Our Rimklongwatsaphan Kindergarten, one of eight preschools we operate in Klong Toey, is a modest wood-frame schoolhouse located right next to a canal, about 200 meters from the Slaughterhouse. It may not look like much, but in the past twenty years, over 1,000 slum children have graduated from this head-start Mercy Preschool in preparation for government primary schools. These are children who might never have gone to school or learned to read and write their names. On its 20th anniversary, we held a grand celebration. (Photo gallery here.)
The children, including several recent graduates, performed in song, dance, drums, horns, and even Hula-hoops.
I’d like to tell you a fantastic story about a bunch of street kids we took camping a few weeks ago.
It was glorious! Just try to imagine a collective burst of joy that shakes the skies and you will start to get an idea of the fun these children had for four days and nights. (Related photo gallery here.)
Normally these street children sleep in abandoned buildings, under bridges and viaducts, and sometimes, if they’re lucky, on a floor inside a friend or relative’s shack for a few days. They trust almost no one, live by their wits, and survive day by day in a world that is horrible and dangerous. Their fatality rate is comparable to soldiers in combat. They really do die young.
Although these kids trust few adults, our social workers were able to persuade forty street kids to join our Mercy staff for a holiday at Kao Yai National Park, where they played children’s games just like other children, took long hikes, exercised until they were exhausted, cooked their own meals, made friends, learned lessons about sharing and about trusting others, laughed more than you might think humanly possible, and, best of all, lived without fear for four full days.
On an evening some time ago as young Yor Saeng left her home in Issan to catch the overnight bus to Bangkok, a jing-jok (small lizard) made its "tak-tak" sound at her. Her Momma shuddered: "Girl, that creature is warning you. Make a 'tak-tak' sound back to thank the jing-jok and change your clothes so the naughty mischievous spirits won't recognise you."
But Yor Saeng only laughed. Her name means something like "the beauty of a temple with a grove of sacred trees under a Northeast pre-dawn sky". And she's a Star. No doubt about that. That's a short step below Heroine.
Stars are tough survivors with a beauty about them. Also warts, wrinkles thrown in, with mud from the rice fields between their toes.
She was the baby of the family: the ninth child. Attended the village school and worked the fields with Momma and the family. Daddy died when she was five. She was 12 that night she shrugged off the jing-jok's forewarning and climbed on the bus to Bangkok to live with an older sister and work in her noodle shop.