Drawing by Ali
In the last few weeks, as Thailand has edged closer and closer toward political and social chaos, we received many calls and e-mails from friends expressing their concern for our children. Thank you so much!
This week everything feels more hopeful. Protesters still occupy the shopping district, fortifying their perimeters with walls of gasoline-soaked tires and sharpened bamboo stakes. The army is still protecting the financial district. But now both sides are talking about withdrawing from their positions. We hope and pray for peace.
Whatever happens, we want all our friends to know that life goes on as always at our Mercy Centre, that we worry about our country and our future, but our focus every second of every day remains on the lives of poor, vulnerable children living on the streets and in slum shacks throughout Bangkok. Our street outreach teams continue to visit and protect children on their daily rounds. Moms and grandmoms still come to Mercy with family emergencies. They rhythms of life on the street and at Mercy remain the same. We are still a big family surrounded by neighbors we know and love.
Since January, 10 new children have joined our Mercy family. Eight of these children (7 boys and 1 girl – Pleam, Praem, Dton, Eh-eh, Than, Phan, Kee-nu, and Mint) lived many years in a local home for children with AIDS - The Kevorkian Home – which recently closed. Two other children, both girls – Ploy, age 5, and Pookie, age 13 - are from the streets.
Our new children need a lot of love and attention right now, especially Nong Ploy, who won’t speak of her family or say much at all. This is the first time in her young life she has ever played with other children or made friends, and she is still unsteady, still healing, and needs constant reassurance that her world at Mercy is safe, gentle, and caring.
In the years to come, as we continue to love, nurture, and educate Nong Ploy, we will also do all we can to help her find the spark that makes her unique and let it light up her world.
That spark is in all our children, though sometimes it’s buried quite deep. As one example, let me tell you about Ali, a 15-year-old boy who was brought to us by a kind old slum lady about 10 years ago. She found him on the streets, hungry, emaciated, crying, speaking little Thai; and she took him in and cared for him until she found us.
We’ve had Ali in our family ever since. A Burmese migrant without any documentation, without rights to live in Thailand or go to school, Ali has needed special permission to do everything in his life. For years at Mercy, he was a quiet boy, lacked confidence, did average in his studies, average in almost everything; that is, until he discovered that he loved drawing and art. Today Ali is earning a vocational college degree in Bangkok at the Vichitsilp School of the Arts.
During school holidays, you will often find Ali in our graphic arts room rendering something beautiful.
Batik by Tor
Tor, age 18, is another Mercy artist. He and his sister joined us eight years ago when his mom was dying in our AIDS hospice. (Both mom and dad have since died.) One day, without ever expressing an interest in art, Tor asked our graphic arts staff how to create a batik.
He showed so much promise and passion in his art that a few months later he was accepted on scholarship to her HM the Queen of Thailand’s prestigious Bangsai Arts & Crafts Village.
He has just returned to Mercy and now works and teaches in our graphic arts centre.
Tew performs traditional Thai dance (pictured far left).
Another Mercy Child nicknamed Tew, age 16, is just discovering her talents. She and her brother joined our family nine years ago when their granddad dropped them off at Mercy Centre, and rushed away. He promised to return with their birth certificates but never came back.
Years passed. We knew Tew was special, but not how or why. Then one day we found an amazing teacher, Adjarn Watt, who taught our girls Thai traditional dance, grace, form, and discipline.
Sadly, Adjarn Watt passed away, very young, at age 36. But among his many gracious acts that will live forever, he helped discover Tew’s love of classical dance.
This year Tew was accepted at one of the few colleges specializing in traditional Thai dance. Mondays through Fridays, Tew will be studying and dancing at school in Ang Tong Province, and returning home to Mercy Centre on the weekends to be a Big Sister. When you ask Tew about her new school, she glows with happiness and anticipation.
Film and Fluke flash smiles before their departure.
Film and Fluke, twins, age 13, had a rough start in life: first their dad abandoned the family; then their mom gave up, abandoning Fluke and Film to a third-party, “step-grandparents,” who showed no love for them.
When their mom heard that her boys were being physically abused, she alerted us and asked us to take them in.
That was eight years ago.
Both boys found their spark in life quite early, somewhere around the first or second time they stepped on to a soccer pitch.
A friend of Mercy Centre invited the twins and three other Mercy boys to a special football camp in Phuket, where they excelled, Fluke and Film most of all. The boys have stayed on, living and practicing at the football camp while attending a local government school.
Film and Fluke have become full-fledged soccer stars, playing in regional soccer tournaments in Thailand and Singapore. Next stop – Finland! They will be playing on the international level and attending an international school on football scholarship. Amazing!
Film, Fluke, Tew, Ali, Tor… all five kids could have easily fallen through the cracks and ended up on the streets, or worse. You could say they were lucky, but, truthfully, we are the lucky ones! We feel great honor in raising these children.
At the beginning of this letter, I mentioned that we have 10 new children in our family. But even before this letter is finished, one more child has just arrived, just an hour ago: Nong Pai Tong, about one year old, parents both ill, one older brother already living with us.
Nong Pai Tong can’t walk or talk yet, but she will soon enough… and then she, too, will find her spark in life and light up the world.
Please continue helping our foundation as you have in the past. Eleven new Mercy kids all need sponsors! Please support our children.
Thank you again for your friendship and especially for your concerns about Thailand and Mercy Centre. Everything is fine. It’s the first week of school. Our kids are getting ready. Please don’t worry!
Wishing you great happiness and health,
Usanee and the Mercy Teams