Dear EveryoneIt's 22 November 2011 in Bangkok. Day 26 since our first slum kindergarten flooded. - a total of eight went under water. In three slums, the water came up in an hour. Water to the ceiling. The children are safe, everything was soaked. In my letter of a couple weeks ago, I said 10 schools were going under water. I believed 'the T.V. weather guru'.. but in truth only eight flooded and 750 children lost their schools, most of them lost their homes also. Our other 14 schools are in slums on dry ground, and school is back in session as normal.
As I write this today, some of the waters have gone down some. Our shack'school buildings are a mess, but we have patched and scrubbed and cleaned to get them functional, at least temporarily to get the kids back in school. Future repairs will be a head-ache, but I don't even want to think about that right now.
The slum peoples have all helped. Most important, re-wired the buildings since the electrical outlets were flooded, rusted and dangerous as can be - for shorting out and electrocuting people. We got the toilets working - bought new kitchen equipment, brought in clean drinking water. Books and pencils etc etc etc. Eighteen of our teachers (whose homes have been totally flooded also) have moved into the schools, as they have no where else to go. We have bought mosquito nets, sleeping equipment, refrigerator, fans, - a small old fashioned clothes washing & dryer to make their lives as comfortable as possible....under the circumstances. Got them new mobile phones, as most of them had lost their phones in the floods. We have resumed class (after a fashion) in five slums. Of the 550 slum children who usually attend these five kindergartens shack/schools, 250 are back in class. The other children are still literally "Up country in the Rural Provinces" staying with their grand parents - for safety. They are slowly returning to Bangkok.
Three other slums, where we have schools, according to the Weather man.. it will take another 45 days for the waters to go down. Two hundred children attend these schools. We are trying to do what we can to begin school as soon as possible. We did some 'horse trading' with the marine police who received 750 small plastic boats from the Government of China (the boats hold a maximum of 8 children) - the police let us use two boats and small putt-putt motors So the teachers, somewhat captive in their flooded schools have freedom to travel in the boats - also if one of the children get sick, etc, they have transportation. We have been lucky thus far, only two children and one teacher have been bitten by creepy-crawlies. Nothing serious, but they have had to 'shoo shoo away a few snakes, also looking for a dry place to live.!!!
So in conclusion - we're doing our best. Some of the children are back in school. That is so vital. Our teachers are real heroes - beyond belief, living, in difficult circumstances..!
Also with this, I am sending you a U-Tube link which a friend from Australia did for us. It's filmed near the slaughter house, thus near the river, with the tides going up and down twice daily. But it does give you an idea.
Again - I want to thank all of you - the worst is yet to come, and the crisis still exists, but the urgency is a bit less. Please do continue to help, if you can. In a couple weeks, I will send you my annual Christmas Letter - and promise I will not talk of floods...
All of you are wonderful. Prayers Respectfully
fr joe & all of us here at Mercy Centre.
Preschools: Our primary aim is to get our slum kindergartens back in operation in several flooded communities.
To this end, our Landin preschool has moved to temporary quarters. Twenty-seven children came to the new classroom on the first day.
Our Sua Yai preschool reopened last week on the same spot it’s always been. We renovated several areas, including the kitchen and bathrooms, and built a temporary “bridge” in front of the school, as it is currently surrounded by a “moat” filled with fetid water. Thirty children attended on the first day. More will follow when families are able to return to their homes.
We have purchased boats to help ferry the children and teachers to and from school each day.
The Mercy Chocchai Ruamit and Poonsap preschools will be reopening next week.
Other Relief Efforts: Getting the schools up and running also requires that we provide emergency relief to the families in these slum communities. Mercy Emergency Flood Relief teams have delivered 1,500 care packages, filled with rice, water, dry foods, and hygienic essentials to the families most severely affected.
We have been providing emergency care and housing assistance to forty families living with HIV/AIDS and approximately fifty additional families who are utterly destitute.
