THEIR faces said it all. Grateful fishermen from the village of Ban Nai Rai, 80 km north of Phuket, stepped up to receive fishing boats, boat engines and other equipment with wide smiles amidst applause.
The “gifts of love” were presented to 30 fishermen by the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) through its social and welfare unit in Thailand, Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation, on Aug 16, 2007.
Ban Nai Rai, in Phang Nga Province, was the area worst hit by the December 2004 tsunami in Thailand.
The presentation ceremony was witnessed by officials from the Phang Nga Department of Fisheries, Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation and a Singapore team of five.
It was the second lot of fishing equipment that the MMS has given to the Ban Nai Rai villagers. Exactly a year ago, the MMS gave fishing nets and equipment to 21 families, benefiting about 100 people. They had been identified by the Phang Nga Department of Fisheries as the ones who needed help most.
The villagers then appealed to the MMS to consider buying fibre-glass fishing boats for them as the wooden ones they had were not durable, with some beginning to rot.
Given out at the recent presentation ceremony were 30 fibre-glass fishing boats, 12 boat engines of 13 horsepower each with longtail, 10 floating fishing ponds and 10 sets of fishing nets worth a total of 1.56 million Thai baht (S$67,830).
In his address, Col (Retd) Quek Koh Eng, Area Director of the MMS, told the villagers that by God’s grace, donations from Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, the United States, and members of The Methodist Church in Singapore enabled the MMS to purchase the fibre-glass boats and other fishing equipment for them.
“The gifts are an extension of our love and concern for your well-being,” he said.
“Today, with the help of the Phang Nga Department of Fisheries, we have identified 30 fishermen and their families who will receive the fibre-glass boats and other equipment to be shared by your community.”
Welcoming the villagers at the start of the ceremony, the Rev Prasert Pornkiratikul, Director of Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation, reminded them of their “blessing which comes from Singapore” and expressed his gratitude, on behalf of the villagers, to The Methodist Church in Singapore for the gift of the fishing boats and other equipment.
The Head of Phang Nga Marine Fisheries Station, Mr Suchat Sangchan, urged the villagers to work hard now that they had new boats and equipment.
He expressed his gratitude to the MMS and The Methodist Church in Singapore for coming to the aid of the villagers.
An elated villager, Mr Hiran Jamnukarn, 33, told Methodist Message: “I’m so happy. These new boats are so nice. With the new engine, I can go further out to sea to have a better catch.” Mr Hiran, who has two sons, aged eight and five, said he was especially happy that the new fibre-glass boat would keep him busy throughout the week unlike his current wooden boat which needed to be dried for a few days after taking it out to sea for four or five days at a stretch.
“Now I can go out to the sea and fish every day,” he said, flashing a wide smile.
Mrs Jangpin Yaifai, 30, who helps her husband, Suwan, to fish after she lost her mother and two young daughters when the tsunami struck, said she is very grateful that she can go to church every Sunday now that they have a boat of their own.
She explained: “We are now sharing a wooden boat with friends. There were weeks when we had to fish on Sundays, and so we could not go to church. We won’t be having this problem anymore.”
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.
STORIES AND PICTURES BY PETER TEO IN PHUKET