Church of Sweden has employed two Christian social workers to help the many Swedes in Thailand in need of assistance. The two new staff – called deacons – will focus primarily on the elderly and the very young Swedes, says Anders Bergkvist, Director of the Swedish Church Abroad.
Anders Bergkvist is visiting Thailand this week with an expert group from the Church of Sweden Abroad to work out in greater details how to execute the diaconia project. The other members of the group are Stefan Bergmark, regional head for Asia of the Swedish Church Abroad, Lars Ryderstad, the Swedish priest based in Bangkok, Lena Brolin, the Swedish priest based in Berlin, and Anna Moilanen, a diakonia expert from Uppsala, where the Swedish Church Abroad has its home office.
“The two new staff have been selected – it is a married couple in their mid forties – and they will move to Thailand over the summer. They will focus on helping elderly people, mostly men, as well as the many young Swedish backpackers who often just drift around and easily get into trouble,” explains Stefan Bergmark, the regional head for Asia.
“Besides helping individuals in need, the deacons will also compile a report on their findings so we have a better understanding of how the project may be continued,” he adds.
Stefan Bergmark explained that one of the urgent needs for the Church of Sweden Abroad is to find a suitable house or other physical location where people in need can come to talk to them about their problems and from where the deacons can move out to visit Swedish individuals that they feel may need some help.
ScandAsia readers that know of a suitable place is urged to send an email with their suggestion to the Swedish Priest in Bangkok, Lars Ryderstad firstname.lastname@example.org
In an interview with the Swedish daily, Svenska Dagbladet, Stefan Bergmark explained that ideally, the location should be a place where the Swedes could come and relax, get a meal, take a shower or wash their clothes.
Stefan Bergmark declines to put a number on how many Swedes that are homeless in Thailand, nor how many people live in other vulnerable conditions. If it is often people who have had a hard time at home in Sweden and have come to Thailand because of the warmer weather and lower living costs.
“Some have nowhere to live and often have a drug problem as well,” says Stefan Bergmark to the daily.
Their problems increase if they crash with a hired motorcycle and end up in a hospital with a medical bill they cannot afford to pay, he added.
During the visit to Thailand, the expert group behind the project met with among others the Swedish Embassy, the Nordic Police liaison officer, Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Pattaya, the recently formed local Danish parish council and other individuals and organizations who may become actively involved in the project.