Mercy Centre is hardly a household name in Spain, but we do have many kind friends, and we wish to thank them all for the concert they organized on behalf of our sister charity, Mercy Menorca. All proceeds from the concert, called “Semillas de la vida” (seeds of life), performed this past November in Barcelona, will go to support our program to protect and defend Bangkok’s street children. Our heartfelt thanks ring out to all the performers, including dancer Ayako Zushi, pianist Gloria Argany, and the poet Luisbel Rodriguez, who conceived of the concert and brought it to fruition. Thanks also to all guests who helped make the concert a beautiful event. And most special thanks to Mercy Menorca! For more information on how we care for street children, please visit our program page here. (Photo below by Ian Taylor: a Mercy social worker with a child beggar on the streets of Bangkok.)
In celebration of Thai National Children’s Day, each of our 23 kindergartens held a spectacular sports competition this morning that featured running races, musical chairs, and even a highly skilled balloon-popping event.
Was it a memorable day? Was it ear-shatteringly loud? Was it insanely fun? Yes, Yes, and YES!
Cheerleaders, along with percussive bands, inspired their teams to near-deafening victory. Every kid earned a gold or silver medal. Every kid ate plenty of ice cream and cake. Every kid went home a winner. More photos on our facebook page here.
Our Mercy Christmas Pageant, spiritually joyous, beautifully choreographed, featured performances by our Mercy children, our Mercy Kindergarten students, and the poorest children in our community whose education we sponsor from kindergarten onwards. The pageant energy reached its peak with a final performance by our Mercy boys band, aka KIDS ROCK, who brought all the children to their feet, plus most adults, to dance to the joy of the beat. Photo gallery on our facebook page here.
Even in forgotten places, there’s a touch of Christmas in the moments families share together.
Published in Bangkok Post, Sunday Spectrum, Dec. 21, 2014:
By Fr. Joe Maier
Christmas this year — the date is marked in local calendars as the fifth day of the rising of the moon in the second month of the Lunar New Year. The word Christmas is not mentioned.
Christmas here in Thailand can silently slip by, unnoticed, if you’re not alert. Our annual commercial Thai greeting cards sold in the shops do not mention the words Merry Christmas, only Happy New Year. Christmas day this year, Thursday, is an ordinary weekday: school for the kids, banks, post offices and government offices all open, an ordinary night to butcher pigs in the slaughterhouse. The usual television soap shows.
Maybe there will be a short mention on the evening news. Officially, Christmas doesn’t exist. That’s why it’s so important, vital that we make the birthday of Jesus meaningful for ourselves, for our children, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian.
Greetings for Christmas. Our five- and six-year-old kids invented this glorious dance step all on their own. It’s a kind of a jump-up-and-down thing, which they do until they get tired and then collapse on the floor in laughter and giggles. And then they catch their collective breath, and do it again. They said if baby Jesus lived here at Mercy Centre with them, they’d teach him, too.
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. But despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
Mercy as the leading HIV/AIDS community organization in the poorest Bangkok communities, we are still battling issues of awareness and prevention. The general populations in the poorest communities are still unaware of their rights to receive access to health care relating to AIDS. These rights include access to health checkups, blood tests, consultations, medicine, and follow-up care. Their ignorance of their rights is due mainly to the stigmatization of people living with AIDS within Thai culture and society.
This project will battle community ignorance and encourage people to learn about their HIV status. In concert with government health care centres, we will promote the VCCT program (Voluntary Counseling, Confidential Testing) – a program that will encourage every member of our communities, especially young women and teenagers, to be tested for HIV.
Beneath the luxury condominiums in Bangkok, often right beside the glitzy shopping malls, you will sometimes come across a guarded, gated camp of corrugated tin shacks. These camps are for the migrant workers, mostly from Cambodia, Laos, and Burma, who come to Thailand to build high rise towers for a minimum daily wage. We operate schools on these sites for the children living in the camps. These shacks and our schools are the children’s entire universe.
We try to give them a lifetime love of learning in a safe place where they can learn to read and write and make friends and play.
Here is a follow up notice about the flash fire that struck our neighborhood this past September. Before the fire was put out, seven homes were severely damaged; four homes were completely destroyed; fifty-one people were left homeless.
Our Mercy Centre community teams worked closely with the victims to ensure that those left homeless had a place to stay, rice to eat, clothes to wear and a plan to rebuild as quickly as possible.
Tons of debris were cleared away. Stakes were put in place to rebuild the homes and repair tattered lives. New homes were built. And last week we held a celebration. Father Joe along with our community teams visited each new home with gifts and blessings! We wish to thank all our friends who gave us and our neighbors much-needed support.
In the past 40 years, our foundation has built or repaired over 10,000 homes in Bangkok’s poorest communities.
A four-year-old breaks with tradition at her mother's cremation, but for a change no one really minds.
By Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
(PLEASE NOTE: We are trying something different this time. You can read the complete text of the story as it appears in Bangkok Post below. Or listen to Fr. Joe tell the story in his own words without a typewriter here. Please enjoy both versions, thank you!)
The sorrow is intense. Maybe it’s the time of day. Maybe it’s the weather — but I don’t think these things matter much. She’s four and a few weeks and we just brought her “home”. In tears.
Even at four, she knows her mum won’t ever pick her up from school again like mum promised. We’d all gathered at the temple for the cremation. Miss Aye was playing outside the sala with her kindergarten chums, when the loud speaker guy announced, “time to begin the ceremonies."
All by herself, she left her friends and walked over and sat down on the bottom step of “the main” — the steps going up to the platform of the crematorium. She’d been told: you cannot join the actively in the cremation of your mum.
Even at four years of age plus some weeks, Miss Aye knew that. Everyone told her that she couldn’t go up the 12 stairs to where the body of her dead mother was. But she couldn’t understand all the fuss and bother, she didn’t quite digest what had happened to mum.
Our foundation's co-founder and director, Fr. Joe Maier, turned 75 last week. And while he might have preferred a low-key simple birthday, we found great cause to celebrate. Hundreds of Mercy staff, neighbors, friends, and, of course, all our Mercy children took part in the festivities. True to spirit, Fr. Joe made sure the celebration was really about our children. Ice cream was served from a giant bucket, and every kid who wanted a second or third cone was not denied. Top photo: Fr. Joe receives a gift of a red rose from Nong Fon, a blind Mercy girl, with co-founder Sister Maria beside her. Below, ice cream and dance.