The Irish Ambassador to Thailand HE Brendan Rogers brought the Irish community of Bangkok together last week in an event that recognized and honored Father Joe’s 40 years of community service as co-founder of our Mercy Centre. It was a beautifully orchestrated informal celebration, (beautiful – both spiritually and musically) hosted by the Dubliner Bar in Bangkok.
In his speech, Ambassador Rogers spoke of Fr. Joe’s life-long commitment to protecting and educating the poorest, most marginalized Thai children. Pictured above, Fr. Joe, beside Ambassador Rogers, gives thanks to everyone in the community who has supported his foundation over the years. Photo below: an incredibly gifted ensemble of Irish musicians performed for the event – an ensemble that included Mick Moloney, Terry McBroom, Donie Carroll, and Brian Taheny.
Born in a shack, half-blind and fearless, but there's still honour in a wasteland child.
by Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
It’s a story that simply needs to be told. Sai Chon, the half-blind, no-fear, ex-rubbish dump kid. He’s moving up the social ladder. “Shack-born” in a city rubbish dump, where he spent his early years, he's now only a part-time street kid.
He’s done well in life so far. A sixth grade graduate of the Blind School, he can read and write braille, but not brilliantly. He admits to being a bit lazy in lessons, since he can still see partially out of his left eye.
Three months in detention for vagrancy and loitering in a public place (ie, begging) is unfair, he said. He told them he didn’t do anything wrong. But the uniforms wouldn’t listen. To them simply hanging around is vagrancy and that breaks the penal code. They said three months and that was that.
Today at Mercy Centre we celebrated the birthday of Galong, our oldest Mercy boy. Born with a type of Downs' Syndrome and abandoned to the streets in his youth, he was found by our social workers over twenty years ago near the Pratunam Market, and has been living with us as an older brother to our younger boys ever since. When we found him, he had no given name, so we named him "Galong," a Thai bird without a nest. And he had no documentation, so we made Valentine's Day his birthday - because that is what he is about: absolute love and joy. We don't know his exact age, so we approximate. On Valentine's Day, Galong celebrates his 49th birthday. Happy Galong's Day, everyone!