bangkok, thailand: cabbages and condoms
When I was a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2013, I went on a short-term study abroad program (4 weeks) in Thailand. The theme of the course was Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship- still very fitting to what I am interested in now! During that month, we visited a variety of amazing social enterprises across many topics in several cities within Thailand.
One of the social enterprises we visited was Cabbages and Condoms, a social enterprise restaurant in Bangkok. The name, often confusing to people at first, given it's taboo nature, has the most amazing story and impact behind it. I was so excited to go back with my friend Matt and have some of the most amazing Thai food!
When you walk in, you are greeted with statues and light fixtures made of condoms that are full of color. There are punny postcards and posters throughout the restaurant, as well. The aesthetic is very fitting with the NGO's initiative to make safe sex more talked about and more accessible. The NGO- PDA (Population and Community Development Association) and Thailand's "Condom King," Mechai Viravaidya have made an incredible impact in family planning and HIV prevention in Thailand.
The NGO received Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Award for its amazing work. In 25 years, Mechai and NGO brought down the number of children per family from 7 to 1.2- the fastest decline in population growth on record. Additionally, they led a 90% decline in new HIV infections, which saved an estimated 8 million lives!!!
I am blown away by the impact and the courage and bravery to tackle such a taboo topic to change the course of health and safety in Thailand. The restaurant also notes the NGO's scaled impact across rural and urban communities and the possibility of other countries taking note of Thailand's examples and providing best practices.
We can all learn from each other, especially in terms of topics that are a bit harder to talk about. I think one of the greatest qualities to benefit our society is people having an open-mind. With an open-mind comes love and understanding. Traveling has shown me even more clearly that there is no black and white. There is a spectrum for everything on different ways to do things. The more the open-minded, the more love, the more understanding, the more impact, the happier and healthier everyone will be.