From mountaintops to online food delivery – adapting to COVID-19 in Thailand

By Maria Creamer | October 5, 2020 | East & Southeast Asia | Education, Youth Empowerment

Zy Movement Foundation (ZMF) hosts an annual Climb to Change a Life event, which takes children with movement disabilities up mountain peaks or to other challenging destinations. Last year, ZMF helped 17 children climb the Great Wall of China. But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ZMF has traded its hiking boots for a set of pots and pans.

ZMF empowers children with disabilities by equipping them with the necessary confidence and resources to move toward independent living, while working to shift the way society perceives people with disabilities. ZMF also supports parents and caregivers to better understand their children’s physical and psychological needs, as well as their rights.

A group of volunteers and family members help Climb to Change a Life participants reach the top. © Zy Movement Foundation

ZMF’s signature Climb to Change a Life event helps children with disabilities and their families to overcome the physical and emotional obstacle of summiting a mountain, or conquering a similarly ambitious destination, and to realize that anything can be achieved – regardless of a movement disability. But when the coronavirus arrived in Thailand, the organization temporarily closed its doors and canceled this year’s Climb to Change a Life event.

“Many businesses and organizations closed for about a month and a half. A lot of them sank during this time, leaving many unemployed,” said Palita (Namtaan) Siriwannapong, Project Manager at ZMF.

After securing additional relief funds, including an emergency grant from Global Fund for Children, ZMF was able to cover operational costs, while also providing hygiene kits to members of its community.

“The emergency relief money helped us a lot, especially in buying some time,” explained Namtaan. “Right now, things are slowly going back to normal, and people are exploring new business opportunities.”

In recognition of the rising unemployment rates and a new appetite for exploring new business possibilities, ZMF began to develop an entrepreneurship program for youth and their families. Walter Lee, the founder of ZMF and a renowned chef, became a design resource when thinking through this new initiative, which focuses on food preparation.

บรรยากาศการเรียนทำอาหารสนุก ๆ แบบนี้ กำลังจะกลับมา วันอังคารที่ 29 ก.ย. นี้ เรียนฟรี !!!เหลือที่ว่างอีกเพียง 2…

Posted by Zy Movement Foundation on Thursday, September 24, 2020

“Since many people lost their jobs, this gives them an opportunity to explore a different field of work, especially since the food business is still continuing,” said Namtaan.

As the pandemic pushes the world deeper into the digital space, the entrepreneurship program is designed to equip members of the community, especially those with traditional food stands, with the tools needed for a robust online food business. The program walks participants through the stages of food prep, cost, marketing, and delivery. To date, ZMF has supported three families through this new entrepreneurship program, and one has already launched its online delivery service.

A group of ZMF participants pose with packaged food, ready for delivery. © Zy Movement Foundation

ZMF aims to maintain the entrepreneurship program long term, with plans for ongoing reevaluations and for hiring a new set of chefs for training. But all this activity doesn’t mean that the organization has forgotten about Climb to Change a Life.

With a group of university students, ZMF is exploring the possibility of mirroring a mountain summit indoors. The hope is that the event can achieve the same results of empowering children and their families, while raising awareness around movement disabilities.

“It’s very much a new idea, and we’re still working out the kinks, but we’ve partnered with a local university to come up with an alternate Climb to Change a Life,” said Namtaan.

The coronavirus has caused the world to shift, including many of GFC’s community-based partners. However, organizations like Zy Movement Foundation are demonstrating their resilience and adaptability as they continue to support members of their community and to help them move forward.

“Everything is going to change – we are going to have to relearn many things, but I see the positive. In many ways, I think this is bringing us closer than before,” said Namtaan.

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