For the past three years, we have been working together with a poor community of ethnic Mokan (sea gypsies) living on Koh Lao, an island in Ranong Province. This traditionally seafaring community must now make their homes on the land, where they struggle for most necessities, including food, water, basic health care, and the education of their children. They also struggle for recognition as residents and citizens in their country. We don’t want them to lose their culture and religion as sea gypsies. but we also want them to take part in the most important Thai family holidays. Last week we joined with the village to celebrate a traditional Thai New Year. As pictured above and below, the children gently poured water over the hands of each village elder; and the elders placed their hands on the head of each passing child, wishing each one a world of joy, health, and happiness throughout the New Year.
During the New Year holidays, our Street Teacher Kru Nang, our staff psychologist Ms. Aw, and our friends from the Child Welfare Ministry in Bangkok traveled to Ranong to help the Koh Lao village children: to teach them how to play, to create, to imagine, and most of all, to celebrate the joy of being children. (Please visit our photo gallery here.)
By Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
Published, Bangkok Post, April 10, 2011
Violence and mayhem don’t just happen in our slums. It’s not how we handle our affairs. When it does, it’s almost always from outside causes.
This was the case for Klong Toey's Khun Dhee, whose life descended into mayhem during the red shirt demonstrations two years ago
He was hit by shrapnel from an old tear-gas canister during a fracas. Its effects are insidious: you can't breathe; smoke sears your lungs, your eyes, the chemicals mixed in with the shrapnel burns deep to scar, maim and cause wounds that won't heal.
Dhee, an artist and portrait painter in Klong Toey bore the entire vicious brunt of the tear-gas grenade. Shrapnel tore his right lung, bruised and cracked some ribs, breaking one, and mangled his right hand. A couple of pieces of shrapnel penetrated his chest and throat, bringing him to his knees.
He kept his head back to make it easier to breathe and clasped his good hand to his throat, trying to ease the pain. He never lost consciousness during those first few minutes and kept a tight grip on his motorcycle key with a sacred image attached.