Right now is by far the most exciting time of year at Mercy Centre.
Every day it seems something wonderful happens. On a Monday Father Joe receives an honorary award as a Child Protection Ambassador for Thailand, the first foreigner ever to be so honored. On a Tuesday, two of our children, Miss Ewe and Miss Oom, score the highest grades in their class. Actor Jackie Chan drops by our Mercy Centre to sing and dance with our kids on a Wednesday. Then Thursday arrives, and we celebrate World AIDS Day at Mercy Centre, where hundreds of poor teenagers gather to learn about prevention and compassion. On a Friday, our boys living on the farm win their soccer match.
And every new day is one day closer to Christmas. The excitement builds. Our children know that Santa Claus and presents with cakes and ice cream are just around the corner. Plus the New Year celebrations!
We have much to be grateful for in 2009.
When the world economy plummeted in 2008, we began adjusting for this year, cutting costs everywhere except in staff numbers, and then we made a promise - Father Joe, Sister Maria, all my colleagues at Mercy, and myself - to the poor we serve.
We promised, no matter what, to make sure that every poor child we meet goes to school. We promised to never turn away a child in need and to welcome each boy or girl into our family. We promised to provide an umbrella of care for the poorest of the poor living with AIDS. We promised not to let our poor neighbors down.
As the year ends, even as 2009 funding declined as predicted, we have still kept all our promises. A few statistics:
3,451 Children enrolled in Mercy Kindergartens
753 Children graduating into primary school
434 Education sponsorships for Bangkok's poorest children
114 Emergency and micro-loans to our Women's Group
132 Street children we protect by the day
189 Children living in Mercy Centre
543 Children we represented in police stations and courts.
5,000+ Poor people living with AIDS in our care or receiving our assistance in our hospice, in their homes,, aand at government hospitals
1,000,000+ Servings of rice we provided to our children, students, the elderly, and handicapped.
And behind these statistics are thousands of individual stories. Father Joe wrote a beautiful piece - "It's All in The Game" - about three of our kids: Nong Fon and Nong Peh, both blinded from AIDS, and their Big Sister Miss Rin.
Miss Rin, age 15, mentally disabled and physically disfigured from birth, was abandoned to the streets where she, too, got AIDS. As far as we can tell, and we don't know much because Rin refuses to speak of her past, her whole life had been one of hiding from others in fear. Yet on the first day Miss Rin came to Mercy, in fact the very moment she met our two blind girls, Nong Fon and Nong Peh, Miss Rin found love.
Miss Rin loves Nong Peh and Nong Fon with a tenderness so profound it defies our understanding. They giggle and laugh together all day long. She showers, diapers and feeds them, plays games with them, and makes them laugh whenever they are the slightest bit sad. All three girls have speech impediments, yet somehow everything they say to each other is crystal clear. At night, Miss Rin tucks them into bed and sings them her own made-up lullabies.
These children are the beauty that is Mercy.
Thank you for providing our children with a world full of dignity and joy in 2009. Thank you for giving to our foundation in every way you give, for sponsoring our children, for volunteering, for every gift you bring or send us, for every phone call or letter you've written on our behalf, for every kind word you've said about us to friends and family. All of you make an enormous difference.
Please continue to support us in 2009 and 2010. Please help us in any way you can to keep our promises to the poor.
Wishing all our friends a Merry Christmas and New Year filled with joy,
Usanee, The Mercy Teams,
And All Our Mercy Children