55th Diplomatic Red Cross Bazaar
Story by Kathleen Pokrud (Honorary Columnist)
The Diplomatic Red Cross Bazaar is an annual event organized by the Diplomatic Participants Committee (DPC) in cooperation with the Thai Red Cross Society (TRCS). Decades ago, the bazaar was part of the Red Cross Fair. However, to accommodate expanding crowds and exhibitors, the bazaar was separated from the Red Cross Fair.
This year’s Diplomatic Red Cross Bazaar will be held on the fifth floor of Siam Paragon, one of the largest malls located in Bangkok’s high-end central shopping district. Following tradition, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Executive Vice-President of the Thai Red Cross Society, will preside over the bazaar’s opening ceremony and will visit various embassies’ booths and displays.
The chairperson of the Red Cross Diplomatic Participants Committee this year is Madame Low Hui Ching, spouse of the ambassador of Singapore to Thailand. Other committee members include Madame Francesca Andreini Galanti (vice-chairperson), spouse of the ambassador of Italy; Madame Omneya Elkouny (raffle director), spouse of the ambassador of Egypt; Datin Catherina Christine Cherrian (secretary), spouse of the ambassador of Malaysia, and lastly, Madame Ximena Rios Hamann (advisor), spouse of the ambassador of Peru.
The 55th Diplomatic Red Cross Bazaar is scheduled to be held from 3 to 6 March 2022. As in previous years, visitors can expect a wide variety of food, snacks, fresh produce, wine, handicrafts, cosmetics, fashion and household products from various countries. For the first time in its history, the bazaar will span four days to allow ample time for shopping. Madame Ching, this year’s chairperson, explained, “We are planning to have 176 embassy booths, and there will be booths of companies and organizations as well. We will strictly follow the rules established by the Thai health authorities, including visitor limits and spacing requirements. All exhibitors must be fully vaccinated and are required to take pre-event ATK tests.”
Elite+ asked Madame Ching about her leadership visions for this year. “I hesitate to call myself the leader. The Red Cross Diplomatic Participants Committee is very much a team. We consult each other and make decisions jointly. And our committee does not function in a vacuum. We work very closely with the staff of the Fundraising Bureau of the Thai Red Cross. Director Khun Khan Prachuabmoh, Deputy Director Khun Janprapa and their staff provide guidance and a lot of practical assistance. We want to run a bazaar that is not only fun and interesting, but also offers cultural insight into the participating countries. At the same time, I am also very aware that the main purpose of the bazaar is to raise funds for various worthy Thai Red Cross projects. The Covid-19 situation has impacted many charities, and I sincerely hope that the people of Thailand will continue to shop at our bazaar and remember it supports the good work of the Thai Red Cross. The funds raised from the bazaar go towards health and social projects that benefit people in need across Thailand. I am grateful to the commitment and generosity of the embassies and consulates that are taking part in the bazaar.”
Madame Ching added, “I am very thankful to HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn for her strong support over the years. The bazaar has such a long history in Bangkok, and I am honoured to be a part of such an established tradition. I joined the committee in 2019 and have taken on different roles over the last few years. I started first as the secretary, then vice-chairperson and now chairperson. As diplomats move every few years, we are always on the lookout for new members to join our committee. It is sad to see committee members leave, but new members in turn bring different perspectives and experience to the team.”
Vice-chairperson Madame Francesca joined the committee in 2020. She reflected, “It has been a very inspiring and engaging time throughout. I attended a general meeting and was struck by the nature and relevance of the projects that the bazaar helps finance. So, I decided I wanted to contribute and volunteered as deputy raffle director. Later, I was raffle director, and this year I'm honoured to be the vice-chairperson.”
Madame Francesca admitted, “It will be particularly challenging to increase the number of visitors to the bazaar, which is our goal every year, in light of the enduring Covid situation. That is why, last year, we expanded into online sales to offer a greater variety of products and reach out to people who are unable to attend in person. Every year has been different and stimulating. I continue to appreciate this valuable experience, very aware of the bazaar’s importance to help those in need. I think that the engagement of the diplomatic community with the Thai Red Cross is particularly appropriate under the current circumstances, where difficulties for disadvantaged groups are growing as the pandemic continues.”
As raffle director, Madame Omneya has worked on the committee since last November. “I volunteered to help raise funds for the Thai Red Cross to assist the projects it supports. My role is to oversee the raffle draw and find sponsors to provide prizes. I also help to encourage embassies to sell raffle tickets. One of the major challenges we will be facing due to the current pandemic is the possibility of lower numbers of people attending the bazaar.”
Datin Catherina has been involved in the committee since 2018. She was a committee member in 2019, but then took a break until this year. She said, “I volunteered because I believe that the Thai Red Cross does good work, and as a member of the diplomatic community, I wanted to contribute to Thai society by helping in the fund raising. I have served as raffle director and advisor in the past. Currently, I serve as the secretary. There are many worthy projects that the Thai Red Cross supports. It is difficult to decide on how much can be allocated for each. In this respect, I find that visiting the projects and listening and seeing for ourselves help us make better decisions. I find the volunteer work for this event is very meaningful.”
Lastly, Madame Ximena, who first served as deputy raffle director, then raffle director, and finally chairperson, is now an advisor. Since joining the Committee in 2018, she recalled, “I had been in Thailand for about a year and was looking for activities I could join as a volunteer. I have always been motivated to do different volunteer work. I find that being a volunteer in a host country is a great opportunity to show my appreciation for the warm welcome I received. It is also a great honour to assist the Thai Red Cross, which has done such wonderful work for people in need. This event also gives us the chance to share the culture and products of our countries.”
Speaking on the challenges under Covid, Madame Ximena said, “This has been a lesson for all of us. We have learned that things can be done virtually and help can still reach the people that really need it. We were able to go ahead with the 53rd and 54th bazaars in person in the Siam Paragon Hall and both events had a very good response.
While facing the Covid challenges, the Red Cross Diplomatic Participants Committee feels confident that the authorities’ handling of the situation, as well as the health and safety measures the bazaar will be following, will help alleviate visitors’ concerns. For those who prefer to participate from the comfort of their home, the event will offer online shopping and live-streaming of cultural performances. Early-bird entry tickets and raffle draw tickets can also be bought online. Last year, the hybrid online and physical format received a positive response from shoppers and exhibitors. To shop online, visit www.DPCredcrossBazaar.com