Monday, 14 May 2012 06:06
Sea Gypsy Children, Koh Lao
Note: This article is about a community of sea gypsies in Ranong Province. We have been working together with these poor island villagers since the tsunami. Link to full text and photos here. Text only - below.


Published in Bangkok Post, Sunday, May 13, Spectrum Section

By Craig Skehan

Village elder and midwife Liya Pramongkit, skin brown and furrowed as a walnut, spent her early life living as a nomad aboard handcrafted wooden boats called kabang. They were fashioned from giant rainforest logs; planking held together with vines.

The kabang symbolised the human form and elements of the boat were named after body parts such as the stomach and ribs. All around them were the spirits of the sea. Whole families once lived on kabang, often for months at a time. A thatched roof would provide only partial protection from the weather.

Ms Liya still sings a fittingly haunting Moken lullaby about a hungry child. So many Moken children have gone hungry, not least in recent years, as their parents' subsistence way of life has ebbed away.

There was the devastating 2004 tsunami, greater enforcement of the arbitrary maritime Myanmar "border" with Thailand and the commercial depletion of marine life. Many children have died from malnutrition and disease.

If there are sea spirits watching over the Moken, they must be weeping.

Read more: Time Running Out for Mokan Way of Life

Monday, 14 May 2012 04:26
Sea Gypsy Children - Koh Lao
Note: This article is about a community of sea gypsies in Ranong Province. We have been working together with these poor island villagers since the tsunami. Link to full text and photos here. Text only - below. Photo above by Chawalit Kumsatok.

Published in Bangkok Post, Sunday, May 13, Spectrum Section

By Craig Skehan

Village elder and midwife Liya Pramongkit, skin brown and furrowed as a walnut, spent her early life living as a nomad aboard handcrafted wooden boats called kabang. They were fashioned from giant rainforest logs; planking held together with vines.

The kabang symbolised the human form and elements of the boat were named after body parts such as the stomach and ribs. All around them were the spirits of the sea. Whole families once lived on kabang, often for months at a time. A thatched roof would provide only partial protection from the weather.

Ms Liya still sings a fittingly haunting Moken lullaby about a hungry child. So many Moken children have gone hungry, not least in recent years, as their parents' subsistence way of life has ebbed away.

There was the devastating 2004 tsunami, greater enforcement of the arbitrary maritime Myanmar "border" with Thailand and the commercial depletion of marine life. Many children have died from malnutrition and disease.

If there are sea spirits watching over the Moken, they must be weeping.

Read more: Time Running Out for Mokan Way of Life

Friday, 04 May 2012 07:41

Rama 9 Fire - Homeless families

On April 24 a devastating fire struck a slum community in the Rama 9 area of Bangkok. Fifty-one homes were destroyed leaving 178 people homeless, including 61 children and 117 adults.  Among the homeless are four children with severe disabilities and 11 elderly residents.

The situation is dire. Most families in this community are headed by parents who work as day laborers, earning below the minimum daily wage (300 baht  - approx. US $10.) Like most slum residents, they are already over-burdened with household debt. And following the fire they have lost what little they ever called their own.

The slum community leaders and residents  have asked our Mercy Centre to assist.

Our outreach and housing teams are working hand in hand with the community. In addition to providing emergency assistance with food and shelter, we are helping the community to organize and petition government welfare and housing offices in order to rebuild the 51 homes as quickly as possible.

There are obstacles all along the way. Even removing the debris left in the wake of the fire is a major hurdle that requires petitioning government authorities.  As soon as we can, we will start to rebuild.

Please help us as the need is urgent. The government will provide some support; and the community itself will provide much of the labor; but our own costs in rebuilding the community, home by home, are staggering. Please see the detailed housing costs below. Our out-of-pocket costs are 54,000 Thai Baht  (approximately US $1,800) per home

Slum fires create chaos, especially when they hit squatter communities, like this one, where the residents have few or no rights to rebuild their homes on the land where they have lived their whole lives.

In the past 40 years we have come to the aid of dozens of communities throughout Bangkok  – and built over 10,000 homes - following major slum fires. We know how to expedite construction and how to rebuild in ways that strengthen the community and make it safer. In every instance, we have needed additional support from our friends around the world.

Please help as you can today. The community needs to move quickly if it is to survive as a community. Please contact us if you would like more details. Pictured above - community residents left homeless; below, remnants of their homes.

The Rama 9 Fire

Per home reconstruction costs: (Thai Baht)

Foundation pillars: 4,000

Wood: 37,000

Windows/frames: 4,000

Door/Door frames: 2,000

Roof/tiling: 5,000

Dry wall: 3,500

Screws, nails, bolts: 500

Toilet: 1000 Plus

Electric and Water: 20,000

Tools: 1,000

Food/Emergency Aid: 1,000

Labor: 5,000

Total Cost per home: 84,000 Thai Baht (note: 31 Baht = US $1)

Government Subsidy: 30,000

Mercy Centre’s Cost: 54,000 Baht per home (Approx. US $1,800)

Wednesday, 02 May 2012 10:24

We wish to share with you a feature article about Fr. Joe and Mercy Centre recently published in Ireland’s Sunday Business Post Magazine.  You can view the article here. Please be a little patient – it may take a minute to download.

http://mercycentre.org/images/documents/sundaybusinesspost.pdf

Thank you all, as always, for your friendship and support.

