What happens to those girls who sell flowers on the streets and in the bars and restaurants in Bangkok? They come and they go. But where do they sleep? Who cares for them? What happens to them when they are too old to be flower girls?
Father Joe wrote a story about one such girl from his Parish in the Slaughterhouse neighborhood - a lady now in her thirties who sold flowers in the Pat Pong sex district beginning at age five. The article, written in 2004, is titled, "When Flower Girls Grow Up," and you can read it here.
Recently a documentary filmmaker, James Linwood, has returned to this story. We want to share with you a short clip (only about one minute long) that James put together about the flower girls of Bangkok. Fr. Joe narrates. You can watch it here.
So many new Mercy children! Please welcome our brothers and sisters who have joined our Mercy family since the New Year: Wat, Ole, Gof, Noa, Sai, Game, Film Paipha, Paimon, Boom, Cat, Peh, Bai Tong, and Champoo Also new to our family, two babies under six months old – Nong San and Nong Luckee – plus Nong Fai, photos below.
That makes 17 new children in all. Abandoned, abused, orphaned, they are now safe and well looked after as they face brave new challenges at Mercy. A couple of examples: Nong Bai Tong (Miss Banana Leaf) and Nong Champoo (Miss Rose Apple), both age 3 and joining Mercy just weeks apart, are ready for theses challenges. They are learning to play and share for the first time, which involves strong clashes of wills and torrents of tears in the lessons learned, but they are already best friends for life. (Photo Gallery: New Mercy Kids.)
One of our boys, Master Ek, age 15, has been a part of our family for 8 years. For at least one year he was miserable, always spoiling for a fight and always losing in the end. But we knew he was a good kid. His own father never had more than a few pennies, yet when Master Ek found a 1,000 baht note ($33) in a school hallway, he immediately gave it to his teacher. When Master Ek’s father died last year, Fr. Joe asked if we could do anything for him during the ceremonies. So Ek thought a moment and replied, “I want all the Mercy kids to have pizza.” Twenty pizzas were delivered that evening.
Recently Master Ek earned a Bronze Medal in a citywide Thai boxing tournament. Now he’s the pride of his school! And he doesn’t fight outside the ring any more.
On behalf of all our children, house moms, house dads, teachers, cooks, social workers, and everyone here at Mercy Centre, we wish to thank you for your friendship and support in 2010.
And if we may, we would like to demonstrate with a few 2010 numbers and statistics how your friendship makes a difference for our children and neighbors in Klong Toey.
To start, one-hundred-and-eighty-two orphaned and abandoned children have lived with us as family in 2010. We send our children to school; encourage, tutor and nurture them; open their world to music, dance, sports, fine art, and martial arts; and celebrate everyday life together.
A few more 2010 statistics:
2,324 Slum children enrolled in our 21 Bangkok preschools
651 Education sponsorships for Bangkok’s poorest children
505 Education sponsorships for the poorest Moken (Sea Gypsy) children in Phang Nga, Phuket, and Ranong Provinces
54 Adults receiving palliative HIV/AIDS care in Mercy Centre
846 Mercy HIV/AIDS patients receiving homecare
3,648 HIV/AIDS patients counseled by Mercy teams in government hospitals
88 Street children and adults enrolled in our Janusz Korczak School
359 Destitute families, especially the elderly, who depend on Mercy for food and basic living expenses
380 Poor children we represented in police stations and courts
1,013 Poor children and families receiving legal aid counsel
97 Micro-loans made to members of our Women’s Credit Union
27 Mercy children attending vocational college and universities, at home and abroad
Although there are many more weights and measures in 2010, we wish to leave you with just two.
First, 36 children –27 boys and nine girls - joined our Mercy family in 2010. We have never turned away a child in need and never will.
Finally, our favorite statistic of the year: in the past twelve months 23 Mercy children – 16 boys and seven girls - were able to return home to live with their real families. The transition home for these children rarely is easy. It requires coordinated efforts from diverse Mercy teams – and equal or greater efforts from the families themselves - but nothing we do gives greater joy.
Family is everything.
Thank you for being a part of our Mercy family and for every way you have supported us this year. Every kind word, every warm gesture…. everything you do on our behalf is a wonderful gift.
Wishing you the most joyous New Year with family and friends,
Usanee and the The Mercy Teams
Photo by Yoonki Kim
I’d like to tell you a fantastic story about a bunch of street kids we took camping a few weeks ago.
It was glorious! Just try to imagine a collective burst of joy that shakes the skies and you will start to get an idea of the fun these children had for four days and nights. (Related photo gallery here.)
Normally these street children sleep in abandoned buildings, under bridges and viaducts, and sometimes, if they’re lucky, on a floor inside a friend or relative’s shack for a few days. They trust almost no one, live by their wits, and survive day by day in a world that is horrible and dangerous. Their fatality rate is comparable to soldiers in combat. They really do die young.
Although these kids trust few adults, our social workers were able to persuade forty street kids to join our Mercy staff for a holiday at Kao Yai National Park, where they played children’s games just like other children, took long hikes, exercised until they were exhausted, cooked their own meals, made friends, learned lessons about sharing and about trusting others, laughed more than you might think humanly possible, and, best of all, lived without fear for four full days.
Someone asked me to jot down some words on the celebration of my Ordination and First Mass - about being a "Senior Priest."
Forty Five years ago - counting from today - as a newly Ordained Catholic Priest, I said my First Mass and gave my first Priestly Blessings in a small farmtown-wooden Church in South Dakota in the United States.
It was and still is terribly important that I began my Official Priesthood there, saying my first Mass in that rural community where my Irish and German ancestors homesteaded after the American Civil War. Me, the son of a farmer and the son of a farmer's daughter.
Through these years of my priesthood, it seems that the great rules of Evangelization have become clearer.
To politely say, Good Morning - Good Evening to everyone I meet.
To say I am sorry - to apologize when I am wrong, always giving honor to all I meet along the way.
To say thank you even when it might not seem necessary.
I have been honored and blessed beyond belief in that my Religious Order, the Redemptorists, sent me to Thailand and then Laos, and then, 37 years ago, back to Bangkok to the Slaughter House in the slums, to be Parish Priest for our Catholics who butcher the pigs - where I have been accepted as a true family member and a real part of this beautiful slum community.
My and your stories are not yet finished - the last words have not yet been written and the final scenes are still open-ended. A song writer said: "Been doing some Hard Traveling down the Road" and yes, the future is a mystery, but there is hope. There is joy.
Prayers - fr joe
Here in Klong Toey our children at Mercy Centre played “make-up games” in the streets as did the children behind the barricades, but children do that everywhere. We remain unscathed physically. Emotionally the wounds and scars run raw and deep, and we pray for peace, justice, and the meekness of wisdom.