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.
Being homeless and watching over her three younger siblings whenever mum went off on a meth binge was a way of life for young Tangmo, and she accepted her fate without question. Now the children are in school and they've got a roof over their heads instead of a road.
Published in Bangkok Post, Spectrum Section, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013
By Fr. Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
Tangmo (Watermelon) tries to be as good and loving as any mum on the planet, but she's only eight, and she worries a lot about her five-year-old brother and the twins. Not that there's really much to worry about there: he's happy and the twins are jolly three-year-old eating machines. Her mum, back in rehab? That's a worry, but it's nothing new.
Like the time the police arrested mum again after she'd been sick and violent on meth and was coming down, on domicum mixed with methadone.Minutes before the police arrived, Tangmo (she prefers to be called Daeng) had grabbed her younger brother and the twins and ran to the safety of a rickety bamboo-shack karaoke bar under the expressway. She woke up the old man who's always asleep at the door to let them in to hide from mum.
Last Friday our Mercy family children, house moms, house dads, kindergarten students, street kid students, teachers, social workers and many friends, strolled, danced and sang our way to Wat Saphan, our local slum temple, where we made merit in observance of Budhhist Lent. Visit our photo gallery here.
Here are just a few quick notes about Mercy that we want very much to share with our friends.
First, as always, our new children:
Four children joined our Mercy family last week. The eldest, Miss Watermelon, age 9, had been looking after and protecting her three younger siblings as best she was able – trying to make sure they had enough to eat, a place to sleep, and a safe place to play – but that’s a lot of responsibility for a young child. To pay for food and clothes, she often could be found begging on the streets beside crowded pedestrian walkways.
Miss Watermelon is fearless. On her first day at Mercy, she taught herself how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. She didn’t look for an adult to congratulate her. She just kept riding.
Today Miss Watermelon is enrolled in our Janusz Korczak School of S.E. Asia for Street Children while her sister and two brothers – Ben, Baht, and Goff – now attend our Lock 6 Mercy Kindergarten. (Photo, from left, Twins -Baht and Ben, Watermelon, and Goff.)
The children of Mercy welcome US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
This past Saturday morning, our Mercy children opened their hearts to welcome the US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and members of the US CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
Our children loved the visit!
As Secretary Sebelius stepped inside our Mercy Centre, our children presented her with garlands of orchids while our Classical Thai Kids Orchestra performed their favorite old songs. A Mercy girl, Duangjai Meechai, age 21 – formally an abandoned child living in Lumpini Park and now enrolled at Assumption University in Bangkok – gave Secretary Sebelius a tour of Mercy Centre. Miss Duangchai was joined by her Mercy brothers and sisters in our art room, computer room, kindergarten, and the most fun room of all – our playroom (a delightful madhouse!) with 35 of our little ones riding on kiddy jungle gyms, slides, and rocking horses.
Secretary Sebelius and the CDC staff visited our Mercy Centre in recognition of our HIV/AIDS efforts throughout Bangkok’s poorest slum communities. Our HIV/AIDS programs started when we opened Bangkok’s first AIDS hospice for the poor, which we operated from 1993-2012. Once we opened our hospice, we also began pioneering community-based home care in the slums. Today we are recognized as leaders in community-based AIDS care, and our teams share their knowledge and experience in workshops they conduct throughout Thailand and Laos, and soon Myanmar. Here at Mercy, spread across all six of our shelters, over 60 children were born with HIV. And we care for hundreds more children who live with their families in Bangkok’s poorest neighborhoods.Photos from top - i) Children welcome US Secretary; ii) Secretary Sebelius with Mercy Child; iii) CDC, Fr. Joe and Mercy staff and children. Photo gallery here.
Our Mercy boys play soccer in Poland!
They didn’t win, exactly. But of the 21 teams that competed in the first international soccer tournament for children living in group shelters, our Mercy boys didn’t lose either. In a vote by all players and referees, our boys earned the trophy for sportsmanship and conduct on and off the field. They played competitively and won the respect of every team. (Photo gallery here.)
