Monday, 19 January 2009 11:01

May 27, 2008 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)

Bangkok's 'Slaughterhouse' children find a haven

By Elizabeth Yuan

CNN

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- In Klong Toey, a Bangkok district between a highway and the Chao Phraya River, families of four share motorbikes, street vendors sell residents pouches of food, and doors of homes are open to the outside. A salesman on a bike cart sells broomsticks, while motorcycle taxi drivers, dressed in orange vests, wait at a corner.

The neighborhood is a lively one, with the smell of food and the sounds of children. It also happens to be poor with a reputation as Bangkok's largest slum.

Port and slaughterhouse workers, day laborers, scavengers, vendors, glue sniffers, prostitutes, karaoke singers, grandmothers and people struggling to get by are among those who bring children to Mercy Centre's preschool in this neighborhood. The school is one of 29 that Father Joe Maier's Human Development Foundation (HDF) has opened to serve Bangkok's poorest children -- about 3,900 today. Another two schools are set to open next week.

The Mercy Centre is also home to street kids and orphans, children affected by HIV or whose parents are mentally ill or too poor to care for them. Mothers with HIV and AIDS also have a home here, and the Mercy Centre's adult hospice is the final shelter for the dying who don't have family or are destitute.

Teenage girls preparing for school and a group of boys gearing up for a morning football match greet Father Joe with fist-pounds, a form of respect that doesn't carry any sexual overtones as hugs might, the blunt Catholic priest explained.

For many, he is considered a father who has tried to keep children from falling through the cracks back onto the streets for the past 35 years.

The 68-year-old has been the priest of what has been known as the "Slaughterhouse" neighborhood, where chickens, cows, and other animals were butchered and gutted for Bangkok's consumption until the 1990s. A smaller version of the slaughterhouse operates there now.

Since 1974, when HDF's first one-baht-a-day school opened in Klong Toey under Father Joe and Sister Maria Chantavarodom's watch, it is estimated more than 35,000 children have graduated from the foundation's schools, gaining an education that would prepare them for government-sponsored primary school.

Today, the school fee has gone up to 10 baht a day (31 U.S. cents), and for the one-fifth of the children whose parents can't afford it, their tuition is subsidized. The same goes for uniforms.

At these pre-schools, children get their first education in Thai, English, Thai history, folklore, dance, song, sports, arts and hygiene from teachers who also are from the slums. Milk, lunch and snacks are provided. A third of the schools are sponsored, as are about 1,000 children from preschool to "wherever education takes them," said John Padorr, adviser to the Mercy Centre.

While primary school -- generally begun at age 7 -- is free, books, uniforms and other fees can prove costly for parents in a community where the highest earners are those making the minimum daily wage of 194 baht ($6), Padorr added. The Klong Toey Women's Group and Savings and Loan, at the Mercy Centre, helps its 400 members not only deal with domestic problems but shore up financial security to pay for their children's schooling.

The effort is a remarkable one in a country where nearly 1 million primary school-aged children are not enrolled in school, and even more fail to complete secondary school, according to the United Nations Children's Fund in Thailand.

Children who fall through the cracks include those who are born without birth registration, who are homeless or live in illegal shelters, and who have HIV/AIDS.

Father Joe and Sister Maria started their first school more than 30 years ago because "kids were not accepted in government schools," he said.

The one-baht-a-day fee was charged to give parents "ownership" of the school so that they would value their children's education, Padorr added. The earlier parents become involved, the less inclined they'd be to pull their children from school to help as workers or caregivers during the secondary school years, Padorr said.

The home for street children followed and, a year later, a health clinic for the poor. Then a housing program was begun to move hundreds of landless families into new homes, and that expanded to rebuild entire neighborhoods lost in fires, a common occurrence here.

As AIDS started hitting neighborhoods, HDF workers began explaining to communities what AIDS was, so that families wouldn't be afraid to send their children to school where youngsters affected by AIDS were also attending. A legal aid center, now in its 11th year, defends street children in legal cases.

