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Friday November 1, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday November 1, 2013 MYT 8:44:42 AM
by majorie chiew
Big-hearted: ‘I’m used to having strangers knock on my door for donations to buy coffins for dead co-workers,’ says Lin Mama.
A Thai sexagenarian firmly believes in giving back to society – whether it be cash, foodstuff or even coffins.
HAVE you ever heard of people donating coffins? That’s a jaw-dropper all right. But Thai businesswoman Choompoonudh Eakturapakal, 66, has no qualms about making such donations. A Buddhist, she deems such acts as meritorious.
For the last 15 years, Choompoonudh, popularly known as Lin Mama, has been donating coffins to destitute Thai workers and even migrant workers.
“I am used to having strangers knock on my door to ask for donations to buy coffins for dead co-workers. I always try to help. I give cash or refer them to a particular coffin shop and foot the bill,” said Lin Mama, flashing her trademark smile.
“I’ve no heart to turn these poor people away. It’s pitiful that their loved ones can’t even afford a coffin.”
Lin Mama is a genuinely warm person. I could tell. And feel the warmth in her heart when she pulled me close to snap a selfie of us. Lin Mama enjoys taking selfies, a sweet reminder of the people she meets, probably.
Now and then, the local hospital would call her to ask if she could sponsor a coffin, recounts Hunsa, Lin Mama’s eldest daughter, who acted as her interpreter.
The cost of a coffin varies, depending on the location.
“The hospital she donates to charges RM200 for a coffin and white cloth. At some foundations in Bangkok, the public can donate a minimum of RM65 to buy coffins for accident victims and unclaimed bodies,” said Hunsa.
Generally, most Thai Buddhists believe that coffin donations bring good luck.
Apparently, donating coffins to the poor first started in Thai temples. Members of the public are approached to help provide a proper burial for the poor. Over time, such a practice has become the norm and is a way for Thai Buddhists to gain merits.
The big-hearted Lin Mama is well known for her community work. She has donated blood 60 times and was given a token of appreciation by the Thai Red Cross Society for her contribution.
“Donating blood is my way of giving back to society because someone donated a kidney to my husband, Tawatchai Eakturapakal, a developer. He was very lucky to get a replacement kidney after undergoing dialysis for three years,” she said.
Lin Mama also gives back to society in other ways.
“Every month, I visit old folks home to give them donations and food items as well as to entertain the elderly,” she said.
Lin Mama left her bank job to assist her husband, a property developer, when she got married at 21. Her father-in-law saw her potential and recruited her to help run the family’s building material business in Nakhon Pathom in Central Thailand.
Lin Mama helped with the family business for more than 30 years before passing the baton to her two adopted sons and daughter, Sumitra. She took over the role of raising the boys after their mother, her father’s sister, passed away when the children were very young.
Ever the entrepreneur, Lin Mama started a language school business 11 years ago. She saw the potential that comes with mastering a second language – it opens up opportunities to do business internationally. Today, the business has expanded to four language schools with a total enrolment of more than 1,000 pupils.
“My mother has three daughters aged between 36 and 40. She sent every one of us to learn a second language – Japanese and Mandarin – at summer camps in Singapore and China,” said Hunsa.
“The locals are thankful that we started the language schools because it saves them the hassle of sending their children to Bangkok, which is one and a half hours’ drive away,” said Lin Mama.
Lin Mama and her youngest daughter, Sumitra, manage the language school in Nakhon Pathom, some 70km from Bangkok. This branch incorporates a Mandarin language programme. The school has an enrolment of over 100 students aged five to 60. During the school holidays, student enrolment doubles or even triples.
Her second daughter, Yupharet, runs a Japanese language school in Bangkok. Yupharet went to Tokyo to learn Japanese prior to the opening of the school. A cousin runs the language school in Sriracha.
Lin Mama has a good command of Mandarin, and she can speak basic Japanese. Not bad for someone who took up Mandarin just three years ago when she enrolled for Mandarin studies in Xiamen University in China. The decision to take up Mandarin came after she bought the franchise for a Mandarin course to be included in her Japanese language school.
“My ancestors are Chinese and my parents were Teochews who came to Thailand from China. Since I’ve Chinese blood, I feel funny if I’m unable to speak the Chinese language,” explained Lin Mama.
In fact, she brought along her Mandarin homework to do while on holiday in Malaysia.
“In Xiamen University, there were 30 foreigners learning Mandarin, including two Thais. I was the oldest student. The other students were in their 20s and 30s, but they respected me. They called me Lin Mama (Mama Lin) as Lin is my Chinese surname,” she said with a chuckle.
Apart from Mandarin, she has also picked up yoga.
“Actually, it was a trade-off with the language teacher. I taught her Thai and she taught me yoga,” she said.
Parents would compliment her for opening the language schools and they like the modern learning environment. They told her that their children felt at home in school as they were being treated like part of the family.
This is hardly surprising as Lin Mama extends her love for humanity to everyone she meets.
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Lifestyle, People, Thai, woman, Lin Mama, language schools, senior, Choompoonudh Eakturapakal
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