Wednesday, 01 October 2008 12:11

BANGKOK, Thailand: When Father Joe got word that George W. Bush was planning to visit the children he cares for in Bangkok's largest slum, the first thing the American priest did was ask them: "Do you want to meet him?"

Rev. Joseph H. Maier, a tough, no-nonsense man who mixes easily with drug pushers, thugs and prostitutes, is hardly known for being deferential — even when it comes to the president of the United States.

George W. Bush

Read more: George W. Bush to visit Bangkok slum children

Wednesday, 01 October 2008 11:59
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.

Read more: Bangkok's 'Slaughterhouse' children find a haven

Saturday, 27 September 2008 21:58

We are shy about shouting out news about ourselves, but we want everyone to know that a new book has been recently released - a biography on Father Joe Maier, the co-founder of the Human Development Foundation. Father Joe and co-founder Sister Maria Chantavarodom have been developing our programs for the poorest of the poor for over 35 years. We are very proud that Father Joe’s life story is being told and hope everyone has a chance to read it. Details and a sample review below.

Book details:
The Gospel of Father Joe: Revolutions and Revelations in the Slums of Bangkok
By Greg Barrett, preface by Nobel Laureate Rev. Desmond Tutu
Available at local bookstores, including Barnes and Noble in the US and on-line at

Read more: New Biography on Father Joe Maier Maier Now Available

Saturday, 27 September 2008 21:48


BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - When Father Joe heard that President Bush was to visit children in Bangkok's largest slum, the first thing the American priest did was ask them: "Do you want to meet him?"

Rev. Joseph H. Maier, a tough, no-nonsense man who mixes easily with drug pushers, thugs and prostitutes, is hardly known for being deferential - even when it comes to the president of the United States.

"We always ask our children when anyone and everyone is coming to visit, because it is their home - the only home they have - and they heartily agreed," he said before Bush's scheduled visit on Thursday.

"The children see him as a kind uncle coming to visit, not in his official position."

Bush, on a three-country tour of Asia, will spend some time at the Mercy Centre and Human Development Foundation. Maier, a native of Longview, Wash., started the foundation nearly 40 years ago to aid often desperate residents of the vast Klong Toey slum.

Ministering first to a small Catholic community of slaughterhouse workers in the grimiest depths of the slum, the 69-year-old priest now looks after a shelter for street kids, four orphanages, a hospice, kindergartens for more than 4,100 slum toddlers and a home for mothers and children with HIV/AIDS. Most of those helped are Buddhists.

His work has earned him international awards and honors from Thailand's respected monarchy although he's challenged authorities, plied officials with whiskey to bend the rules and cut deals with the criminally inclined in defense of his turf and charges, especially the children.

"There are geniuses, poets, artists and physicians among the kids who call Mercy their home, and yet they are labeled as Klong Toey children and not the children who are worthy of proper education and jobs," he said.

"The visit of Mr. Uncle President is telling them they are of great value, and not to believe any of the bad stuff people might say," the priest said.

He said his children would be asking Bush to carry a message back to youngsters in America: "Yes, things are tough here in Thailand. The streets and slums are rough. We have been beaten up, used and abused, but today is fine and tomorrow is going to be even better and today we are going to have as much fun as we possibly can."

Wednesday, 24 September 2008 15:08

Six years old, calls himself Ohh. Says his momma gave him that name: her only legacy to her only son.He tells how his mom woke him up late that final morning - kissed him, maybe ten-hundred times, crying, hugging him so tight he couldn't breathe, promising she'd come back someday, but now she had to run for her life.

Ohh's father, her husband, didn't have the machete handy, the one he kept in his pickup truck, so he had used his fists that previous night. Bruised, one eye-swollen shut, Ohh's momma was absolutely certain that in his next booze/drug rant, he would kill her.

Read more: Slum Boy on the Knife-Edge of Hell

Wednesday, 27 August 2008 22:22
We didn't torch the shack after he died. Wanted to. Should have. How else do you get rid of years of tuberculosis? So next best, we bagged everything - mattresses, bedding, mosquito nets and clothing. Everything you could put a match to. Brought it out of the shack, and burned everything outside in the street. Didn't want to hurt Sam, an adolescent python.
Wednesday, 27 August 2008 22:20
Did your Mom or Granny ever sing lullabies?

One of our children who goes by the nickname of Miss Nan told me she heard someone singing her a Christmas lullaby the other night when it was all quiet in the hospital. A lullaby so sweet, so beautiful, it would make the angels weep.