Other communities asked Father Joe and Sister Maria to open schools there as well.

The children here look after one another, said Padorr, pointing to Rin, a mentally disabled former street kid who gravitates toward the children most in need of help, like 7-year-old Phon, who's blind.

Father Joe -- an American from Longview, Washington -- came to the neighborhood in 1973 as a missionary priest after a few years working in Laos. "Buddhists and Muslims taught me how to be a Christian," he said. Klong Toey is a sacred place, Father Joe said, with a mosque, a Catholic church and Buddhist temples. "It's home, where we all live," he said.

The children at the Mercy Centre are raised Buddhist and go to temple -- as well as to Mass, Padorr added.

Father Joe wrote about many of the children in his book, "Welcome to the Slaughterhouse," the royalties from which support HDF. A biography about him, "The Gospel of Father Joe," by journalist Greg Barrett, came out in March.

Nitaya Pakkeyaka, a 38-year-old manager of development and fundraising at HDF, used to live next door to Father Joe in the Slaughterhouse. She went to one of the kindergartens, and her sister was one of the first in the neighborhood to be baptized and also was one of Father Joe's students.

Their father drove pigs to the slaughterhouse and people in taxis. He died when Pakkeyaka was very young, and her mother got a day job as a housemaid for one of Father Joe's embassy friends, Pakkeyaka said. At night, the children helped the mother clean the slaughterhouse of pig parts.

It was Father Joe who helped support Pakkeyaka's education through college, she said.

If there were no Father Joe, Pakkeyaka said, "I don't have today. If I don't have him, I don't think I would now have had a good education. I wouldn't have had a chance to speak English. I would have gotten married at 15 instead of 28. Not just me, many people would think."

When she got married, Father Joe gave his house as a wedding present. "Opposite my mother's house," she said.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008 01:51

Ancient traditions assume the Magi travelled on camels, and maybe ... just maybe ... if they passed through Thailand on their way ... they switched to elephants or even ox carts

Those in power write the history; those who suffer write the songs, and they who give the orders are never those who die.

But once it was different, and so it is every Christmas.

At that first Christmas midnight, angels in the high heavens sang for joy over Bethlehem - a blessed joy that carried over the Judean hills and around the world, and has continued to do so every year on this day, for 2,008 years now.

Read more: A Christmas Story

Monday, 17 November 2008 08:13

By Father Frank Mann
[as published in The Queens Gazette]

There is an extraordinary spirituality that shines throughout the story of Father Joseph Maier. His heroic struggles offering trailblazing hope and promise are remarkably astonishing. A uniquely fearless man, sporting unwavering courage, Father Joe is likewise one of those certain few who just might be worthy of being bestowed the title "prophet". His unshakable faith both uplifts and inspires, transforming darkness into light in so many unimaginable ways.

Read more: Priest Saves Souls, Lives In Thailand's 'Slaughterhouse'

Thursday, 06 November 2008 12:12

In the end, Miss Sao, now 15 years old, came across Bangkok town with us to try to find out who her parents were so she could get her I.D. papers. We had the firepower with us - a Klong Toey plainclothes lad, and another from Special Branch - just in case. Plus her beloved substitute mum, Teacher, the one who had smuggled her out of the slum that rainy midnight eight years before. Tippy-toed past the rented shack where Miss Sao lived with her auntie, granny and grandfather - the sex abuser - to escape to safety and freedom.

Teacher had bought a bottle of foreign whiskey (with a higher alcohol content) for Sao's grand father. It was a high risk move, because liquored up was when he looked for his grand daughter, to come sit on his lap. But it worked. He passed out: totally hammered. She hadn't been back in all that time. Didn't dare. We didn't dare.

 

But justice comes in strange packages. Grandfather died, despised and unwanted after three years in a prison cell. The only ones still living in the rented shack were her dad's younger brother and his wife, the auntie who slapped her to stop her crying when grandfather hollered for her to come and give him a hug. Grandmother too had since died. Sao didn't know anything about her mum and dad, not even their names. Was always told they were useless and better off dead. So eventually, she stopped asking.

