Even though our Mercy Centre is located in the middle of Bangkok's largest, most densely populated slum community, our home often feels like it's far away from the city - as if we were living in a traditional Thai rural village. And this feeling always gets even stronger during Thai holidays. On April 9, we celebrated the Thai New Year - Songkran - at Mercy Center the same way we always do - as a village. The monks from our local temple and the elderly poor from 20 surrounding slum communities joined our staff and children in prayers, blessings, songs, a few old saucy dances, and a wonderful feast. To make sure everyone could attend, we held our Songkran festival a few days early, which, as it turned out, was fortunate. Mounting protests and a bloody confrontation on the following day forced the government and most residents to cancel or alter their festivities. Photo by Yoonki Kim
They put on their robes. Donned their caps. And with great pomp, circumstance, plus a few giggles, 702 children celebrated their Graduation Day at Mercy Preschools throughout the slums this week. It was an especially joyous day for their families as moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunties, and grandmoms joined their children in the celebrations.
At the ceremony, Father Joe, in his doctoral robes, spoke to the children about the importance of staying in school, as he has on every graduation day since 1973. “If you’re hungry and have no shoes, what do you do?” he asked them.
This past Sunday 40 children from the Human Development Foundation’s Mercy Centre attended Mass at Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok. It isn’t unusual for these former street children, who are raised in the Buddhist religion of their mothers and grandmothers, to join in a Christian ceremony. Their home at the Mercy Centre, founded by Father Joe, is a religious house; and the Mercy children are brought up to respect all religions.
But this was a particularly special ceremony for these poor slum children. Following Mass, Father Joe received a replica of the holy icon of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa on behalf of his children, and all slum children in Klong Toey, as a symbol of protection, joy, and love.
The holy icon was presented as a gift to the children from the Polish Embassy of Thailand, represented by First Counsellor, Dr. Zygmant Langer, and blessed by Msgr. Marek Zalewski, Deputy Head of Mission Apostolic Nunciature, before the children carried the icon from the Cathedral to its new home in Mercy Centre. (Please see our Photo Gallery.)
A glorious ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on January 15. The school children performed in song and dance. Community leaders gave thanks. A grandmother in a drunken state sang an ancient Thai song (over and over until we gently cajoled her to the sidelines). Sister Maria spoke with the children. Father Joe blessed the new school. It truly was a wonderful day for the children of Zone 9. (Please see photo gallery.) In attendance: the school children, their teachers, community leaders, and representatives of the school construction sponsors, which included Wings of Support (a charity comprised of KLM Airlines fight crew members), Recreational Bangkok Biking, The Netherlands Embassy, Franke (Thailand), B-Quik, NVT Dutch Club of Thailand, East West Seed Intl, and Asia Congress.
Last Sunday was "harvest day" for our boys living on our farm. Former street kids, these boys now grow their own vegetables, catch their own fish, and plant and harvest the rice they put on their dinner table. Early on the morning of harvest day, our Mercy girls dropped by the farm to prepare lunch for their Mercy brothers. Once they saw how hard their brothers were working, they decided to pitch in, and in the end, everyone, both our boys and girls, harvested together. It's amazing how our boys have taken to a country lifestyle. In the past they had no confidence, no self-esteem, yet now they are thriving in school, sports, friendship and life.
The Golden Triangle Multi-Challenge: Hike -2 days, Cycle-3 days, and Kayak-2 days. 350 KM
This year a wonderful Dubai-based charity - Gulf for Good - will be sponsoring a Holiday Challenge around the Golden Triangle. Proceeds will go to the Human Development Foundation for capital improvements, specifically for building urgently needed shelters for our boys living on our farm. Gulf for Good has been sponsoring challenges for our foundation and others for many years, helping disadvantaged children all over the world. We invite all our friends to join in the Golden Triangle Challenge. Dates to be announced. Full challenge details here.