Many friends of Mercy Centre provide education sponsorships for the poorest children in Bangkok. Fortunately, most of these children live in Klong Toey, which has not been devastated by the floods. So far, we are providing emergency care to the families of thirty sponsored children in communities that have been inundated. More news soon...
The floods have not yet receded in any of our communities, but we are doing what we can now, today, and will do much more tomorrow and in the days to come. With your support, we are reaching out to the poorest families devastated by the floods, providing care packages, emergency supplies, food, rice, and whatever it takes to regularize people’s lives – to get the moms and dads back to work and the children back to school.
Several Mercy kindergartens have been flooded, including our schools in Landin, Suyai, Rimkong Watsaphan, and Lad Prao. Wherever possible, we are securing spaces on higher ground to open up temporary kindergartens. Photo gallery here.
I promised a "flood update: in a few hours to you good folks with email My apologies to you my brothers and sisters whom I didn't then send a letter by ordinary mail. Anyway, the email, was four days ago when I wrote you all that our
Charity 30 Oct Teenage Rock Stars Concert... was... to use an American Baseball term: "Cancelled because of rain." (flooding really)
Today the flood picture is a bit more in focus. Here goes.
Name: Gradmother Ngiam
Occupation: Grandma Ngiam is recognized as one of the finest embroiderers and dressmakers in our “70 Rai” neighborhood. She has been creating intricately beautiful embroideries since a young child. Today she helps make traditional Thai clothing and hand-made bags and purses for our Women’s Group. We sell traditional Thai products made by Grandma Ngiam and other group members to local residents and wholesalers as a way to give our members extra income.
Grandma Ngiam says that she is too old to use a machine, and thus she stitches every piece by hand.
Family: She currently lives with a cousin here in our 70 Rai neighborhood. She has several children living in the provinces, especially in her home province of Saraburi.
Her Position in Our Women’s Group: Grandmom Ngiam is one of 687 Mercy Women’s Group Members. Her primary reason for joining is to save money at a favorable savings rate, and to take out loans, if necessary, at a low interest rate.
She comes to work at Mercy Centre whenever she wishes, and we are grateful because we always need her skills.
More About our Women’s Group: Our Women’s Group serves to financially empower poor women, primarily the elderly, who are the heads of large, extended families. When our members need to take out loans, they can come to us rather than local loan sharks, who charge usurious rates that are often impossible to pay back.
Reasons for Taking Out Loans: Emergencies; school fees for children and grandchildren; housing (fixing a leaking roof or installing a toilet), unforeseen monthly expenses (health problems, funerals, etc.); and paying back loans of family members, especially loans made by loan sharks. The average Women's Group loan is approximately $250.
Photo below: Malika, who manages our Women's Groups, displays a selection of items for sale. (More photos at Women's Group Gallery here.)
How are you today, my Brother? Sister, how is your family? Do you have enough to eat? Do you need medicine? Are your children going to school?
Father Joe and Sister Maria would ask these questions to every slum neighbor they met every day, starting forty years ago when they first came to the Slaughterhouse in Klong Toey.
Some slum neighbors answered they were hungry, so Fr. Joe and Sister Maria gave them nutritious food with small sacks of rice. Others were sick, so Fr. Joe found a good doctor and started Bangkok’s first mobile medical clinic in the slums. To the question, “Are your children going to school?” nobody ever said “yes.”
Father Joe and Sister Maria opened Mercy’s first slum kindergarten in the Slaughterhouse in 1972 . It would be the first of dozens of Mercy Kindergartens to spring up beside bridges and railway tracks throughout the slums. Over 40,000 children have graduated from our Mercy schools!
A Role Model KindergartenLast month the Thai Ministry of Education named our Lock 6 Mercy Kindergarten a Role Model School for poor children, based on the quality of its teaching, student development, and administration. This award for excellence means that the Thai government will be using the lessons we’ve learned over the past 40 years in the operation of hundreds of government slum schools throughout Thailand.