Last week our Mercy girls shined in a concert held at the New International School of Bangkok that showcased their skills and passions in the performing arts – in songs, folk dances, piano recitals, and popular show tunes.
Like proud parents everywhere, we are probably not the best judges of our own children, but in this case we are quite confident in our opinion: our girls gave a first-rate professional and entertaining performance. The audience of NIST students, teachers, family and friends thought so, too. Each Mercy child was a star: Nancy, Tammy, Toi, Niew, Kat, Kook Gai, Phen, Gwan, Ann, and many of our younger Mercy children, too! (Photo by Alexandra Ashley. More photos at gallery here.)
She's never been in a shopping mall, never owned a pair of shoes. She never found them necessary – even when working construction, flip-flops were fine. Granny Pot mentioned once that her own mother who worked as hired help in the rice fields before taking construction jobs in Bangkok never had shoes either. Granny said she'd look funny wearing them. Feet were important, not shoes.
So when her three granddaughters told Granny this year that all first, third and fourth graders must wear shoes to school, the old woman was mystified. The whole business of mastering left foot, right foot alone! She threw up her hands.
But dear goodness, Granny's daughter Ms Oey is another story! She loves shoes – even owns a bright red pair. Granny called her utterly shameless when she saw those. And Ms Oey said, "Mama, I might not be a good girl, but I ain't shameless!"
Ms Oey is Granny's youngest. Her elder sister comes once a year to visit, always bringing Granny a new pair of flip-flops and a bag of that expensive sweet-smelling rice.
Last year we experienced horrifying civil strife in Bangkok. This year we have devastating floods. But no matter what is happening outside, in Mercy Centre our children rule the day, mostly with their laughter and smiles. For a glimpse into their everyday lives, please visit our new photo gallery here. All photos by Rick Ashley.
Dear EveryoneIt's 22 November 2011 in Bangkok. Day 26 since our first slum kindergarten flooded. - a total of eight went under water. In three slums, the water came up in an hour. Water to the ceiling. The children are safe, everything was soaked. In my letter of a couple weeks ago, I said 10 schools were going under water. I believed 'the T.V. weather guru'.. but in truth only eight flooded and 750 children lost their schools, most of them lost their homes also. Our other 14 schools are in slums on dry ground, and school is back in session as normal.
As I write this today, some of the waters have gone down some. Our shack'school buildings are a mess, but we have patched and scrubbed and cleaned to get them functional, at least temporarily to get the kids back in school. Future repairs will be a head-ache, but I don't even want to think about that right now.
The slum peoples have all helped. Most important, re-wired the buildings since the electrical outlets were flooded, rusted and dangerous as can be - for shorting out and electrocuting people. We got the toilets working - bought new kitchen equipment, brought in clean drinking water. Books and pencils etc etc etc. Eighteen of our teachers (whose homes have been totally flooded also) have moved into the schools, as they have no where else to go. We have bought mosquito nets, sleeping equipment, refrigerator, fans, - a small old fashioned clothes washing & dryer to make their lives as comfortable as possible....under the circumstances. Got them new mobile phones, as most of them had lost their phones in the floods. We have resumed class (after a fashion) in five slums. Of the 550 slum children who usually attend these five kindergartens shack/schools, 250 are back in class. The other children are still literally "Up country in the Rural Provinces" staying with their grand parents - for safety. They are slowly returning to Bangkok.
Three other slums, where we have schools, according to the Weather man.. it will take another 45 days for the waters to go down. Two hundred children attend these schools. We are trying to do what we can to begin school as soon as possible. We did some 'horse trading' with the marine police who received 750 small plastic boats from the Government of China (the boats hold a maximum of 8 children) - the police let us use two boats and small putt-putt motors So the teachers, somewhat captive in their flooded schools have freedom to travel in the boats - also if one of the children get sick, etc, they have transportation. We have been lucky thus far, only two children and one teacher have been bitten by creepy-crawlies. Nothing serious, but they have had to 'shoo shoo away a few snakes, also looking for a dry place to live.!!!
So in conclusion - we're doing our best. Some of the children are back in school. That is so vital. Our teachers are real heroes - beyond belief, living, in difficult circumstances..!
Also with this, I am sending you a U-Tube link which a friend from Australia did for us. It's filmed near the slaughter house, thus near the river, with the tides going up and down twice daily. But it does give you an idea.
Again - I want to thank all of you - the worst is yet to come, and the crisis still exists, but the urgency is a bit less. Please do continue to help, if you can. In a couple weeks, I will send you my annual Christmas Letter - and promise I will not talk of floods...
All of you are wonderful. Prayers Respectfully
fr joe & all of us here at Mercy Centre.
The floods have not yet receded in any of our communities, but we are doing what we can now, today, and will do much more tomorrow and in the days to come. With your support, we are reaching out to the poorest families devastated by the floods, providing care packages, emergency supplies, food, rice, and whatever it takes to regularize people’s lives – to get the moms and dads back to work and the children back to school.
Several Mercy kindergartens have been flooded, including our schools in Landin, Suyai, Rimkong Watsaphan, and Lad Prao. Wherever possible, we are securing spaces on higher ground to open up temporary kindergartens. Photo gallery here.
Preschools: Our primary aim is to get our slum kindergartens back in operation in several flooded communities.
To this end, our Landin preschool has moved to temporary quarters. Twenty-seven children came to the new classroom on the first day.
Our Sua Yai preschool reopened last week on the same spot it’s always been. We renovated several areas, including the kitchen and bathrooms, and built a temporary “bridge” in front of the school, as it is currently surrounded by a “moat” filled with fetid water. Thirty children attended on the first day. More will follow when families are able to return to their homes.
We have purchased boats to help ferry the children and teachers to and from school each day.
The Mercy Chocchai Ruamit and Poonsap preschools will be reopening next week.
Other Relief Efforts: Getting the schools up and running also requires that we provide emergency relief to the families in these slum communities. Mercy Emergency Flood Relief teams have delivered 1,500 care packages, filled with rice, water, dry foods, and hygienic essentials to the families most severely affected.
We have been providing emergency care and housing assistance to forty families living with HIV/AIDS and approximately fifty additional families who are utterly destitute.
Many friends of Mercy Centre provide education sponsorships for the poorest children in Bangkok. Fortunately, most of these children live in Klong Toey, which has not been devastated by the floods. So far, we are providing emergency care to the families of thirty sponsored children in communities that have been inundated. More news soon...
I promised a "flood update: in a few hours to you good folks with email My apologies to you my brothers and sisters whom I didn't then send a letter by ordinary mail. Anyway, the email, was four days ago when I wrote you all that our
Charity 30 Oct Teenage Rock Stars Concert... was... to use an American Baseball term: "Cancelled because of rain." (flooding really)
Today the flood picture is a bit more in focus. Here goes.