After an extended stay in a local children’s hospital, our darling, Nong Fon, has returned to Mercy. Her best friend at Mercy, Nong Peh, is overjoyed.
For those who don’t know them, Nong Peh and Nong Fon are blind, disabled girls who have continuous life-threatening health issues. They are also exceptionally kind and loving.
Nong Fon and Peh sleep, wake up, dine, nap, play, laugh, and cry together, and often communicate in made-up words in a their own private language.
When they are not conversing, they hold hands.
For the past year, doctors have been trying to control Nong Fon’s seizures, and in the process she’s been taken to and from a local children’s hospital many times. The nurses adore her. They say she’s an angel. So we know she’s is well taken care of when away from Mercy. (Maybe she’s the one who is taking care of her nurses.) But it’s sad for us when she’s not here at Mercy. And Nong Peh misses her terribly.
This week we welcomed our boys back from Warsaw, Poland where they competed in a very special football world cup.
The world cup competition was open exclusively to boys, like ours, who live in group homes. Teams from 29 countries were represented. Our boys, who have rarely ventured out of Klong Toey, competed against teams from Poland, Russia, Macedonia, Tunisia, Hungary and Belarus. How cool was that!!!
Getting kids who live in a shelter on a plane to Poland is not easy. Not one of our boys had ever been abroad or carried a passport. While some Mercy boys are orphans and legally under our guardianship, others have parents or legal guardians living far from Mercy Centre. A few boys were missing their birth certificates and identity cards. Fortunately we were able to retrieve essential documents, get all the necessary signatures, and even funding costs, which were provided by by the the tournament organizers and friends of Mercy.
“We want to thank our teachers for teaching us, loving us, being here for us, and caring about us even when we are being difficult. Thank you, my teachers for your unconditional love and trust,” said one teary-eyed student from our Janusz Korczak School for street children.
Every year in Thailand on the first Thursday in June, our students celebrate “Wan Wai Kru” or Teachers Appreciation Day. Today every Mercy School - comprising 23 kindergartens, five construction campsite schools and our Janusz Korczak School – held a “Wai Kru” ceremony where students presented flowers to their teachers in a show of gratitude. The teachers, in return, gave blessings to our students and wished them great academic accomplishments in the years ahead.
Even in a slum, a mother with nothing can still hear her daughter's desperate cry for help and come to the rescue.
By Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
There was lots of screaming and shouting in the slaughterhouse neighbourhood. Miss Ploy was throwing a loud tantrum against her mum.
Just a quick glance at Miss Ploy walking by in the slum and you would know, this is a special kid.
She’s 14 years old, too skinny and obviously under-fed, with Raggedy Ann hair. She’s the proud owner of a grand total of one school uniform with no shoes. But that’s not the issue.
A congressional staff delegation, accompanied by members of Washington D.C.’s Royal Thai Embassy, visited our Mercy Centre yesterday to observe our programs and initiatives in the areas of child protection, anti-trafficking, and sustainable development. Highlights included a tour of our Janusz Korczak School for street children and our on-premise Mercy Kindergarten, where our students sang their favorite songs and were rewarded for their performance with ice cream on a stick – the perfect snack after their afternoon naps. Along the way, Fr. Joe and Mercy staff showed our guests why it is an honor and privilege to work together with the poor.
Last week I was walking by our Janusz Korczak School – our informal school for street children – when Kru Pranee, a teacher at Mercy Centre for 38 years, beckoned me inside.
“Father Joe, I’m really proud of one my students, and want you to see why.”
Kru Pranee called out to the student, “Neena, come here a moment, and please tell Father Joe about our Solar System.”
Young Ms. Neena, age 8, a Cambodian girl who attends our Janusz Korczak School because she lacks the documents to attend regular government school, looked a bit nervous and shy. She wasn’t used to being front-and-center stage. The youngest in her class of 32 Korczak students, she’d rarely been called upon to demonstrate her knowledge about anything.
It’s an awesome time of the year here in Thailand. Totally awesome.
Flowering trees are in full bloom with every color of the rainbow: so bright and delicate and beautiful, it’s breathtaking. And our kids are taking advantage of every minute of their summer holidays. For at least the next few weeks, they have no mandatory daily duties, no classes to attend, and no obligations apart from looking after themselves and behaving well. They simply get up each morning and try to figure out what they need to do to capture every potential moment of joy during their summer holidays.
The Thai New Year water festival was crazy fun. Imagine: Four full days of splish-splash. Someone gave us a plastic wading pool 24 inches deep and we filled it with the garden hose water. And our five- and six-year olds (especially the girls) were at the top of their splashing game. Best splashers in the whole slum. Stopping only to eat. No, they weren’t forgetting their past pains, but rather embracing the moment. Slum kids who have been hungry on the streets never forget. Even though here at Mercy, there are always double or triple portions, the kids never forget those days when they were hungry.
We wish our friends from around the world a Happy Thai New Year filled with blessings, peace, good health and an abundance of joy! Today we invited our elderly neighbors to Mercy Centre for a celebration of Songkran, the Thai New Year. Hundreds upon hundreds of dear, elderly friends joined in the festivities with our Mercy staff and children; and together we danced, feasted, received blessings from our local Monks, and then danced some more. Father Joe also gave blessings to our elderly attendees, gently pouring lustral water on their hands and wishing them a New Year filled with joy. As they do on every Songkran, our neighbors sang the old songs and showed our children the true meaning and joy of a traditional Songkran.
About two thousand years ago that raggedy handful of Jerusalem street kids saw it all happen. The bad guys ordered their foreign occupying forces to capture him and execute Blessed Mary’s Son. But they also made it look legal so these bad guys could get away with it and wouldn’t have to go to prison. Lots of people were shouting to get him up the hill for execution fast.
The kids whispered among themselves: “That guy carrying the cross with thorns stuck on his head, wearing the purple cloak is Jesus the Holy One." The scavenger dogs were barking, but strangely not barking at Jesus.
Last week we held our liveliest, happiest, and certainly most colorful celebration of the year. Our entire Mercy Centre was festooned with balloons, flowers, toys and stuffed animals. To say it was a joyous day would be an understatement. In fact, it was riotously crazy fun! It was Graduation Day for the children who attend our 23 preschools spread across Bangkok’s poorest communities. Amid glorious pomp and circumstance, over 500 poor children donned caps and gowns and received their diplomas; and in a rousing speech that brought all the children to their feet with fists in the air and smiles on their faces, Fr. Joe urged our young scholars, no matter what happens in the future, to stay in school! All photos by Ric Gazarian.