We opened four new schools in just the past few months!
This announcement may not seem like groundbreaking Mercy Centre news. After all, we currently operate 23 preschools and have opened and operated well over 50 schools at one time or another in the past 40 years.
But these new schools are a big deal to the kids who are attending.
Our new students are construction camp kids, ages 3 to 12. They move around a lot with their parents, from one construction project to the next. So they don’t get many chances to learn to read and write and count and play and make new friends. Our schools may be “it”: their one and only chance in life.
Since we opened our first kindergarten in the slums over 40 years ago, we have said (and continue to say) that every child MUST go to school. We tell every kid we meet on the street, “Go to school, go to school, go to school. If you need our help in any way, we will help, just go to school!”
Along the way, 50,000 poor children have learned to read and write in our kindergartens. Many of our dreams have come true.
Our dreams continue for the kids living in construction campsites. (Photos above and below, construction camp kids attend a new Mercy School.)
But finding them is not always easy. These kids are nearly invisible.
Most construction camp kids are from Cambodia, Burma and Laos and have no legal rights to leave the worker camps, or even live in Thailand. Without resident documents they can’t go to public schools. They can’t even cross the street to buy candy.
While their parents are at work on construction sites, the children are stuck in the worker camps – a fenced-in community of corrugated tin shacks on a rough patch of dirt. They live in a tiny world, a bubble of sorts - a bubble filled with mud. And danger.
Over the years we’ve taught children in many different construction camps. At our Prakasamai School in Samut Prakan, hundreds of children have learned their first lessons in a safe, caring, super fun, child-friendly environment.
Another school that we opened a few years ago – between Sukhumvit 24 and 26 – has a current enrollment of over 30 students.
The enrollment figures in our new schools are lower, for now. But that doesn’t matter because to find and teach even one poor child is worth all our efforts.
The school structures are quite humble: when we open a new school, we start with just a tarpaulin overhanging to keep the rain out. In short time, as more kids attend, we build a one-room schoolhouse, as pictured below. It’s not much, but to the kids it’s a palace.
Is our system of teaching perfect? Hardly. Our classrooms are a polyglot madhouse with kids speaking Kmer, Burmese, Karen, Lao and Thai. Regardless, these kids love going to school and making friends. They love being children.
Still, we need to do more – much more. Thank you to everyone who has supported us in these efforts!
New Executive Director at Mercy.
Please welcome Augustine Anonth Collaco, a friend and advisor for over 40 years, as our new Executive Director at Mercy Centre. Formerly a priest in the Redemportist Order who has since made his way in myriad ways in the secular world of business and human resources, Khun Gus is bringing decades of wisdom and experience to our humble organization.
New Videos about Our Mercy Centre. Please Watch.
I’d like to share two new videos about our work in the slums. The first one is a three-minute introduction to our Mercy Centre produced by the Opus Prize Foundation. The foundation honors those “who, guided by faith and an entrepreneurial spirit, are conquering the world’s most persistent social problems.” Please view the video here:
The second new video was produced by Bill Whelen, an Irish musician best known for this Riverdance composition, which was the basis for the world famous Riverdance theatrical show. This eight-minute video provides a wider introduction to our work, our staff and children, how we live, and how we celebrate life in our beloved Klong Toey slum community. You can view it here:
Happy Chinese New Year
We wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year (the Year of the Goat), which starts this February 19th. Sister Maria will be preparing envelopes full of love and best wishes (and a tiny bit of cash) to all our staff and children. It’s a beautiful holiday to reflect on the love of family and friends.