Usanee and the Mercy Teams

Friday, 27 April 2012 07:15

Rama 9 community fire

A major fire occurred earlier this week in the Rama 9 slum community. One community member died; another is still missing; and forty-eight homes were destroyed.  Mercy Social Workers are assisting the community – cooking food, bringing bedding, securing life’s daily necessities, and ensuring that the children are safe and healthy. We are coordinating with community leaders as well as housing and government authorities to rebuild every home lost to the fire.

In addition, earlier this week there was a second slum fire - this one in the Bon Kai slum community. Twenty homes were destroyed. We are surveying the damage, speaking with community leaders, and will update you with specific needs and requests for assistance regarding both fires next week.

Photo above: K. Prapai, a Mercy social worker, surveys the devastation in the Rama 9 slum community. Below, a food vendor's cart - and livelihood - are destroyed by the fire.

In the past 40 years, the Human Development Foundation has built over 10,000 homes following devastating slum fires.

vendor's cart - rama9 fire

Friday, 27 April 2012 04:57

Police Promotion Ceremony

In receiving his promotion to Second Lieutenant within the Port Authority Precinct of the Royal Thai Police, Khun Aumnaj Boonyamatee asked Fr. Joe to pin his new insignia to his police uniform. Of the many formal and informal ceremonial duties that Fr. Joe performs, he says that this one gave him great honor because Khun Aumnaj is a true slum hero: Second Lietenant Aumnaj works with our Mercy legal aid teams to protect the poorest and most vulnerable Klong Toey children.

Fr. Joe at promotion cermony

Thursday, 26 April 2012 08:08

We wish to share with you a feature article about Fr. Joe and Mercy Centre recently published in Ireland’s Sunday Business Post Magazine.  You can view the article here. Please be a little patient – it may take a minute to download.

http://mercycentre.org/images/documents/sundaybusinesspost.pdf

Thank you all, as always, for your friendship and support.

Usanee and the Mercy Teams

Thursday, 12 April 2012 05:27

Songrkan at Mercy Centre

Yesterday we celebrated the Songkran holiday – as we always do, according to Thai traditions – by giving honor to our elderly neighbors. Hundreds of Klong Toey slum grandmoms and granddads attended the ceremonies, led by the Monks from Wat Saphan, our local Temple. Fr. Joe and Sister Maria spoke to our elderly neighbors, thanking them for being the heart and soul of our beloved Klong Toey slum: “You gave birth to your children here,” Father Joe said, “and  you raised your families here.... You are what make our slum a beautiful and holy place.  We are what we are today because of you.”

We wish all our friends a very Happy Thai New Year! (Photo gallery here.)

Songkran at Mercy, 2012

Friday, 30 March 2012 08:39

Please give a poor Mercy child a chance for life. Friends are launching a special scholarship fund to be awarded to the poorest children with the highest academic potential. With your support, one Mercy child will be awarded a full scholarship to the Marlorough College of Malaysia. 

Important: when making a donation on-line or by bank transfer, please write "The Mercy Marlborough Scholarship" in comments or instructions.

 

Donations by Wire Transfer

In Thailand:

Donate online: www.mercycentre.org.

You can donate by bank transfer directly to HDF in Thailand as follows:

Our bank details:

Kasikorn Bangkok Public Company Limited

Branch: Sukhumvit 57 Branch

Account: 046-1-03665-1

Account name:  Human Development Foundation

Account Type: Current Account

Bank Address: 1147 Sukhumvit Rd., N. Klongton, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

Tel.: (662) 391 9434

Swift Code: KASITHBK

Note: Please inform us when making a wire transfer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name, address, and donation amount, and a note indicating your gift is for "The Mercy Marlborough Scholarship". This information will allows us to track your donation to HDF and acknowledge your gift with a receipt and letter of thanks.


US Residents:

Donations for the Human Development Foundation (HDF) in Bangkok can also be made to the Mercy Center USA in Annapolis, MD.  Mercy Center USA (previously named HDCF) has been registered as a 501c3 non-profit, tax-exempt public charity in the US since 1999.

All donations flow through entirely to the Human Development Foundation in Bangkok. The EIN (Tax ID) No. is 52-2168462.5.  A written acknowledgement will be provided and the funds are fully tax deductible under US tax law as the foundation is an approved 501c3 organization.


For inquiries, donations by bank transfer, or monthly gifts, please contact Ms. True Rowan. 

You may donate online - www.hdcf.org - or write a check to "Mercy Center USA."