(Here’s something even more amazing and wonderful: two boys on our team take anti-viral medications every day. Born with HIV, orphaned early in life, left in the care of the State before they joined our family, they have been beating the odds for years. And they’ve only just started. )
Fr. Wirach and Fr. Jittipol chaperoned our children in Poland and they made sure our boys experienced the beauty of Polish culture. Anticipating our kids’ dietary needs, Fr. Wirach packed plenty of mama noodles and jars full of chili peppers. Can you imagine chili peppers in your borscht or on your pierogies? Our children not only can, but insist it’s the only way.
The Royal Thai Ambassador to the Republic of Poland, HE Bansarn Bunnag, gave our boys great honor. He attended their soccer matches, cheered them on from the crowd, and at the end of the tournament invited them to dine at one of Warsaw’s oldest Thai restaurants. If you ask our children, that dinner was among their finest moments off the field.
Another highlight was their visit to the orphanage where Janusz Korczak and his children lived until they were removed to the Jewish Ghetto in 1940 on their way to the Treblinka death camp.
Our kids – orphans themselves – were proud to give honor to Janusz Korczak and his children.
And we feel justly proud of our own children.
Thank you, as always, for all your kind words and every way you support our Mercy Centre.
Published July 10, The Guardian - Global Development Professsionals Network. Complete article and text here. Usanee Janngeon writes about the evolution of the Human Development Foundation-Mercy Centre's HIV/AIDS Program - from a "dumping ground for the dying" to offering all-inclusive home-based care. Photo above: Mercy Centre staff training Mae Tao clinic staff in community-based homecare.
For over 10 years, the Human Development Foundation – Mercy Centre's Aids hospice was the first, largest and only free Aids hospice in Bangkok, Thailand. At first, Mercy was known as a dumping ground for dying people. Then we changed our general policy and, apart from the truly indigent, only accepted patients with their relatives' involvement. Over the years as the treatments improved, our hospice became a place of hope for the future where people could recover and go back to the community and their family.
We learned that HIV is not about one person, it's about the whole family. We created three-way partnerships between our hospice staff, patients and their families. We asked the families to share in the hospice care of their family members, and in return, we provided counselling to the families and taught them home-care skills. The patients also agreed that they would contribute to the maintenance of the hospice as much as they were able to.
It often took several months of counselling, sometimes even years, to unite families and patients and bring them home. It was rarely easy. As our home-care programme expanded, we were able to close our hospice in 2012 and now all our Aids care is done in the community.
Miss Jaew Waew was born to a European father and a Thai mother with penchant for gambling and booze. Her dad has been there to help her in the past and she believes he will be there again in the future for her own daughter.
Published by Bangkok Post, Sunday, June 16, Spectrum Section
By Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
The first time, 12 years ago, it was an easy rescue. Her dad, a European man, kicked down the door, barged in and beat up the two bad guys with his fists, cracked their skulls with a beer bottle, and picked up his three-year-old daughter, Miss Jew Waew. He waved down a taxi and brought her to us at Mercy. He had heard that we took care of abandoned kids.
The taxi driver was a Klong Toey man who knew us, so no questions and no charge. Dad cradled his daughter, sleeping the sleep of innocence in his arms. A friend riding a big motorbike followed the taxi as an escort, to avoid any surprises - just in case the beat-up bad guys got stupid, maybe phoning acquaintances and asking them to follow the taxi.
When dad arrived at Mercy, he didn't close the taxi door, lest the sound wake his daughter. We got him a couple of Band-Aids for his cut knuckles. This giant, sobbing tattooed warrior handed us his daughter and a wrinkled birth certificate. All he could say was: ''Please love her. I'll come back when I can.'' He thanked the taxi driver, left some money on the seat, then jumped on the back of his friend's big bike and he was gone.