Read more: A Rainy Night in Bangkok

Saturday, 25 October 2008 08:32

Written by Earle Hitchner, in Echo Lifestyle

A standing ovation greeted Father Joseph Maier when he walked onto the stage at Manhattan’s Symphony Space about midway through a special benefit concert on Sunday night, Oct. 12. “Father Joe: Slum Priest,” an eight-minute segment on him and his great work at Bangkok’s Mercy Centre, had just been shown from PBS-TV’s “Religion and Ethics Newsseekly” series on a large stage screen.

On at least two occasions the audience applauded statements he made in the segment about the need for a Catholic priest to be where Jesus would be, with the poorest of the poor in Bangkok, and how he would probably be thrown out of the United States because of the direct, effective manner in which he was fulfilling his religious vows and vocation.

“I hope you don’t believe any of that,” Father Joe said to the crowd from the stage after the PBS-TV segment was shown…

Download the rest of the article.

Thursday, 23 October 2008 08:50
From Al Jazeera
Thursday, 02 October 2008 08:08
1.    What is the name of the event?
Walk for Education.

2.    Where will it be held?
Lumpini Park, Bangkok.

3.    When is the date and time of the event?
Sunday, October 26th, 2008.  Start 6.00 am, finish 11.00 am.

4.    Who is the organizer?
OutLaurs PR & Event Management on behalf of Human Development Foundation-Mercy Centre.

5.    What is Mercy Centre?
The HDF-Mercy Centre, a nondenominational community-based field organization, was founded in 1972 by Father Joe Maier and Sister Maria Chantavoradom to help strengthen the poorest communities and protect their children. Its Mercy Centre includes four homes and shelters for orphans; an adult AIDS hospice; a home for children and mothers living with HIV/AIDS; the largest of its Mercy preschools; and the administration center of HDF’s many community services.

Today the foundation cares for over 200 children in its homes and shelters, operates 30 preschools, and has long standing programs in place in the areas of education, child-protection, HIV/AIDS, and community services.

6.    Who is Father Joe?
The Director and Co-founder of the Human Development Foundation, Father Joseph Maier, a US-born Catholic Priest, settled in Thailand in the early ‘70s.  He holds advanced degrees in Theological Studies and Urban Planning as well as honorary doctoral degrees in Social Administration from Thammasart University in Thailand and Acadia University in Canada. He has received many honors for his work at the Human Development Foundation. In 2004, Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand presented Father Joe with a lifetime achievement award for his work in the field of protection of mothers and children.

7.    What is the purpose of this event?
To support the  HDF’s Education Programs, which include:
•    30 Slum Preschools in Bangkok (over 4,000 poor children enrolled)
•    Over 1,000 Educational Sponsorships for the Poorest Children through high school and as far as their education can take them.
•    The Janusz Korczak School of SE Asia for street children
•    The Mokan (ethnic Sea Gypsy) Pioneer Education Program

8.    Is this the first “Walk for Education”?
This will be the very first, and we believe it will grow in strength and numbers as an annual event.

9.    Who are the participants?
Mercy Centre’s staff and children… corporate sponsors and their staff… local and international schools and their students… the general public… all are invited to participate.

10.    What activities will be on hand along the route?
Festivities and entertainment will be happening non stop, including performances by HDF children, win-win games, magic shows show in a children’s area with giant board games and jig-saw puzzles, lucky draws, a music-dance corner, food stalls, even a children’s mini-soccer pitch.


11.    Will there be refreshments, and extra facilities along the walk?
Yes, the participants can enjoy “pit stops” along the route with entertainment at most every turn in the road. Security will be on hand to ensure everyone’s safety.

