Today 31 Oct. is my birthday. I feel that birthdays & family go together - and that includes my brother and sister, and the slum families here, who, if have not adopted me, at least tolerate me(probably since I have been in Klong Toey so long) and our 181 Thaichildren who live with us here at Mercy Centre, who now more than ever, call me “Fr. Grandpa.”
Long before Thailand, the slums and the slaughter house. when we three children (my sister, brother and I) were growing up, with dad long gone, mother slept in the front bed room.Usually with the door open a bit.We could hear her softly saying the rosary night after night, together with an old tape recorder to keep her company.In our better moments we would join her.
Saying the Rosary lulled her to sleep – she totally believed if she dozed off first (and she mostly did) her guardian angels would finish “telling the beads” for her.Knew that with only the sound of the tape recording of the Hail Mary’s, she was safe and we her children were safe. We lived in a tiny house in a poor district of a small lumber mill town, never thinking it a slum.We and our neighbors kept up our yards and rosebushes, and the neighborhood was safe.
Mom in her later years suffered from dementia, and in her moments, she’d hold on to her Rosary Beads.Never once did she forget how to say her Hail Mary’s. We her children said:“that’s all that’s left, but it’s more than enough." She taught us the rules of life as her prayers flowed along the beads between earth and sky.
Our social workers are working hand in hand with the Rom Klao community, following the devastating fire that left 400 residents without shelter. Just two weeks after the fire, real progress is being made. This community will become whole again.
Our thanks go out to all our friends for your generous support.
What do our Mercy kids do for Halloween? No surprises here: they dress up as goblins, frighten the bejesus out of each other, dunk for apples, jump madly on trampolines, and gobble down plenty of candy. Friends of Mercy held their annual Halloween Party for our children this past Saturday. Our little ones were not allowed inside the haunted house (way too scary!) but our older Mercy boys and girls along with 100s of neighborhood children put on a brave face, entered wide-eyed and left screaming. A super fun day at Mercy!
Late in the afternoon this past Saturday a raging fire engulfed the Klong Toey neighborhood known as Rom Klao. Fire and rescue workers were able to save the community from total destruction, but not before 72 homes were leveled, leaving 428 residents, including 98 children, without shelter. Everything the victims owned was destroyed.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.
Our own Rom Klao Mercy Kindergarten still stands, amazingly, less than 20 meters from where the flames turned just before the winds changed and the fire went back on itself.
In helping the Rom Klao community become whole again, we are focusing on what we do best. First, since we have 40 years of experience in rebuilding poor communities after fires (and in doing so have built over 10,000 homes) we are helping the community to organize and fight for its rights and needs. In addition, we are providing the essentials in getting adults back to work, children back to school, and all residents back to the regular affairs of their daily lives.
A few examples:
Our social workers have helped all the homeless residents fill out the government paperwork required for compensation and emergency funds.
Since many Rom Klao residents make a living as food vendors, we are furnishing all the items the cooks need to keep selling their goods and earning a daily income.
We are also providing school supplies, shoes, and uniforms for the children plus clothes for all families, and mosquito nets for the homes still standing.
By Fr. Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
Bangkok Post, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, Spectrum Section
There's a quiet revolution stirring amid the ponds of Klong Toey, where students are taught to ask questions and dare to speak out
Let me tell you about an old-time Klong Toey revolutionary: a slum kindergarten teacher. Still going strong in her seventh cycle of years – that makes her more than 72. But don't dare ask her if her beautiful hair is turning slightly grey, even around the edges. No guns, no knives, only pencils and paper and nursery rhymes. You'd say: ''What? A kindergarten teacher revolutionary? You're daft.'' But that's the gig. As long as she can remember, that horrible proverb rattled around in her head – not enough children to tend our water buffalo. Even as a little girl, she told her mum, that's not right. And schoolmarm mum said: ''You're right my daughter, so you change that.”
She's dangerous beyond ''their'' worst fears. ''They'' are the ones who say we need more factories. We have enough schools. An even worse crime, she tells kids it's okay to question what adults say. It's okay for her students to say out loud what they think is right and wrong. And to be praised for the saying of it – not told to hush up. Another part of her crime – believing that every child, especially the girls, must go to school.
She's helplessly and hopelessly in love with teaching. To teach every slum child she meets to count, read and write. How many kids has she taught? At last count a couple years ago, a bunch over 2,000 girls and boys –math, reading, writing, telling nursery rhymes. And she's still teaching today.
We are a poor community organization, and usually at a loss when it comes to raising funds. It’s no exaggeration: fundraising is not our strength. What we’re best at is in protecting, sheltering, and educating the poorest and most vulnerable children. At fundraising, we struggle and stumble on.
