Thinking back, looking forward


The end of each year is always the time to look back on one's day, week, month and year to learn from one's actions and improve for the new year. Guru speaks to a group of Thais, who reflect on their year, the good and the bad, and learn what they look forward to in 2021.

Prof Wiriya Namsiripongpan

Founder of the Universal Foundation for Persons with Disabilities and Yimsoo cafe

(Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

"Disabled people, just like the rest of society, have had to endure additional challenges this year. Even during smoother years, a person with a disability generally has a harder time finding employment. This year, even the rest of the society is struggling to even keep their current employment, let alone find new work. So you can imagine how much more severe the struggle is for the disabled members of our society. Providing work for them has been a tougher challenge this year.

However, what I wish to say to people about everything that is happenning is that problems and struggles allow us to realise our true potential. Only when faced with adversity can we expand our potential even further. If we train ourselves to look at challenges to be positive, we will remain happy no matter what happens."

Kavita Supatravanij

Co-founder of ila, a social enterprise that addresses discrimination in the workplace while empowering gender-based violence survivors

(Photo courtesy of Kavita Supatravanij)

"Being a founder of any organisation means you're always motivated to do more and push your company to the next level. In a year where health has been the main topic of most conversations, 2020 has really forced me to take a real step back to focus on my own health -- physical and mental.

In terms of gender equality, suffice to say this year has resulted in many steps taken backwards. Domestic abuse has been increasing globally. In Thailand, a country that -- for the most part -- still thinks gender-based violence is a private matter, it's more important than ever to come together as a community, as allies and not just bystanders."

Natalie Narkprasert

(Photo courtesy of Natalie Narkprasert)

Founder of Covid Thailand Aid, a group of independent volunteers that helps senior citizens and vulnerable groups by providing care packages and hot meals. They have helped 87,000 people since March. Natalie was one of the organisers of an online protest against racism in June

"Wealth, a famous last name, nationality and age mean nothing in a crisis. I saw a young Mexican/Canadian boy helping so many Thai people because he cared. Empathy and the will to help are all that matters."

Regarding racial discrimination, Natalie said "Thailand may not have systemic racism but there is discrimination based on the perception of a darker skin colour that affects job opportunities and promotes bullying at a very young age. Like many countries around the world, we held a peaceful protest against racial injustice but we received a strong backlash within the Thai community. Thais were very defensive about having a discussion about racial discrimination and inequality. Confrontation is not part of the Thai culture but not every issue is about politics or the monarchy. It is about having empathy."

Kanachai Bencharongkul

Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca Bangkok), photographer and artist

(Photo courtesy of Kanachai Bencharongkul)

"2020 has been a challenge. We had to close Moca Bangkok for about two months during the lockdown. It was a very stressful time; each day we were closed meant more losses. Thankfully we were able to keep all our staff. During that time, we tried various ways to engage with our visitors, like pushing out online content and virtual tours. Some ideas worked, some didn't. Within the first month of reopening, a new record was reached for the highest number of visitors per day. This month we will open our new arts space at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, marking another step forward. From all this, I learned that every challenge is an opportunity for transformation."

Kritsada Duchsadeevanich

An illustrator whose works emphasises human rights and freedom of speech

(Photo courtesy of Kritsada Duchsadeevanich)

"Art has developed hand-in-hand with the events that have unfolded over the year. I see that artists have grown stronger in their ability to reflect the on-goings in society, despite the existence of some who prefer to subscribe to existing norms. This year has made it more evident that art is indeed a powerful tool of self-expression."

Wimintra Raj

Founder and editor-in-chief of (an online publication which focuses on the hotel industry)

(Photo courtesy of Wimintra Raj)

"This year has taught me that when crises arise, people tend to be more vulnerable than usual and also panic and seek validation from others, which is something that can go very badly. Nobody can, nor will, save you. People will sell you their dreams cloaked as yours, but in the end, you are all you have. It all depends on you. I bought a new company in 2020 and lost it within 10 months, so I learnt not to make business decisions based on emotions. I have also seen hotel owners or business people who sold their businesses for less than they were worth, because they were in a panic. But they had to do what they had to do. Lose money, lose friends, but never lose sight of who you are."

Ekachai Wannakaew

Motivational speaker, artist and founder of Art House Ekachai Wannakaew For The Underprivileged

(Photo courtesy of Ekachai Wannakaew)

"This year has taught me that one cannot live as though things will always be the way they are now. Before Covid-19, work was regular and income was steady. Work dried up when the pandemic hit. I've learned that having a back-up plan and removing anything unnecessary in your life are both important. Live intentionally."

Sabina Ahuja

Holistic therapy specialist and founder of Journey To Love, a wellness company

(Photo courtesy of Sabina Ahuja)

"2020 has been a transformative year for everyone, whether you are a CEO, an employee or a loving mother. Just when we were getting comfortable with our life plans, 2020 forced us to shift them and change like never before. We unleashed our own superpower to adapt completely to these changes at such a rapid pace. This year invited us to face uncertainties, feel the fear but grow from it anyway."

Naraphat Sakarthornsap

An artist who uses flowers and their traits as metaphors for people and their actions, through art installations and photography

(Photo courtesy of Naraphat Sakarthornsap)

"This year, flowers of various breeds, originating from many places, blossomed at the same time in the hope of creating a better landscape. Younger flowers and seeds will benefit from a better landscape in the future."

Ou Baholyodhin

Chief creative officer of Sansiri PLC

(Photo courtesy of Ou Baholyodhin)

"The grief, loss and struggle that I have experienced in the past have invariably led to blessings after time passed. Hence, I believe the pandemic, too will have a beneficial outcome. During this difficult time, I have learned to enjoy and live life to the fullest and not to take anything for granted."

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