neighbor, and later purchased walkie-talkies for the rescue team from the Sawang Boriboon Foundation.
When they encountered Gerry, they realized that they could help the soi dogs by helping him.
Jolanda & Esther contribute financially and their input pays for food for all the dogs Gerry takes care of for a one week period.
There is a real connection between the twins – Gerry describes them as the “wind in his sails.” They all believe that by sterilizing stray dogs that receive veterinarian care, they thereby make a small, but positive step into reducing the soi dog population.
The twins also recently pledged a substantial sum to a local dog hospital where, when a dog needs an operation or procedure but the owner of the dog lacks the funds, the twins will check that all is above board and will take care of the costs.
They take great delight in doing this as it is their way of integrating with the community, giving back to Thailand and assisting the “KOTO” to be able to continue his daily walks along the beach.
The dogs patiently wait for their dinner.
The fight against littering is endless, but Gerry “KOTO” Rasmus strives on and always with a smile.