On January 26, 2012, The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Thailand gave recognition to Fr. Joe and six other fighters for equality at its annual awards ceremony, held here in Bangkok.
The award recognizes national heroes who have the courage to stand up and fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves. Two of the seven recipients – labor activist Thanong Podiarn and lawyer Somchai Neelapjit – have disappeared and are presumed to have been killed in their struggle for equality.
In accepting his award, Fr. Joe spoke of what such recognition means: “This award,” he said, “is not about yesterday. It is about tomorrow. It means that you trust us to continue to do what is universally right. It gives us strength and courage to continue our struggles. It is a promise on our part – a promise to help defend the rights of street children and to make every effort to help every poor child and street kid in need, and to send them all to school.”
Father Joe continued, “Finally, this award recognizes that we are not alone in our struggles. It honors everyone who works and lives at our Mercy Centre. It is recognition that our teachers and social workers at Mercy Centre are the real heroes to all the throw-away children who live on the streets.”
Fr. Joe was the sole foreign-born Thai resident honored at the annual ceremony. Previously, he has received several lifetime achievement awards, most notably, in 2004, when Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand presented a lifetime achievement award to Fr. Joe as the foreign resident “who has contributed the most to the promotion of the status and protection of women and children in Thailand.”
Pictured above: Fr. Joe with fellow award recipient Patimoh Poh-I-Taeda-Oh of the Yala-based WePeace Group.
Our children celebrated Children’s Day this Saturday in perfect fashion – playing hard, eating ice cream and cake, swimming at local pools, roughhousing (pretending to be kung fu fighters), skipping rope, jumping and diving and cart-wheeling all around, and then, as the sun went down, finding even more ways to play harder and have even more fun. Please visit our gallery of Children’s Day photos here.
Tomorrow is our favorite day of the year in Thailand.
It’s Children’s Day!
Children’s Day is the one and only day of the year dedicated to the joy of being a kid.
While many of our own children lost their way (and their sense of childhood) before they came to Mercy Centre, we do everything we can to give them their childhood back. We try to make every day “Children’s Day.” And tomorrow we celebrate doubly-hard!
Thank you all for helping us care for our children. And tomorrow, if you see a bedraggled kid on the streets, begging for spare change or selling flowers – please stop and say hello, and help if you can.
Usanee, Fr. Joe, and all of us at Mercy
Just before Christmas, dozens of street kids gathered for a party, organized by Mercy Centre and fellow NGO members of the Bangkok Street Children Network. The party took place where the kids are most comfortable, beneath the Rama III Bridge on a sliver of park that many of these kids call home. Our street teachers organized games throughout the day – from three-legged races to co-ed soccer – and presented gifts to every child. Fr. Joe spoke and exhorted the children, as he always does, to be honest and to look after their brothers and sisters on the streets. Most importantly, he reminded them that whenever they need help, no matter what, "Call us. Drop by Mercy. Don't hesitate. We are always here for you." Photo gallery here.
Back when the world was much younger, but still quite a while after the Bible began, our ancestors celebrated Christmas – the Birth of Jesus – each year, when the darkness of winter stopped - and the light began to come back.
That glorious bit of history told through the centuries that their neighbors in Nazareth town told Joseph that they, the neighbors, distant cousins really, could register in Bethlehem for him and Mary, as they had to go to register themselves anyway. A tiny gift to the officials there would be sufficient. It was a kind-hearted gesture. That Joseph would not need fret and worry of having pregnant Mary make that several-days difficult journey to Bethlehem.
Joseph and Mary talked. Maybe it was a good idea. Maybe they didn’t have to travel after all. Pregnant Mary said to Joseph, "We both have to go ourselves, I believe and know from all the old stories and legends passed on through the centuries - prophecies really. I know and am convinced in my heart of hearts that the Messiah, my baby, must be born in Bethlehem. The angel did not tell us where the Child is to be born, but I believe and know we must make the trip. That is the right thing to do. No matter how difficult."
Thus Joseph with Pregnant Mary and the neighbors all traveled together - for safety sake - traveled by mule, by foot, by camel, south from Nazareth to Bethlehem town. A day’s walk outside of Jerusalem. And of course, they believed that their special Angels hid them from sight along the five day journey - kept them invisible from robbers and brigands.
In the old language: " Thus it came to pass” - Jesus was born in Bethlehem in a cove stable – offered to Mary and Joseph in desperation by an apologetic kindly inn keeper and his wife. His wife had told him sternly “How can we possibly turn away a Pregnant woman.” Old Belief is that there was truly no room available, and this was the best they could do. But that the inn keeper’s wife and her friends, plus the women coming with them from Nazareth tried to help Mary best as they could. Helping as women do, with the birth of a child.
Years later, Joseph and Mary re-told of those days: We didn’t know before hand. How could we know? But we were met by Angels singing in High Heavens, Shepherds, their wives and children. And three Wise Men, learned men whose advise was sought by the great of this world. They had traveled far, several months from the East to worship our new born Child. Offered gifts of Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh to Baby Jesus.
The Wise Men said they had long followed this unique Star, brighter than all the rest. A Star that the Sacred Books say: somehow "came down" to light up the cove stable where Jesus was born - to point the way for the Shepherds and later the Magi.
And the women brought food for Mary and Joseph, and clothing for her Infant Baby Jesus against the cold. The Shepherd children wanted to touch Mary’s new born Baby… and Mary let them… but ever so carefully. An old shepherd man, respected in those parts for his sage wisdom told them, “Keep the gold and the gifts of the Wise Men safely. There will be a time soon when you will need them – a time when you have nothing else. “
As Pregnant Mary said to Joseph, “we must go ourselves, no one can go in our place.” And the women cooking and sharing their food, helping to look after Mary and her new born child; and the men standing by, watching, protecting; the children playing; the Magi bring life-saving gifts. And again, thus it is, and thus it must be with each of us.
Later on, much more happened, but that’s for another day.
So it’s Christmas. “From theological mists, true then, true now becoming present reality.” We all, somehow, in our lives, do walk to Bethlehem and we “meet on the street corners of the world.”
fr. joe maier
December 13, 2011 - For the third consecutive year, HRH Princess Srirasmi visited our Mercy Centre to celebrate her birthday with our Mercy children. From the moment she arrived, her joy for our children filled our Mercy Centre and the world around us.
Our children renewed their vows to the Princess, promising to work hard in their school studies, to be honest and polite with everyone they meet, and to respect and protect their family and loved ones. Following their vows, our children performed in song and dance to the Mercy Thai Classical Orchestra, comprised entirely of our Mercy kids,
HRH Princess Srirasmi had special moments with our blind girls, Nong Peh and Nong Fon, showing us that our most disabled Mercy children are also the most loved.
Photos: Above: Her Royal Highness with our disabled blind children, Nong Peh and Nong Fon. Below: Our children recite their promises to HRH Princess Srirasmi.