Even though our Mercy Centre is located in the middle of Bangkok's largest, most densely populated slum community, our home often feels like it's far away from the city - as if we were living in a traditional Thai rural village. And this feeling always gets even stronger during Thai holidays. On April 9, we celebrated the Thai New Year - Songkran - at Mercy Center the same way we always do - as a village. The monks from our local temple and the elderly poor from 20 surrounding slum communities joined our staff and children in prayers, blessings, songs, a few old saucy dances, and a wonderful feast. To make sure everyone could attend, we held our Songkran festival a few days early, which, as it turned out, was fortunate. Mounting protests and a bloody confrontation on the following day forced the government and most residents to cancel or alter their festivities. Photo by Yoonki Kim
She started her fast-food career selling second breakfasts to "sweat labour" workers in the Klong Toey River Port from her bicycle. They'd walk the seven minutes from the riverside docks to a hole they'd knocked in the wall between the Port and the slum.
Auntie Muey was on the slum side of the wall. Safe from nasty Port Authority guards who would want free second breakfasts from her!
Easter Letter 2010 –
Holy Week – Easter – Meet you at the Jubilee - and a medium sized piece of Chocolate with only one bite taken out.
It’s Friday morning in Holy Week. The Day Jesus Died. We wear Black Clothing in sorrow, mourning and respect, leave our jobs for the day, if we can, eat simplest of food, take off our shoes to walk barefoot in solemn procession to show respect to the Holy Cross. Once again, we formally “Tell our Sacred Stories.” Re-live these Events to ourselves and our children. We, today in our turn, as our ancestors have done for 2,000 years.
Our almost eight-year-old Klong Toey Miss Nong Ming made the Bangkok 10 o'clock night TV news a couple of nights ago. She shouldn't have though. In fact, it was "bad form".
True, the camera blurred her face, but, "darn it", for some dumb reason they blurted out her full name and showed the place where her family camped out under the tollway along with Miss Nong Ming playing with other street kids, recently off the street at a "family child protection centre".
They put on their robes. Donned their caps. And with great pomp, circumstance, plus a few giggles, 702 children celebrated their Graduation Day at Mercy Preschools throughout the slums this week. It was an especially joyous day for their families as moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunties, and grandmoms joined their children in the celebrations.
At the ceremony, Father Joe, in his doctoral robes, spoke to the children about the importance of staying in school, as he has on every graduation day since 1973. “If you’re hungry and have no shoes, what do you do?” he asked them.
This past Sunday 40 children from the Human Development Foundation’s Mercy Centre attended Mass at Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok. It isn’t unusual for these former street children, who are raised in the Buddhist religion of their mothers and grandmothers, to join in a Christian ceremony. Their home at the Mercy Centre, founded by Father Joe, is a religious house; and the Mercy children are brought up to respect all religions.
But this was a particularly special ceremony for these poor slum children. Following Mass, Father Joe received a replica of the holy icon of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa on behalf of his children, and all slum children in Klong Toey, as a symbol of protection, joy, and love.
The holy icon was presented as a gift to the children from the Polish Embassy of Thailand, represented by First Counsellor, Dr. Zygmant Langer, and blessed by Msgr. Marek Zalewski, Deputy Head of Mission Apostolic Nunciature, before the children carried the icon from the Cathedral to its new home in Mercy Centre. (Please see our Photo Gallery.)