When she heard it, she awoke, looked around: only her crippled-up, Aid-struck, foster-Auntie Gung was there. And (Heavens to Betsy!) even Miss Nan's pet frog Albert can sing better than Auntie Gung. Everyone in the whole world knows Auntie Gung can't sing. But a lullaby it was that Miss Nan heard.

And who could doubt such a child? Miss Nan, who is only seven and was born with HIV, goes to the hospital a little longer each time now, so she has the learned the wisdom of such things. And Auntie Gung stays at her bedside for a week at a time - sometimes two weeks - sleeping at night on a mat on the floor next to Miss Nan's bed.
Wednesday, 27 August 2008 22:18

Here are just a few notes and updates to you, my friends, during Holy Week and the Thai Buddhist New Year:

Yesterday it felt like everyone in Klong Toey joined us at "Mercy Centre" as we celebrated the Thai New Year. Perhaps not totally everybody, but at least several hundred neighbors - mostly old folks and other slum "reputables" and, of course, our kids. There was great music played on third-hand instruments and dancing in the streets - old-time barn dancing led by the Motorbike Racing Granny, our favorite street vendor who is now 76. She has a bit of a bum knee, made stiff from kick-starting her stubborn "mini-chopper," a motorbike modified into her mobile coffee cart. Fortunately, she had a "wee swallie" or two or three from a not so well hidden flask of amber liquid that loosened her knees and had her stomping up a storm.

In the late morning, the Monks came for the annual New Year prayers and blessings for our Mercy Centre and to chant the Sutras. Our two hundred children were quiet (just for a while!), sitting beside the physically challenged and the old folks assembled; and after the prayers, everyone made merit and offered the monks a pre-noon meal.

Read more: Easter Letter (2006)

Wednesday, 27 August 2008 22:13

A poor scavenger in the slums, Miss Na went through life and into death without a name, writes FATHER JOE MAIER

Her nickname was Miss Na. She had to think twice to remember her given name, written down in some official ledger/computer somewhere. Everyone called her Na.

Na was the oldest daughter in a street family. She and her family actually lived under a grove of Sacred Trees, here in Klong Toey, in the crudest of shelters. There's maybe (if you'd buy it new from the store) 200 baht total worth of material in the three shacks. No electricity of course. Water is hand carried and bought, for 5 baht a bucket, from a slum lady about 100 metres away. They make their living as scavengers, but nowadays, with our economic boom you see lots of folks scavenging. The competition is fierce.

And of course, their lives are at the mercy of the whims of the going-bald fat lady who buys their scavanged goods. She doesn't ask questions about anything they bring, and of course, there's a price attached to her silence, isn't there?

You get a better price down the street, but then, there's always questions. Take your choice.

Read more: The anonymous fate of Miss Na (2006)

Wednesday, 27 August 2008 22:10
The cook found them at the side entrance just before dawn, when you could still make out the stars: Six-year-old Fon, her mum and our ferocious, slum-born, street-wise guard dog, all curled up asleep together. The "ferocious" guard dog, by the way, in spite of all training to the contrary, welcomes strangers; the more shabbily they dress, the more friendly he becomes.

Fon became our Christmas present, coming to stay with us for a while to share her wisdom and joy - her dance, her song, her innocence. And she led us as we followed the Magi and the Christmas star.

She's a special little girl who, at the age of six, is still learning to walk and talk, but she knows how to dance and sing. Something went terribly wrong when she was born. Baby Fon didn't get enough oxygen. So, later, in a rented room, with dad sick and mum working, she had no real social contact. She walks at her own pace and mostly without help, and her dancing is graceful but slow, as she's careful not to stumble and fall. She's still not too good at talking but she can sing quietly, crooning without words.

She usually tags around with Dao - glorious Miss Dao - who, at three-and-a-half years of age, decided to become Fon's "older" sister. It was Dao who took Fon's hand and led her everywhere. And it was Dao who taught her how to sing.

Our sacred stories and legends: Of wise men, astrologers - scientific intellectuals, really, who'd probably read the Hebrew scriptures - who, with prophetic wisdom, followed the star shining in the East which led them to Bethlehem.

Angels were in the high heavens singing, telling the shepherd families, who probably had also seen and been mystified by the star, about a special child born on this day. They were told to go to Bethlehem town, over the hills, not far, where they found the child lying in a manger near an inn.