Address:
Ms. True Rowan

Treasurer and Vice Chairman

Mercy Center USA
P.O. Box 1604

Annapolis, MD 21404-1604

Phone -  (443) 837-7303 Website: www.hdcf.org

For inquiries, donations by bank transfer, or monthly gifts, please contact  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bank Wire Info;

Bank: Bank of America

Account # 4460 2418 6991

Account Name:  Human  Development & Children  Foundation

ABA # 026009593

Routing # 052001633

Address: 2120 West St. , Annapolis, MD 21401

Note: When making a wire transfer, please contact True Rowan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name, address, donation amount, and a note indicating your gift is for "The Mercy Marlborough Scholarship." This will allow us to track and acknowledge your donation with a receipt and letter of thanks.

UK Residents:

Donations to HDF may be made to Mercy Centre UK, a registered UK charity:
Website: www.mercy-centre.org.uk

Foundation Secretary - Sue McAlpine
Mercy Centre UK
25 Wolsey Rd.
London N1 4QG
website: www.mercy-centre.org.uk
Please address inquiries to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I f you are a UK Taxpayer, Mercy Centre UK can receive an additional 25p for every pound donated through the government Gift Aid program.

Checks should be made out to The Mercy Centre UK.

To send donations by bank wire:

Bank: The Co-operative Bank

Account Name: Mercy Centre UK

Account #: 653 380 63

Sort Code: 089 299

IBAN #: GB37 CPBK 0892 9965 3380 63

Bank ID Code: CPBK GB22

Note: When making a wire transfer, please contact Sue McAlpine at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name, address, donation amount, and a note indicating your gift is for "The Mercy Marlborough Scholarship". This will allow us to track and acknowledge your donation with a receipt and letter of thanks.

Residents of Ireland:
Mercy Centre Bangkok
c/o/ Gerry and Violet Morrissey
103 the Rise, Mount Merrion
Co. Dublin
Tel.: 01 288 1577 
Please address inquiries to Gerry and Violet Morrissey

 

Thursday, 22 March 2012 07:10

Sea Gypsy Angel

Dear Everyone,

Our Scriptures say that Jesus fasted for 40 days & 40 nights. Then Angels came to minister to him. And I love that  ancient story dating from the 3rd Century that the Angels went to visit  Mary his Mother, asking her to cook Jesus' favorite food, so Mary cooked the food and the angels brought it to Jesus.  His first meal after fasting.

And also I believe that the picture above is most probably one of the Angel Children bringing/sharing her food with Jesus. Why not!  Our God is beyond space and time.  And this Mogan Sea Gypsy girl, named Miss Gah Yeek, living in destitute poverty on an island 40 minutes by fast boat in the Andaman Sea off Thai shore - a tiny island where we teach school and save lives. She is bringing her lunch home and meets Jesus on the way. And I’m sure He Blessed her and  ate a little bit to show politeness, (so she wouldn’t be offended)  then asked her to take the rest home to her little brother & sister.

Of course, she’s a very real little girl. Her dad’s at sea, left their Island a couple days ago for a 3 weeks as an illegal ‘hire on’ Sea Gypsy on an illegal fishing boat, pointed past Myanmar  towards India. When he left, he hugged her; gave her all the money he had which was about $.50 cents USD. Told her sternly to look after her little brother & sister. That he’d catch a big  fish – her favorite kind - they could cook and have a big meal. Said he’d be back as soon as he could.

So we honor her dignity and position. As you would do for any angel! Noon time at our shack kindergarten… just dish out a huge  triple-portion on her plate. The ritual is this: she eats her fill, tells teacher "my tummy is full." Then  teacher gently scolds her for taking more on her plate than she can eat, but teacher says, "Miss Gah Yeek you must take the extra food home. Don’t waste food !!!!"  And looking at her picture, as she walks home in the village -  I’m so  sure she has just met  Jesus along the way and offered Him some.

Surely times change. Truths do not. So this year, let this be our Easter Story. We teach – save lives of Mogan Sea Gypsy children down in middle South Thailand. A few days ago a friend took this portrait of Miss Gah Yeek." A portrait of hope, love, suffering,  hunger. Resurrection. Always hope – always a new tomorrow.

We at Mercy.  Me, fr joe, and our team… dream dreams and know that tomorrow is going to be beautiful. Our Jesus has Died in terrible suffering, but has Risen … overcome all the bad stuff. And this little girl…  well   what do I say …  perhaps… almost certainly that she has  seen the very face of God and lived. And may you all do the same.

Pray for us – rejoice for us – party for us – help us …Even to know – to have met – to speak to this Mogan Sea Gypsy girl is an honor and a privilege. To be able to give her a meal – send her to school – teach her to read and write. That’s glory beyond belief.  Glory none of us deserve here on this earth.

To you all, our Mercy Family - a Glorious Easter in which we all can share.

Fr Joe & all of us.