Communications and Demand Generation Officer
Once hailed as a success story for its Covid-19 control, Thailand is currently going through a huge surge in Covid-19 cases due to the delta variant. As of 6 August 2021, Thailand recorded 693,305 Coronavirus cases and 5,663 deaths.
APCOM office is based in Bangkok, and since July 2021 Bangkok has been on lockdown until further notice, and we asked our staff to do a reflection on their Covid-19 experience in 2021.
May 2021 marks my one year with APCOM. The journey was definitely not an easy one, as I experienced the razzle dazzle of mixed emotions throughout the bumpy ride. Never would I imagine that the journey would take me this far to the next level, despite the calamity that I have to endure in keeping up with the pressure and challenges on a day-to-day basis. In one year, I really have learnt a lot, expanding my focus area of work to PrEP and chemsex, the two essential components in the HIV spectrum that I hold close to my heart as a proud gay man.
It was during the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that I joined the organization, where I had to spend the first nine months working remotely from my hometown in Jakarta, Indonesia. At the time, I felt very overwhelmed with the amount of work and the need to pick up the pace of the new job. Using technological advancements – thanks to Zoom and WhatsApp – I needed to quickly learn about many different components of both organisational and project-related work. It was excruciating, and perhaps, would have been less challenging, if executed through traditional in-person orientation.
After a long wait, I finally departed to Bangkok at the end of January 2021 and underwent the mandatory 14 days quarantine, as imposed by the government. The solitary confinement in a small hotel room, while still doing heavy business as usual, was truly not a pretty experience. Just a few days after I roamed free, I received a hand-written welcome note from my leader, Midnight, saying: “You made it! I really admire and am impressed with how you have dealt with being away from the team, and doing work remotely through Zoom! But you know, it doesn’t feel like you’re far from us. Thanks again for getting out of your comfort zone.”
Working at the regional level comes with great responsibility, but I am lucky to be surrounded by a great team at APCOM. Right from the start, when I got to meet everyone virtually, up until today, everyone is very accommodating and supportive, doing their best to make me feel at home -what good colleagues do -, and sometimes even more! As a foreigner, I couldn’t ask for a better team.
With the seemingly never-ending work that keep coming our way, we developed several coping mechanisms to deal with our work-related anxieties. Simple activities that don’t necessarily involve huge amounts of money such as regular weekly group catch-ups to discuss our feelings, or monthly out-of-office mental health activities, which range from dance classes to a picnic in a park. I particularly love our regular Friday staff lunch, where everyone s bring food to share and enjoy – family style. It’s like having a once-in-a-week party in a workplace setting, where we can sit and exchange a reasonably good amount of laughter, to ease our stress, even just for a short while.
We are not a perfect team, but we are working hard and putting in a lot of energy and efforts to provide maximum impact for the communities that we serve. There are, of course, some gaps to fill and always room for improvement. We still need to learn. We still need to grow. However, we do know, that by tirelessly supporting each other, we are able to get through our hardships and eventually achieve the results that we are hoping for.
When I decided to join APCOM, I had carefully calculated the pressure of the work, the homesickness and the empty feeling of being far from my friends and my life partner, with whom I’ve been in a relationship for more than 13 years. I, too, have considered the risks of moving someplace far from where I grew up, especially during a pandemic . It is currently my ninth visit to Bangkok, and this time it is not for a holiday, where I can come and go as I please.
There’s an idiom that says ‘the ship has sailed’ – which means, no matter how hard I feel about this journey, I just gotta make it work, with high hopes that I am going in the right direction, and that all the hard work that I’m doing, is going to contribute to the betterment of my community, even if just a little. Whatever happens in these unprecedented times will absolutely be great lessons for a stronger me going forward. Without a shadow of a doubt, I know this pandemic will soon pass, and I will dance again, chasing more rainbows that are yet to be found.