Rediscovering play with UNICEF Magic Bags
With books and toys from UNICEF, children in Klongtoey community can learn and play during COVID-19
Eleven-year-old Jarinthip Saesue has been spending almost all of her time at home in the months since the Delta variant swept Bangkok in April. But on a Sunday in November, she had the opportunity to engage in activities other than playing online games or attending virtual classes on her mobile phone.
Jarinthip was among some 70 children aged 2-12 taking part in fun and creative activities organized by the non-governmental organization Klongtoey Dee Jung with support of UNICEF and SC Johnson at an early childhood development (ECD) centre in Chumchon Mai community, a low-income community in Bangkok’s Klong Toey district.
“I want to do something new. I’m tired of playing video games all the time,” she said. “I want to go to school, but it’s still closed.”
The centre buzzed with excitement as Jarinthip and the young children made cards, brooches and bead bracelets for medical masks. Their excitement only grew when they were given UNICEF Magic Bags full of fun. They opened the bags to find colouring books, crayons, geometry shape sets, lego blocks and plastic balls for their development, recreation and creativity, lately made inaccessible by the pandemic as schools were closed and physical contact with peers and the outside world was limited by social distancing.
With support from SC Johnson, Klongtoey Dee Jung has received 1,500 UNICEF Magic Bags in November to distribute to vulnerable communities in Klong Toey, such as Chumchon Mai and Rong Moo community.
“There are 43 communities in Klong Toey, so we determine which communities have a high population of children before we host activities,” said Klongtoey Dee Jung staff Natapol Sathanat. “We want art and creativity to provide mental relief for children after the challenges they faced during COVID-19.”
Glossy magazines about global travelling or home interiors may seem far removed from the everyday reality of the Chumchon Mai community, but they did the job in sparking children’s lively imaginations at the ECD centre. Some cut pictures of rivers or sea reefs and placed them artfully on a card before adding their drawings. These cards, Natapol told the children, will express support for everyone affected by COVID-19.
Chumchon Mai community is home to more than 460 families. Many share the same living space of four wooden walls day and night. Jarinthip lives with 12 others in her family’s house, so she brought her younger cousins with her to the ECD centre to play and for a little change of atmosphere.
“We are tired of staying home all the time. We come here so we can meet friends,” said stay-at-home mother Saw Nan Nwe, who brought her 2-year-old daughter to play at the ECD centre.
Earlier this year, Chumchon Mai community was one of the first COVID-19 clusters due to its close proximity to the Klongtoey market, one of Bangkok’s largest fresh markets that was sealed off when the Delta variant started spreading there in April. As a result, families in Klongtoey, who mostly work in the informal sector or as blue-collar workers, bore the brunt of the market’s closure and sudden loss of income. Those infected with the virus waited for days for treatment as hospitals in Bangkok were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Now, things are slowly returning to normal as 70 per cent of Bangkok residents are fully vaccinated as of October.
“During April-May, there were about 300 residents in our community who were infected,” said Mariam Pomdee, Chumchon Mai community leader. “Thankfully, now there are no cases.”
Mariam continues to make sure her community is safe. In the second week of November, 80 residents had their first shot taken, many of whom seemed hesitant but she helped convince. With oximeters and thermometers for monitoring well-being from UNICEF and SC Johnson, the community is determined to recover from the pandemic and keep its families safe.
“We have help from so many people,” said Mariam. “Now I am not scared in the face of COVID-19 challenges. I have to be an example to everyone here.”
With support from SC Johnson, UNICEF is working with Klongtoey Dee Jung in August to help vulnerable families in Klongtoey receive UNICEF Magic Bags and essential supplies, such as face masks, oximeters, thermometers and oxygen concentrators. This year, UNICEF with Klongtoey Dee Jung has also been helping to improve access to health and child protection case management services, provide psychological first aid, carry out mass rapid testing and set up community isolation centres.
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