12.    How far is the walk?
The circuit is approximately 2 km. Most participants will walk a single circuit of 2 km. Some groups, however, may be sponsored on the basis of number of kilometers walked. These groups are welcome to walk as many circuits as they wish before the closing time at 11:00am.
.
13.    Where is the starting point and the finishing point?
The starting point is the Lan Tawanyim at 6.00 am.
The finishing point is Lan Kijakam Banteong.

14.    What kind of souvenirs will participants receive?
Everyone who joins the walk will receive a “goodie-bag” full of gifts from event sponsors, along with a certificate of participation.

15.    How can I participate in this event?
Please contact OutLaurs PR, Khun Tom/Khun Rin/Khun Fang, Tel. 02-636-2610-2.
or at Mercy Centre : Khun Eat/Khun Yod, Tel. 02-671-5313 Ext. 262

16.    How can I or my company become a sponsor?
For more information, please contact OutLaurs PR, Khun Tom/Khun Rin/Khun Fang, Tel. 02-636-2610-2. or at Mercy Centre : Khun Eat/Khun Yod, Tel. 02-671-5313 Ext. 262

17.    How can I make donations to Mercy Centre?
There will be donation boxes available at the event. If you cannot attend but wish to make a donation, there will be sales of tickets for individuals at the Emporium. Tickets will also be available at the registration during the event.
For direct donation, here are details for bank transfer:
1. Standard Chartered Bank
Saving Account
Sathorn Branch
AC Name: Human Development Foundation
AC # 001-002-95-193

or

2. SCB Bank
Saving Account
AC Name: Human Development Centre
Thonglor Branch
AC# 042-2-42893-1

For donation receipts, please contact Khun Yod/ Khun Ning at Human Development Foundation, Tel. 02-671-5313 ext. 262.

18.    Who can I contact to ask for more information on this event?
OutLaurs PR & Event Management, Khun Tom/Khun Rin/Khun Fang, Tel. 02-636-2610-2.
Human Development Foundation-Mercy Centre, Khun Yod/ Khun Ning, Tel. 02-671-5313 ext. 262.

19.    What should I do if I get lost at the event?
The most convenient meeting point is Lan Tawan Yim and Lan Kijakam Banteong (starting & finishing point).  Also, along the route will be rest stops every 150 m. (approx.) with a staff to assist participants if they need directions or help of any kind.

20.    Where can I have breakfast or lunch?
There will be free snacks and drinks available at the starting and finishing points.

21.    Where can I find the restrooms?
Participants can find mobile restrooms located along the walking route with easily recognizable signage every 150 m. (approx.)

22.    How can my company register for the event?
The company should appoint a designated coordinator who can fill in the proper form with approx. number of staff attending the event and send the form back to Khun Tom/Khun Rin/Khun Fang, Tel. 02-636-2610-2, Fax. 02-636-2613. or at Mercy Centre: Khun Eat/Khun Yod, Tel. 02-671-5313 Ext. 262

At the event, there will be 3 registration areas; school registration area, corporate registration area, and individual registration area. The representative from each participating company can sign in on behalf of their staff.

23. Are participating companies required to make donations?
The participating companies and their staff are encouraged to make donation of any amount (no minimum cost).

24.    Are there printed materials of the event my company can hand out to help promote the event?
Yes, there are posters and leaflets that will be distributed to promote the event.  The companies may request the number of posters and leaflets they need to put up and distribute on their premises and the organizer will deliver to them.

24. How may companies make donations during or after the event?
The companies are advised to designate a coordinator who collects registration forms and donations. A company donation may be made to Mercy Centre within 14 days after the event by contacting Khun Yod/ Khun Ning at Human Development Foundation, Tel. 02-671-5313 ext. 262.
Thursday, 02 October 2008 07:59

1.    What is the name of the event?
Walk for Education.

2.    Where will it be held?

Lumpini Park, Bangkok.

3.    When is the date and time of the event?

Sunday, October 26th, 2008.  Start 6.00 am, finish 11.00 am.

4.    Who is the organizer?

OutLaurs PR & Event Management on behalf of Human Development Foundation-Mercy Centre.

