Trip Start Sep 09, 2011
128Trip End Jun 29, 2012
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Where I stayed
What I did
Visited local schools
Went to Jireh Children's home
The local school was interesting... it was very basic, and stood very much in the shadow of the ornate temple. Jill told us that the children have to pay to come here, as well as for their lunch (they don't really do lunchboxes here) and that it was very difficult for families to be able to allow their children to continue being educated beyond primary school because of the cost. The contrast with the international school was pretty vast, in many ways.
The Grace International School is a Christian school, set up by missionary organisations, and with teachers who actually self fund to be able to work there (often sponsored by their churches or families)
All Thai schools need to have 20% Thai students as a government requirement, but most of these at Grace are from Christian families or are wealthy businessmen's children. It turned out that they really need an Art teacher for next year, and they were very excited to meet me! I felt a little under pressure, but they were all lovely and tried not to make me feel like I was on a job interview. I don't think it's for me, but it was really positive to see such a lovely warm, Christian school... I made a lot of notes on what they were doing there!
We then went with Jill to The Jireh Home. Jill works very closely with them and we were keen to see what they were doing.
The home is run by Pastor Khamcharoen, his wife, and their three children and their spouses. It is an Asian Hope Foundation home, one of 35 run throughout South East Asia housing 1400 children.
They currently have 36 children there (although they provide food for 50 people every week), varying in age from babies to teenagers. The children are all from the Lahu tribe. Their parents have either died or have been abandoned when the mother remarries (as culturally the new father will refuse to have the old husband's children in the home).
It was so sad to see them knowing that most of them had nowhere to go. The teenagers are a little different, as they have come to the home to be able to get an education away from the jungles and mountains. Sadly, even though the education for them has now been paid for by church donations, some of the teenagers have actually had to go home because of not having enough money to feed them. This seems utterly criminal knowing how cheap it is to provide food out here.
The home only opened in May and at one point had 50 kids, but they live on faith, and do not have enough to keep everyone.
It was an utterly harrowing and emotional experience. The accommodation is the most basic I have ever seen. One room for about 16 boys with just a couple of old thin carpets on the floor. No mattresses. No pillows. And yet this is still better than what they had before.
Jill's church from the UK had paid for a shower block to be built. It had no roof and consisted of one shower and one squat toilet for the girls and one for the boys. That's all the wash facilities they had.
They had laid out ropes on a bit of wasteland to mark out where a new dormitory was going to go for the boys. It was going to cost 600 pounds. To build an entire wooden building that would provide for all the boys. 600 pounds for an entire building. They did not have the money, but they had an abundance of faith that God would provide for them.
Jill had bought some cake and some balloons, and watching how excited the kids were just playing with a packet of balloons was very affecting. I thought about all the things that I had as a child. All the things that we all had, and these kids had a packet of balloons and one bike with a flat tyre between them.
They had also made a rope swing and looked so happy playing with it. They all played beautifully together... They were a family. And yet they had nothing of any material worth. I found it too much and got very emotional. The youngest ones there were littler than my nephew Jake, and the idea of him sleeping in a room like that with no bed and no toys was deeply upsetting.
It was a hard day, and I felt very compelled to try and do something. I will be praying to try and figure out the best way to support Jireh home and Asian Hope, and really hope that their faith will be rewarded.
If you feel moved to help them, please let me know and I'll give you Jill's email address. It costs 100 pounds a month to feed everyone there, let alone anything else, but they are doing such an amazing thing there.