Patama Roonkrawit

"I've always loved drawing since I was a kid, and many of my relatives were architects, so architecture was something that came to me naturally. I chose to study architecture for both my bachelor's and master's degrees, but it wasn't until my graduate studies at Oxford Brookes University, UK that I came in contact with housing development for the poor."

"It was a rather accidental turning point, because I must admit I didn't know what exactly I was getting myself into when I chose to study about development and housing. As I got to learn more, I was more and more interested and challenged. I realised it would be highly beneficial for a developing country like ours."

"While I was collecting data for my dissertation, I got first-hand experience with the poor and that changed my perception of slum dwellers. Before that, I had a very vague idea what they were like. My idea of slum dwellers was probably like most anyone else's - unclean, poor and full of problems."

"Having spent some time with them, however, I came to realise that my perception was wrong. Their houses are not dirty like we assume at all. If anything, the bathrooms that I've seen are cleaner than in some middle-class houses. They are also very smart people, regardless of degrees and education. They need help not because they are not capable, but their housing comes with limitations, legally and financially. It is not classroom knowledge that can help them achieve a better living condition - it's respect for their insight arising from real experience. How to help them maximise their potential is the main point of our projects."

"Upon my return to Thailand after graduation, I started working with a few friends, and that was the inception of Case. More and more people wanted to be a part of it so Case grew bigger. I didn't mean to set up an organisation or anything. It's just something I wanted to do."

"If you ask me if slum dwellers pose a problem to the city, I would say yes and no. Physically speaking, their existence might be somewhat obstructive, but the question is can a city function without them? Just imagine, what if slum dwellers went on a strike and stopped working? There would be no taxi drivers, no street vendors, no cleaners, no inexpensive services we always take for granted. Every city needs these people. They are an important part of our lives."

"I do not work for the poor because I want to be a heroine, nor would I call myself a social worker. I simply do this because I think I can make a difference and I want to see positive changes in my home country. I know for a fact that if I put my ideas to practice, good results will follow. It would be useless to have a million creative ideas if no action is taken."

"I enjoy what I am doing, as I always have. Every project is a new challenge and no two projects are ever the same. The more I do, the more questions pop up, which translates to more answers and more understanding. This is what fulfils me - the constant learning and the complexity that increases as the world changes."

This interview by Napamon Roongwitoo was originally published with the title 'Sheltering the poor' in the Bangkok Post on Tuesday November 25, 2008

Patama Roonkrawit

Patama studied PGDip Development and Emergency Practice with the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP) in the School of Architecture

I do not work for the poor because I want to be a heroine, nor would I call myself a social worker. I simply do this because I think I can make a difference and I want to see positive changes in my home country.