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.
So you can imagine the anticipation Nong Peh felt when she heard that, after almost two months apart, Nong Fon would be returning to Mercy in just a few days.
Life should always be so sweet!
It isn’t and wasn’t, at least not on the appointed day of Nong Fon’s return. On the very afternoon that Nong Fon came back to Mercy, Nong Peh came down with an infection that needed immediate attention in a hospital. They missed each other by a few hours, and their reunion would have to wait.
In the meantime, a Mercy girl named Lin was asked to help look after Nong Fon.
Fr. Joe has written about Nong Peh and Nong Fon and Lin in some of his previous stories for the Bangkok Post, as here.
Lin is the definitive “throw-away” kid. Mentally disabled and facially disfigured, she had been abandoned to the street and lived as a throw-away child for many years – just how many years or how she survived with poor mental acuity, Lin can’t or won’t tell us. All we know for sure is that she has suffered indignities far beyond our comprehension. To this day, she prefers to spend most of her waking hours alone, huddled in a back corner of our Mercy Centre, as far away as possible from any strangers who might tease or bother her. Not that anyone would tease her, but she dreads even the possibility that someone might look at her askance.
On her first day at Mercy, we introduced Lin to Nong Peh and Nong Fon and told her, these are your little sisters, and from now on it will be your job to help us take care of them.
Lin’s attachment to Nong and Peh was transformative. Nobody on the streets had ever been genuinely nice to Lin; nobody had ever wanted to be with her. She had no purpose, no friends, nobody who cared about her. All of a sudden Lin had two little sisters who needed her, and would love her and never, ever hurt her.
Her relationship with Nong Peh and Nong Fon is like a gorgeous sunset before harvest when nature is brimming with life, the forests are bursting with foliage, the flowers are beaming with beauty. Everything is radiant. Lin, Nong Fon and Nong Peh have the perfect I-Thou relationship: they embrace each other in the present with their whole beings! No questions. No judgments. Just continuous bursts of spontaneous love.
But we digress: Nong Peh went to the hospital before Nong Fon returned home. And for the greater part of this past week Lin looked after her little sister as if life itself – never mind her own deficits and disfigurements – is a wonderful gift. (Photo of Lin and Nong Fon below.)
Yesterday, Nong Peh returned home and was finally reunited with Nong Fon. Months apart, they still never missed a beat, telling each other secrets in their own private language, laughing at each other's jokes, and holding hands as if their last conversation together was only yesterday.
They’re good for the moment. And if and when they need a little help, their big sister Lin is always ready to jump in.
After months apart, Nong Fon and Nong Peh are back together, holding hands.
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.
This was the third year our Mercy boys participated in the world cup. But we didn’t send the same group of boys as last year or the year before. And we didn’t put together a team of our most competitive athletes.
Each year we assemble a different team of players so as many Mercy boys as possible can experience a world beyond Mercy. They can open their eyes to different cultures; meet boys just like themselves from around the world; and have a blast in the process.
We didn’t care if our boys won our not. That was not the point. They were younger and much smaller than their competitors. Still they tied one team, and they played with joy, valor, and skill against every team they faced.
Between matches, they explored Warsaw like VIPs: one day they dined as the guest of the Thai Ambassador in Poland at his residence and on another day they received a private tour of the Janusz Korczak Museum. (We have a school in our Mercy Centre named after Janusz Korczak, a hero to poor children around the world). A third off-the-pitch highlight: our boys dined in Warsaw’s most acclaimed Thai restaurant.
One of our boys, Baht, who is usually mischievous, was remarkably well behaved (and awestruck) throughout his stay in Poland. Back home in Mercy, he remarked, “It was like a dream, starting with the flight, which was the first time any of us had ever flown. And when it landed, we discovered worlds we could never imagine. Even the Thai food tasted different! The best part was about making new friends with so many boys from other countries. We couldn’t understand the different languages so we spoke in gestures. It was amazing!”
Indeed, we are so happy for them, and proud!
Our boys receive a private tour of the Janusz Korczak Museum in Poland.
“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.
The students at our Janusz Korczak School for street children were most appreciative. Some Korczak students had been living on the streets for years, missing out on a primary school education, before they found our Korczak School. Others, who are the children of migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Burma, lack the proper documentation for entry into formal government schools. Our Korczak School is their only chance for an education. All our Korczak students know what it means to NOT have any teachers. They count themselves as blessed in having four great teachers who care for them and guide them in their studies.
“This is the best Wai Kru ceremony I have experienced, and I have managed several schools," said Anonth Collaco, Executive Director of the Mercy Centre, to our Korczak students. He continued, "I can feel the sincerity that all the wishes, the songs, and the praises come from the bottom of your hearts. It is a very heartfelt ceremony, thank you, dear students."
Here at Mercy Centre we wish all 130 Mercy teachers and teachers everywhere around the world a Happy Wai Kru Day!
Korczak students give thanks to their teachers.