With the permission of the SDMB management I’m crossposting an OP from another board here. Unfortunatly due to his travels jjimm’s membership has lapsed so he can’t reply. He will be aware of this thread though.
In case you’re not reading my travelogue (but why not? one must always have something sensational to read), just over a week ago mrs jjimm and I found ourselves on the tsunami-hit island of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. We had vaguely heard they needed volunteers to help out, so we planned to stay for a few days to help. We have been so moved by what we’ve found here that we’re abandoning the next few stages of our travels, and intend to stay here for a couple of months.
Koh Phi Phi was the worst hit of all the affected areas in Thailand. The centre of the island was hit repeatedly by two opposing waves simultaneously, that smashed into each other in the centre of the town of Ton Sai. Half of the town was destroyed - either swept into the sea, or smashed to pieces and piled up in the streets. More than 2,000 people died here - an estimate, as nobody knows precisely how many people were on the island on December 26th, or how many illegal immigrants, and many many people are still missing.
For complex political reasons, the Thai government has failed to send any aid whatsoever to the island, apart from an army team to retrieve bodies. Furthermore, not a single international NGO has turned up on the island, presumably discouraged from doing so by the government.
On January 1st, a lone English bloke turned up on the island, and with just a wheelbarrow and unbelievable optimism, started clearing up the almighty mess on his own. He called a couple of mates a few days later, and they joined him. They put a few fliers up in nearby tourist spots, and a week later there were 70 people. Eventually word started to spread through the backpacker community in Asia, and more and more people turned up, and an organisation was set up to coordinate relief efforts.
Hi Phi Phi has therefore spent the past five months putting the island back on its feet, and my God they’re doing an amazing job. So far they have cleared 7,000 tonnes of waste, all by hand. They have reopened 130+ businesses, as well as a health centre. Every single piece of aid work that has been done here has been done by a bunch of amateurs - 2,000 registered participants so far. Layabout types who would normally be sitting around getting wasted in Koh Pha Ngang have instead dedicated themselves to helping the 20,000 people of the island - either here, or in the refugee camps on the mainland.
Anyway, I’m posting this really to spread the word - first, that despite what some tour operators are saying, Phi Phi is open for business, and second that Hi Phi Phi would like your money. I’m sure, being kindly NADSers, you already donated massively to the relief efforts, but unfortunately not one red cent of the money you very kindly donated got here. So if you happen to have a little extra down the back of the sofa, please chuck it this way.
And if you haven’t planned your hols yet, please consider coming to Phi Phi. Despite the damage in some areas, it’s absolutely astonishingly beautiful, one of the world’s top ten island destinations and scuba diving spots. It’s cheap, chilled out, there’s good food and nightlife, you absolutely don’t have to do any volunteer work at all, and there’s no pressure to do so - just by turning up you will be spending money and propping up the island’s very fragile economy.