Random Acts of Love #1
This blog is the first of our series highlighting North Parkers performing random acts of Love.
Imagine being a high school student, thousands of miles from home in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the cancellation of many international flights and travel restrictions, many Thai people in the United States including exchange students were stranded.
Thailand requires everyone to have a medical “fit-to-fly” exam within 72 hours before entering the country in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Thai embassy arranged three special military flights for the stranded Thais. One on the East coast, one on the West coast, and one at DFW. The DFW flight was the last flight for 161 passengers on April 17th.
Sudi Thumasathit was contacted by the office of the Thai Ambassador in Washington, DC asking if we could assist in getting these stranded Thais home. In three days the Thai embassy coordinated volunteer doctors in the DFW area, members of the North Texas Thai community and facilities at DFW airport for a “mini clinic” and flights for stranded Thais from all over the United States to DFW.
That Friday, not knowing what to expect, Sudi and Goy arrived at DFW airport equipped with face masks, thermometer, and other medical equipment for the “mini clinic”. They quickly learned that most of the 161 passengers were high school foreign exchange students scattered across the United States. Most of the students were scheduled to return home this summer after their one-year exchange program had completed, but with COVID-19, that plan was cut short, and this created lots of anxiety.
Sudi and three other doctors staged a “mini clinic” to fill out the proper medical release “fit-to-fly” form for those who did not have one, or who had an outdated form. Many of the students told me that they had to scramble to find a doctor to fill out the form in a timely manner. Because there were so many flight cancellations and changes, many of the students had spent a lot of money just to see physicians repeatedly for the proper documentation within the 72-hour allotment only to have their flight be canceled. The passengers were grateful for the effort of Sudi and the other doctors who could fill out the forms at the airport before boarding their flight home.
Many of the students they talked to did not want to go back to Thailand yet. One senior exchange student told her that she was looking forward to the cap and gown ceremony which is now only a dream. Even though their time in the US was cut short by COVID-19, most were glad that they were on the last flight back to Thailand. One gentleman said that seeing all the Thai faces at the airport, he was comforted and felt like home. The assistant to the ambassador told me deciding who would go and who would have to wait was one of the hardest things she's had to do. She had just gotten off the phone with a college student begging to go home but had to turn them away. That student was one of many that she had to turn away.
Goy happily reports that all 161 passengers arrived in Thailand safely after an almost 30-hour flight, and now are all required to be quarantined for the next 14 days at an appointed hotel before they are released to be with their families.
If you know of someone performing Random Acts of Love contact Frank Lewis or Chris Arends.