When tsunami volunteer Niyarm Chivawattansukul, a carpenter from Narathiwat, approached Ban Tub Tawan to help in a housing project in February, his original plan was to make ordinary house to replace those destroyed by the disaster.
But after a few weeks at the tsunami-devastated community in tambon [smaller than a district] Bang Muang, his artistry was unlocked and he spent most of his time beautifying the houses...
Each of the 47 has an individual wood-carved balustrade, made from a range of motifs - lotus, sunflower, jasmine, parsley, rose and star.
"The patterns carry no specific meanings. I just think of images from my favourite cartoon books or mural paintings when carrying out the work," said the carpenter, who had never done any woodcarving prior to the tsunami...
His stay at the village has been longer than he originally planned. Initially, the carpenter planned to stay for three months. Now it's almost a year and he has no plan to leave any time soon - he just keeps on working...
It's not just unfinished work that keeps him from leaving. The carpenter said he has developed strong ties with people in the village.
"Maybe I am I looking for a nice local woman," [the 46-year-old widower] said. - "Outside Volunteer Carves New Career in Housing," Bangkok Post, December 26, 2005 (old URL: http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/26Dec2005_news67.php)
Bonus: A well-written insightful Council on International Educational Exchange student-written report on post-tsunami issues, including the "land grab" and housing issues I keep hearing about again and again. (Found by Googling "Four Regions Slum Network").
"The experiences outlined in these pages come from students who participated in a community-based education program. Much of the learning is done outside of the classroom; villagers are the teachers." URL: http://council-isp.org/uploads/common_ground.pdf
p.s. There are countless complaints about the hastily built Army housing (as well as many multinational NGO's housing projects) all over the coast: "Those the government built did not pay heed to our our feelings [desires and needs] and our way of life", says Panya Ananthakul, head of Tok Pu community in another Bangkok Post article. But the Four Regions Slum Network (I cannot find a website), where the artistic Mr Niyarm (above) volunteers, is a rare exception that works along with local communities. I've seen this organization lauded more than once.
"With support from NGOs like the Southern Community Planning Network and the Four Regions Slum Network, the residents of both communities [Tung Wa and Tub Tawan are both referred to as model communities in terms of post-tsunami housing] were encouraged to participate in the building of their own houses, from the designing to the process of construction." - "Shoddy housing doesn't make a home," Bangkok Post, December 26, 2005