5.    What is Mercy Centre?

The HDF-Mercy Centre, a nondenominational community-based field organization, was founded in 1972 by Father Joe Maier and Sister Maria Chantavoradom to help strengthen the poorest communities and protect their children. Its Mercy Centre includes four homes and shelters for orphans; an adult AIDS hospice; a home for children and mothers living with HIV/AIDS; the largest of its Mercy preschools; and the administration center of HDF’s many community services.

Today the foundation cares for over 200 children in its homes and shelters, operates 30 preschools, and has long standing programs in place in the areas of education, child-protection, HIV/AIDS, and community services.

6.    Who is Father Joe?
The Director and Co-founder of the Human Development Foundation, Father Joseph Maier, a US-born Catholic Priest, settled in Thailand in the early ‘70s.  He holds advanced degrees in Theological Studies and Urban Planning as well as honorary doctoral degrees in Social Administration from Thammasart University in Thailand and Acadia University in Canada. He has received many honors for his work at the Human Development Foundation. In 2004, Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand presented Father Joe with a lifetime achievement award for his work in the field of protection of mothers and children.

7.    What is the purpose of this event?

To support the  HDF’s Education Programs, which include:
•    30 Slum Preschools in Bangkok (over 4,000 poor children enrolled)
•    Over 1,000 Educational Sponsorships for the Poorest Children through high school and as far as their education can take them.
•    The Janusz Korczak School of SE Asia for street children
•    The Mokan (ethnic Sea Gypsy) Pioneer Education Program

8.    Is this the first “Walk for Education”?
This will be the very first, and we believe it will grow in strength and numbers as an annual event.

9.    Who are the participants?
Mercy Centre’s staff and children… corporate sponsors and their staff… local and international schools and their students… the general public… all are invited to participate.

10.    What activities will be on hand along the route?

Festivities and entertainment will be happening non stop, including performances by HDF children, win-win games, magic shows show in a children’s area with giant board games and jig-saw puzzles, lucky draws, a music-dance corner, food stalls, even a children’s mini-soccer pitch.

11.    Will there be refreshments, and extra facilities along the walk?
Yes, the participants can enjoy “pit stops” along the route with entertainment at most every turn in the road. Security will be on hand to ensure everyone’s safety.

12.    How far is the walk?
The circuit is approximately 2 km. Most participants will walk a single circuit of 2 km. Some groups, however, may be sponsored on the basis of number of kilometers walked. These groups are welcome to walk as many circuits as they wish before the closing time at 11:00am.
.
13.    Where is the starting point and the finishing point?

The starting point is the Lan Tawanyim at 6.00 am.
The finishing point is Lan Kijakam Banteong.

14.    What kind of souvenirs will participants receive?

Everyone who joins the walk will receive a “goodie-bag” full of gifts from event sponsors, along with a certificate of participation.

15.    How can I participate in this event?

Please contact OutLaurs PR, Khun Tom/Khun Rin/Khun Fang, Tel. 02-636-2610-2.
or at Mercy Centre : Khun Eat/Khun Yod, Tel. 02-671-5313 Ext. 262

16.    How can I or my company become a sponsor?
For more information, please contact OutLaurs PR, Khun Tom/Khun Rin/Khun Fang, Tel. 02-636-2610-2. Or at Mercy Centre : Khun Eat/Khun Yod,K.Ning Tel. 02-671-5313 Ext. 262

17.    How can I make donations to Mercy Centre?
There will be donation boxes available at the event. If you cannot attend but wish to make a donation, there will be sales of tickets for individuals at the Emporium. Tickets will also be available at the registration during the event.

For direct donation, here are details for bank transfer:
1. Standard Chartered Bank
Saving Account
Sathorn Branch
AC Name: Human Development Foundation
AC # 001-002-95-193

or

2. SCB Bank
Saving Account
AC Name: Human Development Centre
Thonglor Branch
AC# 042-2-42893-1

For donation receipts, please contact Khun Yod/ Khun Ning at Human Development Foundation, Tel. 02-671-5313 ext. 262.

