We have just finished the great month of August – the month the ancient Druids celebrated the feast of Mother Earth, and we celebrate Our Mother Mary, also Mother of the Earth, and all the living. And we celebrate our children – our children living in the house with us, and of course the 3,000 children who live in their homes. We teach in our slum kindergartens throughout the city slums, and in a dozen of the construction site work camps scattered around Bangkok and the sea gypsy kids off the island in middle south Thailand on the Andaman sea – and our special Janusz Korczak school here in the Klong Toey slums, - for ‘left over kids’ ...
Gee, I do wish you could come to Bangkok and to our Mercy Centre and we would humbly ask permission from our kids – that you visit – because it is their home – their school – and they are always very gracious, and happy to ‘show off.’
Do you know what a privilege it is, to have a five year old trust you so much, that they will show you their latest painting that they ‘got an A’ for or the greatest honor of all, that they will let you hold their teddy bear, just for a moment, but yet a most special moment. Let me ask you, now, when in your life, has anyone ever trusted you that much? Not for a long time, I would guess.
So we carry on. One of our young ladies just graduated from University here – with honors – I am including a picture. She said in joyful tears, “Fr Joe, you have taken care of me since I was five years old, and now I have graduated from University. I live with my granny and she thanks you too.
But some kids are ‘just starting out.’ Or maybe, ‘starting over.’ Yesterday with the help of the local police, an 8 year old girl came, with her 9 year old brother. They had grown up in the Provinces – all they know is working in the sugar cane fields and caring for water buffaloes. That is fine, but they need to go to school also, so we worked out a deal. The water buffalo will be fine. Maybe a bit lonely, so during school vacation, the kids can go visit the old buffalo, but the rest of the time, they must go to school, and the buffalo will understand, but they must tell him gently. And ass for the sugar cane, well, it will grow even though the kids are not there.
And today is their first day, ever in school. New uniforms – first pair of shoes in their life. So we carry on.
Several times during the year our HIV/AIDS team organizes a program called VCCT and Sunday 21st August we marched through the slums and neighborhoods of Klong Toey, promoting the importance of protection, information and blood testing. VCCT stands for “voluntary counseling, confidential testing” and the Mercy team works to encourage every member of our communities, especially young women and teenagers, to be tested for HIV. They do a very crucial job – advising high risk groups and providing necessary information and testing, while at the same time emphasizing on the privacy.
The Mercy team fills in the gaps where the government is unable to move forward: we battle against prejudice, provide counseling and support; and share personal experiences and emotions.
Almost 300 people in the communities, young and old, families and children, joined the Mercy Centre on this Sunday to learn more about HIV – what it is, the facts and medical sides to it but also hear about real life, personal stories; how it really is to live with it and advice on how to continue living a giving, meaningful life if one is positive.
How do we create a stable, comfortable, satisfying and long life for ourselves and our loved ones?
All for now. Blessings to you all. Pray for us. Don’t’ forget us or our kids.
Prayers Fr Joe and everyone