Today we celebrated “Wai Kru” Day at our Mercy Centre – the day students throughout Thailand give thanks to their teachers. On this day, all students enrolled in our Korczak School for street children and representatives from ten of our local slum kindergartens invited their teachers to celebrate in a pageant of thanksgiving, music, dance, gift-giving, and blessings. (Please visit our Teachers' Day photo gallery. Previous Teacher Day galleries here, here and here.)
What happens to those girls who sell flowers on the streets and in the bars and restaurants in Bangkok? They come and they go. But where do they sleep? Who cares for them? What happens to them when they are too old to be flower girls?
Father Joe wrote a story about one such girl from his Parish in the Slaughterhouse neighborhood - a lady now in her thirties who sold flowers in the Pat Pong sex district beginning at age five. The article, written in 2004, is titled, "When Flower Girls Grow Up," and you can read it here.
Recently a documentary filmmaker, James Linwood, has returned to this story. We want to share with you a short clip (only about one minute long) that James put together about the flower girls of Bangkok. Fr. Joe narrates. You can watch it here.
Formal Launch at The Johnstons Music Festival
Concert Details: www.thejohnstonsmusicfestival.com
Some of our best friends in the world have recently started “The Irish Foundation for Mercy Centre,” a charity based in Dublin that will help raise awareness and increase support for our Mercy Centre in Bangkok.
The Irish chapter is the initiative of musician and Folklorist, Professor Mick Moloney of New York University. Mick Moloney, along with Paul Brady, Michael and Lucy Johnston are the surviving members of Irish Folk Group “The Johnstons,” one of Ireland’s most famous musical families. The other founding member Adrienne Johnston died in 1981. The remaining members will perform a reunion concert in Drogheda on Saturday June 25 at the first annual Johnstons Music Festival.
The June 25 performance will also serve as a celebration of the formal launch of “The Irish Foundation for the Mercy Centre.” Fr. Joe, our Executive Director Ms. Usanee, and Mercy colleagues will be attending the concerts and wish to invite all our friends throughout Ireland to join in the celebration for the best of music, mirth, and craic.
On May 31, 2011 the Minister-Counsellor and Deputy Head of the Embassy of Poland, Dr. Zygmunt Langer visited our Mercy Centre to present gifts to the children and teachers of our Janusz Korczak School. These gifts included several photographs of the life and work of Jansuz Korczak, a hero to the people of Poland and Israel, and to poor children everywhere.
Dr. Janusz Korczak was a Polish-Jewish educator, pediatrician, and orphanage director who introduced progressive orphanages in Poland, trained teachers in what is now called moral education, and pioneered the legal rights of children everywhere. In 1942, when his Jewish orphanage was removed to the Warsaw Ghetto, Korczak refused an offer of help for his own safety. Months later, he and his children walked together in quiet dignity to the train bound for Treblinka, where they perished.
Our school for street children is dedicated to the memory of Janusz Korczak and to the children in his care who perished during World War II.
The gift of photographs from the Embassy of Poland will become a permanent school exhibit. Photograph above: Korczak’s Orphanage Orchestra, Below: Minister Counsellor Dr. and Mrs. Langer, Fr. Joe, teachers and students. More photos here. Janusz Korczak School of SE Asia - Program Description.
Today is the first day of the new school year at our 22 slum preschools. Over 2,500 children are enrolled, including over 800 children who are entering their first year of classes. For those first-year kids, this is the first day of school ever!
It's also the first day they’ve ever been separated from their moms and grandmoms. Tears were flowing freely throughout the morning. And we expect more tears in the mornings and afternoons ahead. It’s the same every year. But by the second week, the new kids get the hang of it; and their tears turn into giggles, laughter, and pure, unadulterated enthusiasum as they approach each new lesson of the day. (Photo above – second-year students are happy to be back in class; photo below – a first-year student thinks her world is over.) Photo gallery here.
Last Saturday, May 7th, our house moms, house dads, and all our Mercy children held a goodbye party for nine children. Six children are joining their real families while three are now age twenty and wish to start out on their own in life.
Reuniting children with families often takes years of outreach. Many Mercy kids have no parents. Or their parents are in jail. Or addicted to drugs. But these children do have aunts, uncles, and grandparents who can and will love them as family.
A few examples: One boy, Em, who has been a part of our family at Mercy for ten of his sixteen years, will be joining his Grandmom in Bangkok. Another boy, Geng, age sixteen, also a ten-year veteran of Mercy, will be joining his Uncle in Chonburi and attending vocational school in computers. Ti Noi, age 13, is being adopted by the Thai family who took care of him for years before he joined us. Kwang, age sixteen, has joined her Grandparents in Nakorn Pathom. Jangjao, age sixteen, is now living with her aunt.
Our goodbye celebration was all about family. We shared in our children’s joy; gave them farewell presents (giant hand-painted pillows signed by every Mercy kid); wished them every blessing in life along with lots of encouragement; and reminded them that they always have a second family here at Mercy.
This Saturday, April 30, the US Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Kristie Anne Kenney and friends from the US Embassy visited our Mercy Centre to join hands with our children. As our children guided their guests on a tour of Mercy Centre, H.E. Ambassador Kenney took special time in the Mercy Graphic Arts Room to help paint batiks with our children and made a special stop in their Computer Centre, observing how our children are gaining skills through learning software. Following the tour, Ambassador Kenney, our guests and friends from the US Embassy, all our children, plus their house moms and house dads joined together to make art, draw pictures, and dedicate the day, like every day at Mercy Centre, to the strength and joy in every child’s heart. (Photo above, Ambassador Kenney, guests and our Mercy children; photo below, with our triplets, Fon, Fah, and Fai. More photos here.)