People often ask us, what is your most basic need? What do your children always need? What do your poorest neighbors need?
We can answer these questions with one word: nourishment. To give you an idea what it’s like to go grocery shopping for Mercy Centre…
We serve around one million meals a year.
Breaking down this one million figure, we provide:
- Lunch for our 2,500 kindergarten students every school day;
- Breakfast and dinner every day for our 200 children, plus their house moms and house dads (three meals a day when schools are not in session);
- Nourishment and sustenance for our poorest neighbors when they are destitute and hungry;
- Monthly supplies of dry foods and sacks of rice for our AIDS home-based care patients; and
- Thousands upon thousands of meals to entire communities following slum fires, floods, and other disasters.
This is most important! Our children give thanks before every meal. They give thanks to the farmers who grow the food. They thank our cooks who prepare their meals. They also thank their house moms and house dads, and Fr. Joe and Sister Maria; and finally, most importantly, they thank God because we are a religious house (Buddhist, Muslim, and Catholic) and want our children to grow up with prayer in their hearts.
As we explain to our littlest ones, “Every grain of rice on your plate was grown to be eaten. If you leave rice on your plate, you are insulting the rice, which will have been planted, grown and harvested for nothing. Plus you will be insulting the farmer, the trucker, the cook, and everyone and everything that moves each grain of rice to your plate.”
Our children understand this argument, and as children they do not wish to insult even one grain of rice.
Our older boys feel even greater respect for their food as they grow much of it themselves.
Most of our older boys live on our farm near the new airport. Their house dad, who holds a university degree in agriculture, teaches them how to farm and brings in professors and speakers to instill the virtues of a self-sustaining life and environment.
Here’s a short list of the crops our boys plant, tend, and harvest before and after school every day: Chili and other Peppers, Eggplant, Bitter Cucumber, Papaya, Spinach, Lemon Grass, Cabbage, Holy Basil, Sweet Basil, Lime, Sponge Gourd, Ivy Gourd, Turmeric, Coriander, Squash, Indian Mulberry, Bananas, Butterfly Peas, Star Goosenberry, Hog Plum, Mango, Chinese Cabbage, Lettuce, Jackfruit, Mimosa, Horseradish, Tamarind, Ginger, Mushrooms (many varieties), Bamboo Shoots, Long Beans, Peppermint, and last but hardly least, Rice. They also practice aquaculture, raising catfish and frogs in ponds on their farm.
Everything they grow they share with all our Mercy homes, and everything left over goes to market.
Back in Klong Toey, our Mercy girls are growing their own vegetables, too, far from arable land, right on top of the roof of our Mercy Centre. Our girls manage a hydroponic garden that is producing a gorgeous array of vegetables, including Red Coral, Red Oak, Rutterhead, Cross, Green Oak, and Finley.
Between our farm and hydroponic garden, we can shorten our weekly grocery list and lower our overall operating budget a little bit, but our expenses, especially for rice, our daily staple, are still astronomical. To serve one million meals a year, the rice we purchase costs 510,000 Baht (approx.. US $17,000).
Cooking oil, noodles, and many other items you’d never think of as expensive are also sky-high when factoring in one million meals.
For our friends who are looking for specific ways to help us, we welcome all support for the nourishment of our children, students, patients, and neighbors.
Thank you so much, as always, for all your kind words and support.
Fr. Wirach Amonpattana