Rough terrain and logistical nightmares are no match for Shrewsbury siblings who have helped many people access necessary medical supplies through their charity – ‘The Jungle Box Project’
Year 13 twin sisters Doaia (Derya) and Keodeo (Deva) Lokitiyakul have been ardent trekkers in Thailand’s Northern provinces for as long as they can remember. Their parents instilled this love of the outdoors in all their children, taking entire summers to traverse some of the most challenging terrain in the country. On one such trip, their older brother fell seriously ill, miles from the nearest town. Luckily he was able to regain his health enough to make it to safety, but it was a near-death experience. However, Derya and Deva realised how life-threatening it must be for the local villagers, many of whom lack the necessary medicine, to get the help they need. This was when the idea for ‘The Jungle Box’ came to mind; an initiative designed to help distribute essential supplies to people living in inaccessible areas. It is an idea that has won the sisters a nationally recognised award and given them an audience to promote it extensively.
Each box contains a selection of over the counter medication and useful tools to take care of minor ailments. Alongside this, they also set up water filtration systems for each village and organise training sessions for health representatives. Derya says the desire to help others is deeply ingrained in her family, and it is something she feels is as important as academics and exam results.
“I believe we grew up as a problem solvers. We saw an issue that affected people and had an idea. After my siblings and I designed something we believed would work, we crowdfunded to access the necessary funds and began the process of distribution."
Derya and Deva named the charity ‘The Jungle Box Project’ and began the arduous process of accessing difficult to reach villages - most of which lie north of Chiang Mai, on the Thai-Myanmar border. Many of these locations are almost impossible to reach in the rainy season. So Derya, Deva, their family and friends made the trip when the weather is best; intending to get medicine to those in need as quickly as possible. As it stands, 56 villages and over 28,000 locals have graciously accepted ‘Jungle Boxes’.
“Perhaps one of the best moments we have had throughout this journey was a local doctor telling me that our supplies were making his job more manageable. Now that certain villages had a Jungle Box, he didn’t have to carry equipment long distances to reach communities not easily accessed by roads. That was awesome! If a doctor can do their job easier, then people are getting the care they need”.
The sisters’ creation and commitment to those far less fortunate caught the attention of local representatives who nominated them and their siblings for the ‘National Outstanding Youth Award in Community Service’. Ultimately, they were honoured at a ceremony attended by Thai government Ministers and the Royal Representative. Derya and her sister were then asked to present the project during a press conference which put ‘The Jungle Box Project’ in the national media.
“It is nice to be acknowledged, but the best part was during the award ceremony and press conference many people were pretty interested in our project, some of which have reached out via social media to learn more about the project. Some have assisted financially and logistically.”
Amazingly, this is not the only project Derya is involved in. She has also devised a way for people in disadvantaged communities in Thailand and Kenya to share their experiences. ‘HeartXChange’ gives young people a pen pal with whom they communicate and talk about their lives. Many of these groups can speak English and so, share a language.
Derya and Deva balance all of this with a loaded schedule at Shrewsbury, Riverside. Both have challenging academic timetables as well as a raft of extra-curricular engagements such as memberships on the charity committee, Eco Club and Model United Nations (MUN).
“We make it work. My parents are hugely supportive and encouraging. We have so much privilege and financial support compared to many of these people so it just feels right that if we can help – we should.”