Opinion: Popular community pantry project can teach Thailand a lot about what it truly means to give back

A new charity project called roadside community pantries, or also known as ตู้ปันสุข/ตู้ปันน้ำใจ (happy/generous pantries), is increasing in popularity and spreading to 51 provinces across the country. 

The project aims to encourage Thais to donate daily necessities and items to the community pantries (roadside cupboards set up by residents) in order to help their neighbors and those affected by the outbreak.

Anyone in need is welcome to pick up whatever necessities they need – in moderation. 

It was first initiated last Thursday by Bangkok-based consultant Supakit Kulchartvijit, who was inspired by the Little Free Pantry in the United States. Within days, over 300 generous pantries have been installed in various locations across the region.

Many have commended the project in its ingenuity, accessibility, and overall influence in educating citizens, especially children, the true meaning of altruism.

Take, for example, a local community in Phitsanulok who dedicated their entire weekend to cook various meals, buy rice and donate canned foods towards the project.

In less than a week, these generous pantries have been implemented by hundreds, benefited thousands, and widely covered in the media. 

However, they also revealed a significant number of drawbacks – but that has less to do with the project itself and everything to do with the people involved in it. 

Over the past few days, numerous online posts and media outlets have reported cases of the donations being looted.

Footage shared online show citizens practically stealing from the cupboards and running off with more than they need – from a father who looted water bottles and eggs, leaving almost nothing behind, to a group of locals fighting over the donations and stripping off the pantry.

Many netizens expressed their frustration over their sheer lack of decency and consideration for others – with some even going as far as to ask if this project is actually worth it.

This project is, without doubt, rooted in good intentions and a step towards the right direction. That some people are more selfish than others should not sink it.

We cannot let good deeds be hindered by the selfishness of the few; if that were the case, nothing would ever get done. Rather, we must persevere in our good intentions because even if it only helps one person who is really in need, it would be worth it.

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