Last week, five hundred and five slum children received their diplomas during the annual Mercy Preschool graduation ceremonies. Moms, dads, grandmoms, brothers, sisters, aunties, community leaders, and many of our local school sponsors joined in the celebration, a balance of traditional pomp and riotous fun. Fr. Joe, wearing his doctoral robes for the occasion, presented a diploma to each graduating student; and at the end of the ceremony, in a thunderous “call and response” speech, Fr. Joe encouraged the children in no uncertain terms to stay in school. “If your mom plays cards and your dad is drunk, what do you do?” he shouted out.
And the children shouted back, “Go to School!”
“If there’s no food in your belly and you are hungry, what do you do?”
“Go to school!”
“If it’s raining so hard, your shack is flooded, what do you do?”
“Go to school!”
Whatever is happening in their young lives, we want all poor children to understand, they must stay in school. And if their moms, dads, or guardians can’t provide basic school necessities, Fr. Joe also made it clear, “call on us, don’t hesitate, don’t let your children drop out.” (See the photo gallery.) Previous Graduation Ceremony here.)
There is at least one wonderful advantage to life in a large family like ours.
After years of practice and study, our children have started their own Thai orchestra.
And for the past two years in particular their skills have become quite impressive. Professors from Mahidol College of Music have been providing professional instruction on a wide range of traditional instruments - from the Ranat (something like a zither) to the Khong Wong Yai (a large semi-circular Gong-chime played like a vibraphone). The results have been outstanding.
The Mercy Orchestra performed last week at the “Rhythm of Earth” World Music Festival in Bangkok to a very enthusiastic audience. (Photo gallery here.)
We (my Mercy Centre family and I) stumble through life… never knowing the lyrics nor the music to the songs that every new day brings to each of us… never knowing the storyline of each sunrise or sunset.
But we are happy, and try to be joyful with all the Lord sends us between earth and sky, and we learn from our children here at Mercy to try to have as much fun as possible with each new day, and perhaps in doing so, say our prayers along the way, and help another child.
Here is a Valentine’s gift to all our friends: a short video showing how our slum kindergarten kids welcome each new school day. (Watch the video.)
Happy Valentine’s Day.
fr. joe in Klong Toey, Bangkok
Photo by Wang Eng Eng
It is not easy to find our Yenakart Mercy Preschool on any Bangkok map, tucked away, as it is, in an obscure slum community beneath an overpass on the way to Papadaeng. But somehow a bicycle tour company – Recreational Bangkok Biking – stumbled upon our Yenakart school several years ago, and they have been supporting us ever since. Today they lead a group of Madam Ambassadors from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and South Africa on a visit to our Yenakart school. Our teachers received a generous donation, and our school children danced, sang, and, of course, as they always do, hula-hooped with unbridled joy for their guests. Also, as captured below, the kids enjoyed a few games of paddy cakes.