On the coast of Phang Nga, in a village by the sea, you’ll find Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Park. Find out why you should visit this memorial while volunteering in Thailand.
Ban Nam Khem isn’t your typical Thailand tourist destination. It’s filled with beaches and has a tranquil atmosphere, but the main reason most people venture to this village is for a different reason.
The small town and the surrounding area were heavily impacted by the tsunami that struck the coast in 2004. Years later, visitors come to see the Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Park and witness the community regeneration that’s still taking place.
The park is a testament to the resilience of this community and a reminder of some of the residual challenges facing local people in the wake of this historical event.
The village of Ban Nam Khem
Ban Nam Khem is a small village in Phang Nga, Thailand.
Phang Nga borders the Andaman Sea, which means the area features a string of powder-soft beaches and crystalline waters. Ban Nam Khem is a quiet, off-the-beaten-track base for exploring Phang Nga’s coastline.
From the Ban Nam Khem pier, you can take a short ferry ride across to Koh Kho Khao, an island lined with beaches, forested mountains, and archeological remains of an unnamed civilisation. Or, you can take a relaxing boat ride to see the five Surin Islands.
Phang Nga Bay is also easily accessible from Ban Nam Khem. This bay is famous for limestone rock formations descending into turquoise waters below. You can easily visit on a day trip or an overnight excursion from your base in Ban Nam Khem.
As well as being a popular tourist destination, Ban Nam Khem is home to a memorial of one of the most impactful events in the history of Thailand.
The Boxing Day tsunami
On 26 December 2004, Ban Nam Khem lost half of its population when a tsunami swept over the village. Before the tsunami, the village had 1,500 houses. After the water had receded, only 49 remained standing, according to a report published on Relief Web.
In total, more than 5,000 Thai people and visitors to Thailand were killed during the tsunami, with close to 4,000 people reported missing.
Nearly half of the people killed were Thai people from Ban Nam Khem. In proportion to population, the losses in the village were the biggest of any other town in the country.
The scale of devastation wrought by the tsunami needed to be recognised in some way.
The Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Park was built in 2005 and 2006 as a way of remembering the event. The memorial is located in an area where an entire neighbourhood was erased by the tsunami’s waters.
The Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial is sculpted to represent a wall of water.
The wall bears the names and faces of some of the Thai people and visitors who lost their lives in the tsunami. The quiet setting and simplicity of the memorial encourage reflection on the force of nature and the impacts of the event on the region.
Adding to the contemplative atmosphere of the memorial is a golden statue of the Buddha, seated with his back to the ocean.
There is also a small, but informative, museum that educates visitors about the tsunami and its impacts.
Visit Ban Nam Khem and volunteer in Thailand
To experience the tsunami memorial for yourself, and witness the efforts of the community to rebuild in the wake of the event, consider volunteering in Thailand with GVI.
Volunteer travel in Thailand is an excellent way to learn more about the local culture. It’s a chance to be a part of daily life in a village in Thailand. You’ll learn about Thai customs and traditions in a local setting, far from the main tourist centres.
Spending time at our volunteer base in Ban Nam Khem is a unique opportunity to learn more about the history of the area, and how its residents are still impacted by the tsunami.
You’ll see the construction projects that remain underway, and those that are unfinished. As a volunteer, you can contribute to work in the village, such as painting classrooms in the local school.
You can also take part in the empowerment and progress of the village in other ways.
Volunteer opportunities in Thailand include working in the Ban Nam Khem community to improve access to education and public health. You could support global public health by assisting with nutrition and hygiene workshops, or facilitating sports and games sessions.
Or, you could contribute to projects to increase employment opportunities among youth by helping to make English language lessons available. This helps local people to access business opportunities within the predominately English-speaking tourist market in English.
Projects like these help to address the far-reaching effects of the tsunami. Providing opportunities for better income and economic development through education assists with improving the overall livelihoods of people in the village. This, in turn, supports the growth and development of the region, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
From the memorial, you’ll better understand the past. From a volunteer project, you’ll better understand the present. Layered together, you’ll have a meaningful and potentially life-changing experience in Thailand.
Discover more about our opportunities to volunteer in Thailand with GVI. Browse our wide range of conservation, education, and community development programs today.