YWCA Diplomatic Charity Bazaar

by Kathleen Pokrud

Visiting a local bazaar is the best way to learn about the culture and history of any foreign country. It is one of my favourable pastimes wherever I travel.  Luckily, for many expatriates and locals in Bangkok, we have the opportunity to shop by browsing through all the intricate overseas products on display at the annual YWCA Diplomatic Charity Bazaar. The timing is always perfect, a few weeks before Christmas to prepare our year end gifts exchange.

Celebrating 72nd anniversary of YWCA of Bangkok

In 2019, the YWCA of Bangkok celebrates 72 years of history, which is an auspicious 6th cycle birthday for many Thais. The Young Women’s Christian Association of Bangkok is located at the heart of Bangkok on South Sathorn Road, with many foreign Embassies as neighbours. The current address was purchased and at the time was a grand old house with a large compound using the funds contributed by YWCA of the USA and the funds raised from the first Bazaar. The YWCA of Bangkok was officially established and registered as an association from the Thai government in 1947. It is through this property that the most activities and services of the association were undertaken.

Mrs. Usana Sukhothsub

I sat down with Mrs. Usana Sukhothsub, current President of the YWCA of Bangkok to talk about the visions and missions of the long established Christian association. “Our visions are a fully inclusive world, where justice, peace, human dignity, freedom and care for the environment are promoted and sustained through women’s leadership by Christian principles”, shared by the hardworking President who chairs all the fundraising activities. “Through the grace of God, we are very blessed to have successfully organised the YWCA Diplomatic Charity Bazaar in November every year.” 

Since its establishment, the YWCA of Bangkok has provided aids and supported social development through various charity projects. Mrs. Usana credited that the success of the charity event is owed to the cooperation amongst the YWCA of Bangkok, spouses of the Ambassadors from various countries, and Central Pattana Public Co., Ltd. In 2018, the YWCA Diplomatic Bazaar raised over 9 million Baht and the funds raised supported more than 50 projects in the areas of education, health, quality of life and victim relief to those underprivileged in Bangkok and other provinces.

History of the YWCA Diplomatic Charity Bazaar

In 1953, the wives of the foreign Ambassadors and Embassy officials in Thailand formed the YWCA Bangkok Diplomatic Spouses Committee and introduced the Christmas Bazaar in an effort to bridge the cross-cultural gap and entertained the people of Thailand, local expatriates and visitors while raising money for much-needed charity projects to better the lives of the local people, particularly children.

Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother, when she was the beloved Queen of Thailand during the reign of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, graced the opening for many years when it was held at the YWCA Headquarters, 13 South Sathorn Road, before the current 31 storey building was built. This joint activity was the basis for the long, endearing relationship between the two groups, one Thai and the other diplomatic wives, sharing the mutual goals of helping the needy and contributing to their enrichment. Later the Christmas Bazaar was called the International Bazaar using Queen Sirikit Centre as the venue until 2002 when Seacon Square offered the YWCA free use of its shopping complex.

For more recent years, the bazaar venue moved to the more convenient and heart of Bangkok Ratchaprasong shopping area at CentralWorld. In 2006, former CEO of Central Pattana Public Co., Ltd., Mr. Kobchai Chirathivat approached Ms. Noreerat Noparatanaraporn, Executive Director to invite the YWCA of Bangkok to use the CentralWorld shopping mall for the annual YWCA Diplomatic Charity Bazaar. The bazaar venue remains in CentralWorld until the present day. Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali Krom Muen Suddhanarinatha has honoured the event with her visit. 

YWCA Diplomatic Bazaar 2018 Charity projects

In 2018, 44 countries participated at the YWCA Diplomatic Charity Bazaar with over 200 booths for the period of four days. Mrs. Usana explained that “The charity funds were divided into eight main areas:

  • Educational infrastructure improvement
  • Community health programme
  • Quality of life (career development, hygiene)
  • Human trafficking
  • Global warming (environment)
  • Scholarship (education)
  • Natural disaster and emergency relief
  • Status promotion of children and women

Over one third of the charity fund went to improving the ‘quality of life’ and  the ‘community health programme’ came in at a second place.”

YWCA Diplomatic Charity Projects 2018

YWCA Diplomatic Executive Committee 2019

President Usana emphasised, “The YWCA of Bangkok is very fortunate to have the support of many professional, well-connected diplomatic and local leaders as advisors to the organising committee, despite their very busy schedules.”   

The 66th YWCA Diplomatic Charity Bazaar 2019 is scheduled for November 15 – 17th (Friday – Sunday) this year at CentralWorld. A wide variety of attractive products will be on display from exquisite jewellery, delicate handicrafts, radiant cosmetics, charming souvenirs, splendid home décor, to healthy cuisine, superb wine and beverages.  

Meet the new Chairperson of YWCA Diplomatic Charity Bazaar 2019

“Talent should never go wasted”, this is truly applicable to Madame Olga Shumylo-Tapiola, the spouse of H.E. European Union Ambassador Pirkka Tapiola to the Kingdom of Thailand, as the new Chairperson of the YWCA Diplomatic Charity Bazaar. In addition to being the spouse of Ambassador of the Delegation of European Union, she is also the President of SHOM (Spouses of the Heads of Mission). I threw the question to Madame Olga, “How does she manage to wear so many professional hats at the same time? What vision does she has for taking up this new challenging role for the YWCA?”

Her straightforward answer was, “I love challenges and this was one really worth taking. Last year, I served on the committee, as Embassy Coordinator. This gave me firsthand experience of the dedication and devotion of the YWCA team and of members of the diplomatic corps. I simply loved the bazaar, especially its vibrant atmosphere. I was touched by the generosity of the people visiting the bazaar. I wanted to be more involved, and through this to give my full support to 2019 Diplomatic Bazaar.”

In terms of the visions Madame Olya has for 2019 event, she candidly reviewed, “Our shared goal is to bring as many countries as possible to this year’s bazaar. Last year, we added six new participants. I was very proud that the European Union, together with three EU member states joined for the first time.

We aim at reaching out to as many potential visitors as possible. With the help of the Central Group we will be advertising the event in Bangkok. We want as many people with kind hearts to learn about our event – and by attending the bazaar and buying the various products – to raise funds to enable the YWCA to support those in need.”

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