Royal Visit Gives Formal Recongition of HDF Status As Being Under Royal Patronage.
Bangkok, Sept. 2, 2010, HRH Princess Srirasmi, the Royal Patroness of the Human Development Foundation, visited our Mercy Centre in the port area of the Klong Toey community in recognition of the newly awarded status of the foundation. During the visit HRH unveiled a plaque signifying the foundation's new status.
HDF currently cares for 180 abandoned, abused and orphaned children who go to school and live as family in the foundation’s Mercy Centre. Fifty-seven of these children were born with HIV. The Foundation also runs 24 kindergartens, teaching and feeding almost 4,000 children day. Included in this are the Sea Gypsy Mogan Children in Koh Lao Island off the wharf of Ranong in mid-South Thailand. Plus a legal aid project representing 100 children a month in police stations and children’s court.
All our Mercy children prepared for the Royal Visit as only children can do such things – with a sense of magic, unbridled anticipation, and love – to greet HRH the Princess when she arrived and to perform traditional Thai songs and dance in the Princess' honor.
HRH with our Mercy kindergarten children. Top photo: HRH with Nong Peh, a blind Mercy child.
We want all our children to know where they are from – to have a strong sense of place and home outside of Mercy Centre - and to understand and love their real families.
Mercy kids go home whenever possible. Sometimes our children may join their families for just a weekend, short holiday or school break. Other times, whenever the home life is safe, nurturing, and loving, our children stay home, and we can help from a distance, just when needed.
Over the recent Mothers Day extended weekend, we held a three-day family workshop in Suphanburi Province, which brought together 46 Mercy kids, 14 moms, 2 dads, 16 aunties and grandmoms, several Mercy House Moms and House Dads, plus Ms. Wannee, our director of shelter programs, and Sister Maria. Every moment was dedicated to the strengthening of family bonds. And there were many joyous and tender moments.
(More photos at our Family Workshop gallery.)
When we first began working with the Mokan community on the island of Koh Lao two years ago, the villagers had never heard of “Mothers Day” or for that matter any other national holiday. They had no concept of a specific day, week, or month of the year because their culture bases the passing of time on the moon and the tides.
Once nomadic, living on the sea, they are now anchored on an island, impoverished and stateless. As we continue to help educate the sea gypsy children in this community and improve their health and welfare, we are also trying to introduce everyone in the village to the world they must live in now and forever in the future: a world with days, weeks, months – and holidays.
Many Koh Lao villagers, especially the elders, may never give much thought to our concept of a calendar, but Mothers Day is exceptional: it’s a day everyone believes in.
The villagers held their second annual Mothers Day Celebration this past week, where the children danced and performed for their moms and then knelt before them, expressing their respect and love. It is hard to understand exactly why this event hit such a huge emotional chord among this Mokan village. Everyone in the village cried in joy throughout the ceremony. Koh Lao Project details.
Father Joe recently presented the keynote address at the International Janusz Korczak Conference, held this August 5 - 9 in Tokyo, Japan. (Complete text of speech here.)
The bi-annual international conference is dedicated to the life and works of Janusz Korczak, a Polish-Jewish educator and pediatrician who introduced progressive orphanages to Poland and pioneered the legal rights of children everywhere. In 1942, when his Jewish orphanage was removed to the Warsaw Ghetto, Janusz Korczak refused an offer of help for his own safety. Months later Korczak and his children walked together in quiet dignity to the train bound for Treblinka, where they perished.
In his keynote address, Fr. Joe Maier presented a message from his own children – the 200 abandoned and orphaned children who live as family in Mercy Centre. When Fr. Joe told his children he would be speaking in Tokyo on the rights of children, they asked him to include the following statement:“Every child has an absolute right to protection from each and every adult they meet. All children, when they see any adult anywhere – on the street, in school, and especially at home - can look at that adult and know they will be protected. Loved. Looked after. No matter what. That they will not be harmed. They are safe.”
If anyone doubts the revolutionary power of a strong education, they should meet our international scholarship students. All fourteen of our current scholarship students grew up in poverty; several lived for years as a part of our Mercy family. None had ever imagined studying past high school.
But because people believed in their potential, they were accepted into Baccalaureate programs at United World Colleges in Norway and Canada, and have continued their studies in American universities on academic scholarships.
During their summer breaks, if they are able to return to Bangkok, they join together to help us at our Mercy Centre. And once every summer, the students gather with their families for a special celebration of education. At this year’s gathering, held last Saturday, Ms. Jariya Yamkhamang , a Senior at Westminster College in Missouri, spoke for all our students about her education when she said, “The best gift in life is the gift of opportunity.”
We agree. And all our students prove the truth of Ms. Jariya’s statement every day.