18.    Who can I contact to ask for more information on this event?

OutLaurs PR & Event Management, Khun Tom/Khun Rin/Khun Fang, Tel. 02-636-2610-2.
Human Development Foundation-Mercy Centre, Khun Yod/ Khun Ning, Tel. 02-671-5313 ext. 262.

19.    What should I do if I get lost at the event?
The most convenient meeting point is Lan Tawan Yim and Lan Kijakam Banteong (starting & finishing point).  Also, along the route will be rest stops every 150 m. (approx.) with a staff to assist participants if they need directions or help of any kind.

20.    Where can I have breakfast or lunch?

There will be free snacks and drinks available at the starting and finishing points.

21.    Where can I find the restrooms?
Participants can find mobile restrooms located along the walking route with easily recognizable signage every 150 m. (approx.)

22.    How can schools register for the event?

Schools should appoint a designated school organizer who can fill in the proper form with approx. number of students attending the event and send the form back to Khun Tom/Khun Rin/Khun Fang, Tel. 02-636-2610-2, Fax. 02-636-2613. We recommend distributing a sign-up sheet for students.

At the event, there will be 3 registration areas; school registration area, corporate registration area, and individual registration area. The representative from the each participating school can sign in on behalf of their students.

23.    Are there printed materials of the event the school can hand out to help promote the event?
Yes, there are posters and leaflets that will be distributed to promote the event.  The schools may request the number of posters and leaflets they need to put up and distribute at their schools and the organizer will deliver to them.

24.    Do teachers need to chaperone their students at the event?

It is advised that every school participating in this event send representative(s) to chaperone their students, and to register for the students to prevent confusion.

25.  Are individual students required to make donations?
Students are encouraged to make donation of any amount (no minimum cost).

26. How may schools make donations during or after the event?

Schools will have a designated School Organizer, who will collect registration forms and donations. A school donation may be made to Mercy Centre within 14 days after the event by contacting Khun Yod/ Khun Ning at Human Development Foundation, Tel. 02-671-5313 ext. 262.

Thursday, 02 October 2008 07:49

Please Join Us for the
“Walk for Education”
at Lumpini Park
October 26, 2008
6:00-11:00am

Dear Friends of Mercy Centre,

We wish to invite you to join us - our staff and children - for a very special event, a fun-filled Sunday morning walk in Lumpini Park this coming October 26th.

Friends have organized the event to include plenty of entertainment for all ages, especially children, so please bring your whole family as well as friends, and colleagues. You are all most welcome!

All proceeds from the event will go to strengthen and expand our education programs, which include:
• 30 Mercy Preschools in Bangkok’s Slums
• Over 1,000 Education Sponsorships for the poorest children, including orphaned, abused and abandoned street children and children living with HIV.
• The Janusz Korczak School of SE Asia for street children
• Mokan (ethnic Sea Gypsy) Pioneer Education Project

Ways To Sponsor or Assist the Organizers:
• Cash donation
• Donating your product or Gifts-in-Kind
• Participation as volunteer on the event day
• Providing fundraising support

Several companies and local schools will be walking with us as well.

For more information, please contact: K. Fang or K Rin at OutLaurs Public Relations: 0-2636-2611 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
You can also contact us - K. Prawina or K. Chalermrat at our Mercy Centre: 0-2671-5313; or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

This event is very important to the poor children in our schools and to those who receive our education sponsorships through high school, vocational college and university. We do hope you will join together with all of us to help make the “Walk for Education” a great day for poor children.

If you are a school and wish to participate, please read our FAQ for Schools.

If you wish to be a sponsor, please read our FAQ for Sponsors.

Kind regards,
Usanee Janngeon
Executive Director

P.S. Tickets/registration cards are available at The Emporium Department Store before the event, or in Lumpini Park at the “walk” on October 26.

 

Wednesday, 01 October 2008 12:28
Irish Musicians