Last week our social workers took 45 street children to a place they could barely imagine, far away from their everyday cares.
In concert with the Railway Police and a gift from the Lego, the Denmark-based toy company, we transported 55 street kids to Dreamworld, a Bangkok theme park full of rollercoasters, exotic landscapes (Snowtown!), street performances, shows, and food and snacks galore.
Instead of slogging through the day by the railway station, begging for spare change, trying to survive while steering clear of danger, the children received a full day’s worth of Dreamworld coupons, which they exchanged for food, drinks, theme park rides, and shows – whatever they wanted. Nobody told them that they had to do this or that – they made their own decisions. The children had total license to enjoy a world full of dreams!
We want these children to know that we are on their side, that we will protect, defend, and counsel them whenever they are in need, that we will accept them for who they are, and that if they ever want to get off the streets and go to school, they are always welcome to live with us as a part of our family in Mercy Centre.
Photos: above, at the Hua Lamphong Station, below, Dreamworld!
Last week our Mercy children, along with our kindergarten students, our staff, and neighbors, invited the monks from our local temple Wat Saphan to celebrate Mother's Day together as a community. Our children gave alms; the monks gave blessings, and we stood together in praise of all the goodness our moms bring to our beloved Klong Toey. Photos by Guillaume Megevand. Photo gallery here.
Our children rushed home from school last Friday afternoon to receive a group of special guests – The US Third Marine Expeditionary Force Band – a traditional 12-piece military marching band of the highest caliber and spirit.
Most of us have heard near countless versions of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” but for our kids the song was new, refreshing, and exciting. (Also it was beautifully played.) A few of the many highlights:
- Our blind girls Nong Peh and Nong Fon not only heard their first Sousaphone; they also held onto it while it was being played and felt its sonorous vibrations!
- Our boy Galong danced up a storm. (He believes, perhaps quite rightly, that every upbeat tune is for dancing, and who are we to tell him otherwise?)
- The band invited our children to conduct a few songs, and they didn’t miss a beat.
- Our children returned the favor by performing music on their own traditional Thai instruments.
- The band played a gorgeous rendition of the classic R&B song “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" here in our Mercy Centre.
Finally, inevitably, chaos ruled. Galong persuaded the rest of our Mercy kids to join him on the dance floor. Photo gallery here.
This past week Israeli Ambassador H.E. Itzhak Shoham and his wife Madam Dalit Shoham made a special visit to our Mercy Centre to meet the students who attend our Janusz Korcack School for Street Children.
Honoring their visit, our Korczak school children performed a traditional Thai dance, and served food they prepared themselves and coffee brewed from their own Korczak coffee stand. Ambassador Shoham gave a Hebrew blessing for the children, their teachers, and their school.
The Ambassador’s visit sends a strong and positive message to the street children attending our Korczak school, letting them know that they are important - that their lives and their education are meaningful. His visit also strengthens our own teachers' love of teaching and guiding Bangkok’s poorest children.
Janusz Korczak, a hero to the people of Israel and Poland and children around the world, was a Polish-Jewish doctor, writer, and orphanage director, who pioneered the legal rights of children. In 1942, when his Jewish orphanage was removed to the Warsaw Ghetto, Janusz 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 is dedicated to the memory of Janusz Korczak and to the children in his care.
Photos: Above: Kindergarten children present a gift to Ambassador Shoham, whose embassy has helped connect 15 of our 22 preschools with computers and skype. Below, our Korczak children perform classical Thai dance.
In receiving his promotion to Second Lieutenant within the Port Authority Precinct of the Royal Thai Police, Khun Aumnaj Boonyamatee asked Fr. Joe to pin his new insignia to his police uniform. Of the many formal and informal ceremonial duties that Fr. Joe performs, he says that this one gave him great honor because Khun Aumnaj is a true slum hero: Second Lietenant Aumnaj works with our Mercy legal aid teams to protect the poorest and most vulnerable Klong Toey children.
Yesterday we celebrated the Songkran holiday – as we always do, according to Thai traditions – by giving honor to our elderly neighbors. Hundreds of Klong Toey slum grandmoms and granddads attended the ceremonies, led by the Monks from Wat Saphan, our local Temple. Fr. Joe and Sister Maria spoke to our elderly neighbors, thanking them for being the heart and soul of our beloved Klong Toey slum: “You gave birth to your children here,” Father Joe said, “and you raised your families here.... You are what make our slum a beautiful and holy place. We are what we are today because of you.”
We wish all our friends a very Happy Thai New Year! (Photo gallery here.)