Last week our social workers took 45 street children to a place they could barely imagine, far away from their everyday cares.
In concert with the Railway Police and a gift from the Lego, the Denmark-based toy company, we transported 55 street kids to Dreamworld, a Bangkok theme park full of rollercoasters, exotic landscapes (Snowtown!), street performances, shows, and food and snacks galore.
Instead of slogging through the day by the railway station, begging for spare change, trying to survive while steering clear of danger, the children received a full day’s worth of Dreamworld coupons, which they exchanged for food, drinks, theme park rides, and shows – whatever they wanted. Nobody told them that they had to do this or that – they made their own decisions. The children had total license to enjoy a world full of dreams!
We want these children to know that we are on their side, that we will protect, defend, and counsel them whenever they are in need, that we will accept them for who they are, and that if they ever want to get off the streets and go to school, they are always welcome to live with us as a part of our family in Mercy Centre.
Photos: above, at the Hua Lamphong Station, below, Dreamworld!
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:
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
Dear Everyone –
I write to you this Monday morning to thank you all for so many kind wishes on my 73rd birthday this past week on the Eve of All Saints (Halloween.) May we all be Blessed by the ever present silent Protection of all our Saints and Ancestors as we celebrate the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls.
We’ve had some exciting and awesome changes here at Mercy as we boldly walk into our 41st year in the slums. What a privilege, all these years, to be accepted by our slum neighbors and all of you, our Mercy Family, really, for a lifetime and beyond.Our Ms. Usanee has stepped up the ladder as a member of our family to become our International Ambassador both here in Thailand and beyond the seas. Our new Parish Priest, Fr. Wirach, has firmly grasped the tiller as our new Executive Director, steering our good ship Mercy. He is eminently qualified as for the past 20 years he has been helping us whenever he could. He began with us as a seminarian with our Slaughter House Catholics and neighbors. Our slum neighbors accept him, as do the relevant local government agencies, and our staff are happy. Most important, our children think he’s great. He has many university degrees (literally a handful), which is not important, but helps. So the great worry of “who will succeed Fr. Joe” is answered and dealt with. What a relief!!!