Galong was in his mid-20s, living on the street, and working as a “doorman” at a bar near the Pratunam market when we found him fifteen years ago. Born with a kind of Downs’ Syndrome, he could speak only a few words, and unfortunately they weren’t the ones he needed to explain where he came from or how he came to live by himself in the most crowded neighborhood in Bangkok.
We don’t know much about Galong’s past, but we have a pretty good idea how he survived on the street: he is incredibly good-natured and loves to help people. Galong comes at you like a burst of joy, and his joy is irresistible. During his years on the street, many kind people must have looked after him.
Others, however, were surely less kind. As a perpetually innocent child, Galong could never possibly negotiate his way through an adult world without facing abuse and injury.
We invited Galong to live with us, and he gladly accepted.
From the day he arrived at Mercy, Galong tried to make himself as useful as possible (and still does), running errands for the cooks, lifting boxes (he’s quite strong for his four-foot frame!), and looking after the youngest boys in our shelters. But there were still too many hours left in the day for Galong to live in his imagination as a traffic and motorcycle policeman. (See our gallery: Galong Rides His Imaginary Motor Bike.) This activity is quite dangerous. Not every motorist takes Galong seriously. Plus, there are crazy drivers.
So we enrolled Galong in our three-year kindergarten at Mercy Centre. He loved school – so much so that he graduated from kindergarten twelve consecutive years. Recently, Galong got bored with the routine, or maybe he felt he was too grown up for it. He decided to drop out, though he still cherishes his friendship with his old teacher and still visits her when he has the time.
These days Galong is quite busy. From 8 am until 4 pm, Monday through Friday, he works at a noodle stand down the street from one of our old shelters. The husband and wife who run the noodle stand love Galong and are happy he is a part of their lives.
Every working day, Mr. Suwich, a Mercy House Dad and member of our legal aid centre team, takes Galong to the noodle shop and brings him home to Mercy on a motorcycle. Galong has never been happier. Please visit the gallery. All photos by Yoonki Kim.
Related Article by Father Joe: A Ride on the Wild Side of Mercy.