This Saturday is different! With help from friends and family, we are doubly blessed!
Two fundraising events on behalf of our children are happening, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.
Event #1: The Oriental FANtastic Fundraisier: A 10-KM Walk or Run in Lumpini Park, sponsored by the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. Presiding over the event will be Bangkok Governor M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, who will fire the starting pistol at 8am. Following the run, you can enjoy a family fun day in the park plus a luncheon feast prepared by the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok’s culinary team. For more information, please contact the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok at 02 659-9000.
Event #2: Classical Music for Mercy: Acclaimed classical pianist Marina Baranova will perform music to move, soothe, and uplift the spirit, all in the name of Mercy. Presiding over the event will be HRH Princess Srirasmi. Time and place: Trinity Hall, St. Joseph Convent School, 3:30. For more information and tickets, please visit ticketmajor.com or call 02 262-3456. Tickets range from 500 to 2,000 baht.
Wait! One more event! In the evening, at 8:30, our Mercy Children’s Thai Classical Orchestra will be performing in front of Central World on behalf of the “1Love Playing for Change Foundation,” with all proceeds going to teach music…and love…and peace to poor children worldwide. Following a full day of fundraisers, our children will be giving back in kind, as best they can.
We invite everyone to join us at any or all of these events! Hope to see you this Saturday!
Kind regards and prayers,
Fr. Joe Maier
Director and Co-founder
This past Saturday a fire broke out in Pai Sing To, a small slum community located across the street from the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre. Thankfully, nobody was injured, but in its wake, 22 houses were destroyed, leaving 31 families, including 71 individuals, without a place to live. Most adult victims work as day laborers, food vendors, maids, and security guards, earning close to the legal minimum daily wage.
As the fire was being put out, our social workers arrived and began providing emergency relief. And when the final embers were doused, we also began working with those left homeless and their community leaders to start rebuilding.
We have already provided each homeless family with the costs for clothes, tools, food and all necessities, plus new school uniforms, school books, back-packs, and stationery for their children.
The families who lost their homes are currently residing in the Pai Sing To community center, which for many years past had been one of our Mercy kindergartens.
In these situations, urgent action is always required. If the residents are stalled in rebuilding their homes, outside forces will likely step in to have them permanently removed. In the case of Pai Sing To, a small and powerless community, there are powerful outside forces who wish to demolish the entire community and build something in its place for other people.
In the past 41 years, our foundation has built over ten thousand homes following devastating slum fires. We are well versed in every possible contingency. One thing we know for certain: the faster the residents remove debris and begin to rebuild, the less likely they will be challenged to leave.
Fr. Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
Dear Family and Friends,
Please join us this September 21, 3:30pm, at Trinity Hall, St. Joseph Convent School, where world-acclaimed pianist Marina Baranova will perform music to move, soothe, and uplift the spirit, all in the name of Mercy.
All proceeds from the Classical Mercy Music Concert will go to support our child protection programs – to shelter, nurture, and educate our Mercy children and protect the most vulnerable children living in the slums and on the streets. We have never turned away a child in need; and with kind friends and family, we never will.
We owe everything in our world of Mercy to our family and friends. You make our Mercy Centre more beautiful, more welcoming, and more joyous.
Please welcome HRH Princess Srirasmi, the Royal Patron of our Human Development Foundation, who will be attending this special concert event. Our foundation’s founder, Father Joe Maier, and many of our closest friends and family in Bangkok will also be in attendance. Naturally we want to share our most important experiences and events with you, and we hope to see you at the concert.
Fr. Wirach Amonpattana, C.Ss.R.
P.S. You can purchase tickets at Thai Ticket Major: thaiticketmajor.com or call 02 262-3456. Tickets range from 500 to 2,000 baht.
We celebrated Mother’s Day in glorious ways this week, starting on Friday morning when monks from Wat Saphan, our local slum temple, led us in prayer in Mercy Centre. Later that morning, all 2,700 students throughout our 23 Mercy Kindergartens took crayons to hand to draw beautiful Mother’s Day cards, filled with hearts, sparkles, and words of love for their own moms. And our own Mercy kids made extra cards for all their house moms. It was a lovely day! Moms are what make our slums loving, caring, beautiful, and strong.
What a fantastic afternoon! The day before a friendly match between the Thai National Team and FC Barcelona, their representatives and coaches visited Mercy Centre for a very high-spirited practice with our Mercy boys. They taught our boys a few lessons and coached them through a practice match. In addition to teaching and practicing with our children, the FC Barcelona and Thai National team, through their foundations, also gave our boys gifts of football equipment plus (a super treat!) complimentary tickets to their friendly match. Plus Plus, lunch for our kindergarten children, clowns and balloons included! Please visit our photo gallery here.