Sheltering refugees

An art auction for a noble cause

Artwork by Sangiam Yarangsee to be auctioned. Photo courtesy of UNHCR THAILAND

The global refugee crisis is no longer one country's problem, but an issue of concern for everyone. The pressing situation has become so acute that international aid agencies can no longer depend on support from donors to sustain the lives of thousands of the displaced struggling to survive with often just the clothes on their backs.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in collaboration with prominent Buddhist monk Venerable Vudhijaya Vajiramedhi (V. Vajiramedhi), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca), Khao Yai Art Museum and Hybrid Art Collectors, have come together to stage the Art Auction for Refugees, in the hope of tackling the huge funding shortfall for sheltering refugees worldwide.

The Art Auction for Refugees, which will be held on March 11 at Moca, is the first project of its kind to be organised by the UN agency worldwide and the first art exhibition in Thai history to convene with such a high number of well-known artists and photographers working under one roof.

The project features 30 masterpieces from 25 top artists in Thailand, including five National Artists such as Chalood Nimsamer, Nontiwat Chantanapali, Chuang Moolpinit, Preecha Thaothong and Panya Vijinthanasarn.

Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR Thailand Representative, threw her support behind the humanitarian event, saying: ''We are grateful to the Venerable V. Vajiramedhi for taking the lead in [gathering] prominent figures from artistic circles in Thailand, to help shelter refugees. A shelter -- be it a tent, a makeshift structure or a house -- is the basic building block for refugees to survive and recover from the physical and mental effects of violence and persecution."

V. Vajiramedhi, who founded the Vimuttayalaya Institute to promote peace and kindness towards refugees, said: ''In light of the global refugee crisis that has forced 65 million people to flee their homes, refugees deserve compassion from the world, now more than ever. Helping refugees is helping ourselves. Our mind is lifted when we accept each other beyond religion, race or borders."

The revered monk currently resides at the Cherntawan International Meditation Centre in Chiang Rai, where he works to spread Buddhism through his writings and dhamma courses, along with meditation teaching.

Proceeds from the auction will be donated to UNHCR's global campaign "Nobody Left Outside", which aims to provide shelter for 2 million refugees in 12 countries around the world, including Jordan, Lebanon, Rwanda and Chad.

Proper shelter is vital in ensuring security and offering hope to refugees already exhausted from their journeys and often exposed to various dangers, said event organisers. With shelter, refugees can start living again. Without this essential resource, even basics such as sleeping and eating are a challenge.

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