If you had dropped by our Mercy Centre last Sunday, you would have seen something quite stunning, something even more beautiful than you could ever have imagined in a shelter for abandoned, abused, and orphaned children.
We held our 4th Annual Family Day for our Mercy children, and it was gorgeous. One-hundred-and-sixty-three family members attended this one-day celebration and workshop: tons of Moms and Dads, many out of jail, all of them full of hugs and kisses; even more Grandmoms and Granddads with pockets full of candy; Aunties and Uncles in glorious abundance; and a whole flock of brothers and sisters who are only just now getting to know their siblings at Mercy.
From the moment a new boy or girl arrives at our Mercy Centre, we start trying to get this child back home. In the meantime and for as long as a child is with us, we give all the love we can. Our children come to us feeling abandoned, damaged, and wounded, which means that a huge part of our love for these children must be in helping them to heal. Everyone who works at Mercy Centre - every cook, driver, teacher, security guard, homecare giver, hospice helper, social worker, our entire community service staff, absolutely everyone – thinks of and treats each child as his own, only perhaps more gently. The children call us Mom, Dad, Uncle or Auntie.
Yet no matter how much we love our children, nothing can replace the love of a real loving family… a mom brushing her young daughter’s hair or a dad teaching a toddler how to kick a ball.
So we try everything possible to keep families together. Often it takes just the repair of a single shack or occasional delivery of nutritious dry foods. (We furnish extra food and other simple necessities for 143 of the more than 500 families we visit in our HIV/AIDS Homecare Program.)
One family we recently visited had been living in a makeshift shack made mostly of cardboard and mildewed, waterlogged debris. To keep Mom, Dad, and Daughter together, we built them a sturdy, weather-proof shack with running water and a toilet, and found steady work for Dad as a parking lot security guard.
New boy at Mercy.
For our newest Mercy boy, Master Tone, there is no alternative right now apart from Mercy Centre.
An 8-year-old orphan, Tone had been living with his 83-year-old Grandpa in a bamboo shack on the outskirts of a remote village in Nokorn Pathom Province. Grandpa can’t walk and can’t provide or care for Tone the way Tone needs; and because he loves Tone and wants him to learn and play with other children, Grandpa asked us for help. It is a great honor for us to welcome Tone into our family. He will be going back to see Grandpa on the school holidays. More photos in gallery.
But what happens to children who apparently have no family and no documentation? Legally, these children don’t exist.
That was the case with a Thai boy named Bird, who came to us from the streets at age 8. He knew his nickname was Bird and that he once had a mother, that his mom left his dad and upcountry village and moved to Bangkok when he was four, that by age seven his mom was dead. By the time he came to live with us, holding no citizenship papers, no documentation at all, Bird had no right to live or go to school or ever hold a job in the country of his birth.
Bird stayed with us on holidays as a part of our family. During the school year, the government sent him to a special school/reformatory that allows stateless children to earn some rights of citizenship. Meanwhile, we never stopped looking for Bird’s family. We made over a dozen false starts and drove in many wrong directions on jeep-track roads to distant provinces and back again in search of Bird’s family. Eight years passed. Bird turned sixteen.
Eventually (by luck and sheer stubbornness) we found Bird’s home province, and from there his home district, and eventually the village leader of Bird’s village, who said that he remembered Bird, but that his mom had told everyone Bird had died. And then we found Bird’s Dad!
If you’re confused about this story, imagine how Bird feels.
Oh, and a few weeks later, Bird finally received his citizenship documents.
Here’s a quick overview of recent Mercy highlights.
Legal Aid and Anti-trafficking Centre for Street Children. We continue to oversee more than 60 cases per month, spanning every crime from murder to trespassing, with a focus on child protection cases. In the last two months we represented children in twenty-three cases of sexual and physical abuse and abandonment.
Hospice. Our newest projects aim to move our patients from hospice to homecare and include work therapy (sewing), and income generation (preparing tiger balm for sale). To measure the impact of these new projects and all our HIV/AIDS programs, we are starting to work closely with university research centers, collecting and analyzing data, measuring results, and adjusting each program accordingly for continuous improvement
Our Korczak School for street children – Lek, age fourteen, is the newest student enrolled in our Korczak School. Typical of street kids, he has no documents, no known parents, no rights to citizenship, and no right to attend school. Together with a kindly old man who has looked after him for many years, Lek picks through recylable garbage to earn a living on the streets. Our legal aid centre is now searching for his documents.
Please write and visit. We always miss our friends. Friends make our world go ‘round at Mercy Centre. Friends and Family.
Uanee Janngeon and Mercy Team