It’s a whole new strange and scary world. A world without mum or granny, and a world outside your own slum shack. A world where you are all alone, even for a little while. Your home, your shack where you live, yes it is a shack, but it’s safe. Also that’s where your pillow is, and where your teddy bear lives, the food is, and granny is, and everything that protects you, and you know you are loved. Whatever that means. Maybe this going to school business is okay, kind of, a little bit, because you walked maybe three minutes to school and granny holds your hand and you know the way home to your house just in case something happens and you have to run. Just in case. And you know some older kids – like 5 – 6 year olds who already go to school there.
Today our Thai official academic school year returns.
First day of kindergarten school in the slums – Wow. First day in school and slum kids cry & shed huge loud tears just like you and I did long ago. ‘Mamma, don’t leave me. Promise you will come back to get me. Promise. Promise.
And the mums do promise and hug their children, and they do come back. Just like our mums did and dads too. This year, our 44th year – lots of dads came.
That’s fabulous. The slums are changing. Dads more and more are ‘hanging around ‘showing that they care, and love their children, and love the mums of those children. Wow. A whole new world.
There is hope. Not a lot. Not a ‘sure thing’, but still hope. Dads coming is maybe about 50% - but that is savagely cool. (So sez Kung Fu Panda)
So, it is a marvelous day. It is first day of school – year 43 that we’ve taught school, and nearly 50,000 slum kids. This year – over 500 new kids throughout the slums of Bangkok are entering our Mercy Pre-schools.
We consider the 23 Mercy preschools as a place of comfort and warmth. The kids start the day with morning gymnastics and dance, get the body going and have a laugh. Then after they sing the national anthem and say their morning prayers. It is time for milk and a morning snack. It is important to fill up the tummy; it makes it easier to learn. Funny dancing and smiles makes you fill good; and if you feel good you feel safe. Plus maybe one third of our kids have no breakfast to eat at home. So they come to school hungry.
Your classroom is filled with friends, kids from the neighborhood, kids like you and you kinda feel like you are home. But whenever you miss mummy, and you do even though school is fun, the teachers are always ready with a hug or comforting words.
This year 2500 children from the shanty slums of Bangkok will be studying the Thai alphabet, sing songs and dance and learn English. It will be a year filled with firsts for these children and we at Mercy Centre feel so blessed and honored being a part of their life journey. To all of you good folks, thank you for also being part of our journey through life.
Prayers as always
Fr joe & all