It’s early afternoon as I write you – a day much like any other day at Mercy.
Our kids are all in school. Our patients are gossiping and laughing in the garden behind our hospice. Members of our slum women’s credit union come and go, depositing ten or twenty baht in their savings accounts and sharing news of their family with our social workers.
It’s sometimes difficult to put a precise measure on what happens here day-to-day. There are so many moments that don’t fall neatly into a statistic.
But the statistics we keep at Mercy Centre are meaningful, and I wish to share a few of them with you on this beautiful day:
2011 Statistics – The Scope of Mercy Outreach:
Children Receiving Assistance:
Mercy Centre Children: 237
Kindergarten Students 2,493
Education Sponsorships/Bangkok 621
Education Sponsorships/Sea Gypsies 387
Legal Aid Cases 1,177
Janusz Korcak School Students 32
Koh Lao students 50
HIV/AIDS Homecare 59
International College Students 12
AIDS Education and Outreach 1,505
Obtaining Birth/Identify Documents 125
Street children we protect daily 221
Adults and Families Receiving Assistance:
Credit Union Members 802
Hospice patients 123
HIV/AIDS Homecare Patients 365
AIDS Outreach at Government Hospitals 3,534
Koah Lao Sea Gypsy Project/Families 268
Janusz Korczak School/Adult Students 73
Elderly and indigent 103
New Homes and Repairs 13
One more statistic (I’ve saved the best for last): Twenty-four Mercy children were able to return home last year to live with their families.
From the first day a child joins our Mercy family, we begin to look for the child’s real family and explore ways to bring the child home.
Sometimes it takes years to reunite a family with a Mercy child, but we never give up. One 16-year-old Mercy boy named Boat thought he had no family at all. This week, for the first time, he met his Auntie and a half-sister. His story is so complicated it would take hundreds of pages to explain, but the most important point is this, as Boat himself explains: “I never thought I was anybody. I didn’t even have identity papers. Now I know who I am. I am somebody!”
Thank you, everyone, for your support. Please do visit our Mercy Centre. You are all a part of our Mercy family.
Usanee Janngeon and the Mercy Teams
When you visit a shack where poor children live, you'll find that they have next to nothing they can call their own: no toys, no books, not even a mattress to sleep on. Worst of all for the poorest of these children, they have no chance to go to school.
These children cannot afford school fees, books, uniforms, daily lunch or transportation. Their parents have no dependable income, and often collect recyclable garbage for daily rent and a few bowls of rice. In many cases, their parents have left them in the care of a destitute grandmom or auntie.
We send these kids to school.
We dig deep into our own pockets and find kind sponsors from around the world to make sure these children have a chance in life.
Last week over 300 of the poorest of these Bangkok slum children held their annual party at our Mercy Centre. The older children organized the party themselves; chose the gifts to give out to the younger children (most popular item – a bedroll); cooked and served the food; gave inspired speeches; and rallied their friends in a grand celebration of life – a celebration of going to school! (Photo gallery here.)
Following the floods that inundated Bangkok this past October, we initiated a comprehensive emergency relief campaign in several slum communities. With support from friends around the world, we were able to reach out to thousands of the poorest of the poor in desperate need, providing emergency assistance, food, lodging (in our preschools), and home repairs.
The scope of our emergency flood relief efforts:
Families Over 700
Emergency Packages: Over 1, 500
Bags (5 kgs/each) of Rice Over 1,000
Drinking Water: We supplied thousands of gallons of drinking water throughout the slums.
Kindergartens: several Mercy Kindergartens were affected and required major repairs, new furniture, teaching materials, and equipment. We are happy to report that all our schools remained open with some schools moving to temporary quarters on higher ground. Many students were transported to our schools by way of boats and rafts. Today all our schools are fully operational at their original sites.
We wish to thank all of you who supported our efforts!
On January 26, 2012, The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Thailand gave recognition to Fr. Joe and six other fighters for equality at its annual awards ceremony, held here in Bangkok.
The award recognizes national heroes who have the courage to stand up and fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves. Two of the seven recipients – labor activist Thanong Podiarn and lawyer Somchai Neelapjit – have disappeared and are presumed to have been killed in their struggle for equality.
In accepting his award, Fr. Joe spoke of what such recognition means: “This award,” he said, “is not about yesterday. It is about tomorrow. It means that you trust us to continue to do what is universally right. It gives us strength and courage to continue our struggles. It is a promise on our part – a promise to help defend the rights of street children and to make every effort to help every poor child and street kid in need, and to send them all to school.”
Father Joe continued, “Finally, this award recognizes that we are not alone in our struggles. It honors everyone who works and lives at our Mercy Centre. It is recognition that our teachers and social workers at Mercy Centre are the real heroes to all the throw-away children who live on the streets.”
Fr. Joe was the sole foreign-born Thai resident honored at the annual ceremony. Previously, he has received several lifetime achievement awards, most notably, in 2004, when Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand presented a lifetime achievement award to Fr. Joe as the foreign resident “who has contributed the most to the promotion of the status and protection of women and children in Thailand.”
Pictured above: Fr. Joe with fellow award recipient Patimoh Poh-I-Taeda-Oh of the Yala-based WePeace Group.
Last year we experienced horrifying civil strife in Bangkok. This year we have devastating floods. But no matter what is happening outside, in Mercy Centre our children rule the day, mostly with their laughter and smiles. For a glimpse into their everyday lives, please visit our new photo gallery here. All photos by Rick Ashley.