ThaiHealth’s Buddhist Lent Alcohol Free campaign
Driven by Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) since 2003, the “Buddhist Lent Alcohol Free”campaign, which aims to encourage Thai people to refrain from drinking alcohols during the three-month period of Buddhist Lent for health benefits, has become a new social tradition in Thailand.
It has been 17 years since Thai Health launched the “Buddhist Lent Alcohol Free” campaign. Unlike previous years, Year 2020 is facing a new challenge of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Our lifestyle has completely changed. People are eager to take care of their health by doing exercise, self-cooking, abstaining alcohols to reduce all health risks due to severity of the pandemic situation. As prevention is simpler and easier than cure, all Thais are encouraged to stop drinking get through the COVID-19 crisis.
Reducing cost: Many people have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis. Refraining from alcohol beverages will enable those losing jobs to reduce cost and expenses while saving up more for other important bills and payment. Alcohol beverages are unnecessary items during the COVID-19 crisis.
Being mindful: Living a mindful life is crucial especially when the COVID-19 crisis is still ongoing. In his teachings on the cultivation of Right Mindfulness, the Buddha listed the body; feeling tone of pleasant or neutral; the mind; and mental states as four objects or foundations for the practice. Alcohol abstinence together with Buddhism practicing during the three-month of Buddhist Lent will enhance mindfulness. Less expense on alcohols means more savings and could lead to family happiness.
ThaiHealth’s one of the major missions is to “convince, assist and cheer” Thai people to stop drinking during Buddhist Lent. The campaign can be divided into three phases: at the beginning, during the implementation period and after completion. Collaboration from all stakeholders including the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Health, and Stop Drink Network enhances effectiveness of campaign implementation at the community levels. Volunteers from the “Diamond Heart” clubs share their experiences about reducing, refraining and banning alcohols with the participants. Non-drinkers and youths can also participate in these community-based activities.
Anti-alcohol campaigner Teera Watcharapranee, Manager of the ThaiHealth-funded Stop Drink Network, said increasing number of Thai people stopped drinking alcohols during the COVID-19 crisis. Statistics also showed 40-50% of Thais could abstain alcohol beverages during the lockdown. The anti-alcohol campaign during the Buddhist Lent may also enable more Thais to stop drinking by year-end.
During the previous curfew period leading to prohibition of alcohol sales, the networks were aware that those suffering from harmful drinking and alcoholism at the community level still need help and treatment. In Prachinburi’s Muang district, for example, there is a couple who are drinkers. When learning that alcohol sales would be prohibited during the curfew period, they would like to try stop drinking. They are eventually successful in stop drinking for good, thanks to the local network members providing consultation on how to stop drinking and showing them moral support. Both have become volunteers taking care of the elderly at Tambon Health Promotion Hospital in their community.
The Diamond Heart Club
A mission to help friends overcome drinking with the “convince, assist and cheer” approach
Convince to stop drinking … club members will assess drinking-related issues facing each community for example, family health, and seek a method suitable for each case to stop drinking
Convince to adjust community environment … Campaign against alcohol drinking deep rooted in social traditions for example, funeral rite, religious activities such as leaving robes for monks to take as discarded cloths, and house warming during the three-month Buddhist Lent
Assistance at beginning of the Buddhist Lent… A vowing ceremony will be held for community residents who would like to stop drinking and keeping a promise to him/herself and club members.
Assistance During the Buddhist Lent … Monitoring, house visit and public forum are among activities held for giving moral support to those who would like to stop drinking.
Alcohol-free events during the Buddhist Lent … Club members have work cut out for them to convince community residents to stop selling, buying and serving alcohols at parties, community activities held during the Buddhist Lent. So those who would like to stop drinking would not be persuaded to drink.
Cheer to fight: Everyone can make mistake and fail. But don’t give up, we can start again.
Cheer throughout three months of Buddhist Lent: Three months could be such a long period for some. Anti-drinking volunteers have to encourage local residents to bel