Against all odds

Chompuu’s dreams after COVID-19 in Thailand

Photos by Patrick Brown
Chompuu, 10, sit next to her cart in Bangkok, Thailand where she sells juice.
UNICEF/Panos/2020/Patrick Brown
14 August 2020

Chompuu’s life has been anything but easy – but it doesn’t stop her dreaming. Born 10 years ago inside a Remand Prison, she since lives with her grandmother and younger sister. They are together inside a tiny home at the very end of a dead-end street in a lower economic area along the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. Her home has only a small window and one fluorescent light, while hundreds of bags piled up make the room feel even smaller and darker.

A year ago she was diagnosed with Thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder that reduces the amount of oxygen she is able to carry through her body. This leaves her fatigued – so much so she can’t play with friends long and has to be careful not to get hurt as she can get infections easily.

Chompuu with her grandmother and sister
UNICEF/Panos/2020/Patrick Brown

It’s always been difficult for her grandmother, Chanya Suwimol, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult. “I want Chompuu not to suffer from her health condition. This is my major concern, because one day I may not be with her,” she says. 

“At least I want to see her grow up healthy, entering university or have a good job that she can take care of herself. She is very young and she is dependent on my care but I'm getting older each year.”

A series of shots showing Chompuu at work selling juice
UNICEF/Panos/2020/Patrick Brown
Since the lockdown, Chompuu has been waking up at 6am each day to sell juice prepared by her grandmother on the streets of Bangkok.

Since the lockdown Chompuu has been getting up at 6am each day to walk around the streets of Bangkok selling fruit juice prepared by her grandmother. Chompuu started selling fruit juice to help with the household expenses when the lockdown started.

Her grandmother’s weekend street stall selling deep fried spring rolls was the only means of additional income – on top of her small pension – to support the family. However, like across all of Thailand and elsewhere, the lockdowns meant the markets had to close.


Chompuu pushing her cart to sell juice
UNICEF/Panos/2020/Patrick Brown

Chompuu’s grandmother proudly talks about how well she was doing at school and knows that with the right breaks can make it to university. Education is also important to Chompuu and she sees it as an important part of her future.

Chompuu plays with a puppy
UNICEF/Panos/2020/Patrick Brown
Chompuu holds a puppy outside her home

“When I grow up I dream to be a teacher because teachers have knowledge, teachers teach education and I like school,” she says. “If I become a teacher I will teach my young sister Ti-Cha homework. I want to have a business of making drinks, and have a shop where I don't need to walk. And buy a big house for my grandmother and my sister to have a big playground to play.”

Chompuu laughs with her sister
UNICEF/Panos/2020/Patrick Brown
Chompuu with her sister