The floods have not yet receded in any of our communities, but we are doing what we can now, today, and will do much more tomorrow and in the days to come. With your support, we are reaching out to the poorest families devastated by the floods, providing care packages, emergency supplies, food, rice, and whatever it takes to regularize people’s lives – to get the moms and dads back to work and the children back to school.
Several Mercy kindergartens have been flooded, including our schools in Landin, Suyai, Rimkong Watsaphan, and Lad Prao. Wherever possible, we are securing spaces on higher ground to open up temporary kindergartens. Photo gallery here.
I promised a "flood update: in a few hours to you good folks with email My apologies to you my brothers and sisters whom I didn't then send a letter by ordinary mail. Anyway, the email, was four days ago when I wrote you all that our
Charity 30 Oct Teenage Rock Stars Concert... was... to use an American Baseball term: "Cancelled because of rain." (flooding really)
Today the flood picture is a bit more in focus. Here goes.
Name: Gradmother Ngiam
Occupation: Grandma Ngiam is recognized as one of the finest embroiderers and dressmakers in our “70 Rai” neighborhood. She has been creating intricately beautiful embroideries since a young child. Today she helps make traditional Thai clothing and hand-made bags and purses for our Women’s Group. We sell traditional Thai products made by Grandma Ngiam and other group members to local residents and wholesalers as a way to give our members extra income.
Grandma Ngiam says that she is too old to use a machine, and thus she stitches every piece by hand.
Family: She currently lives with a cousin here in our 70 Rai neighborhood. She has several children living in the provinces, especially in her home province of Saraburi.
Her Position in Our Women’s Group: Grandmom Ngiam is one of 687 Mercy Women’s Group Members. Her primary reason for joining is to save money at a favorable savings rate, and to take out loans, if necessary, at a low interest rate.
She comes to work at Mercy Centre whenever she wishes, and we are grateful because we always need her skills.
More About our Women’s Group: Our Women’s Group serves to financially empower poor women, primarily the elderly, who are the heads of large, extended families. When our members need to take out loans, they can come to us rather than local loan sharks, who charge usurious rates that are often impossible to pay back.
Reasons for Taking Out Loans: Emergencies; school fees for children and grandchildren; housing (fixing a leaking roof or installing a toilet), unforeseen monthly expenses (health problems, funerals, etc.); and paying back loans of family members, especially loans made by loan sharks. The average Women's Group loan is approximately $250.
Photo below: Malika, who manages our Women's Groups, displays a selection of items for sale. (More photos at Women's Group Gallery here.)
How are you today, my Brother? Sister, how is your family? Do you have enough to eat? Do you need medicine? Are your children going to school?
Father Joe and Sister Maria would ask these questions to every slum neighbor they met every day, starting forty years ago when they first came to the Slaughterhouse in Klong Toey.
Some slum neighbors answered they were hungry, so Fr. Joe and Sister Maria gave them nutritious food with small sacks of rice. Others were sick, so Fr. Joe found a good doctor and started Bangkok’s first mobile medical clinic in the slums. To the question, “Are your children going to school?” nobody ever said “yes.”
Father Joe and Sister Maria opened Mercy’s first slum kindergarten in the Slaughterhouse in 1972 . It would be the first of dozens of Mercy Kindergartens to spring up beside bridges and railway tracks throughout the slums. Over 40,000 children have graduated from our Mercy schools!
A Role Model KindergartenLast month the Thai Ministry of Education named our Lock 6 Mercy Kindergarten a Role Model School for poor children, based on the quality of its teaching, student development, and administration. This award for excellence means that the Thai government will be using the lessons we’ve learned over the past 40 years in the operation of hundreds of government slum schools throughout Thailand.
What happens to those girls who sell flowers on the streets and in the bars and restaurants in Bangkok? They come and they go. But where do they sleep? Who cares for them? What happens to them when they are too old to be flower girls?
Father Joe wrote a story about one such girl from his Parish in the Slaughterhouse neighborhood - a lady now in her thirties who sold flowers in the Pat Pong sex district beginning at age five. The article, written in 2004, is titled, "When Flower Girls Grow Up," and you can read it here.
Recently a documentary filmmaker, James Linwood, has returned to this story. We want to share with you a short clip (only about one minute long) that James put together about the flower girls of Bangkok. Fr. Joe narrates. You can watch it here.
So many new Mercy children! Please welcome our brothers and sisters who have joined our Mercy family since the New Year: Wat, Ole, Gof, Noa, Sai, Game, Film Paipha, Paimon, Boom, Cat, Peh, Bai Tong, and Champoo Also new to our family, two babies under six months old – Nong San and Nong Luckee – plus Nong Fai, photos below.
That makes 17 new children in all. Abandoned, abused, orphaned, they are now safe and well looked after as they face brave new challenges at Mercy. A couple of examples: Nong Bai Tong (Miss Banana Leaf) and Nong Champoo (Miss Rose Apple), both age 3 and joining Mercy just weeks apart, are ready for theses challenges. They are learning to play and share for the first time, which involves strong clashes of wills and torrents of tears in the lessons learned, but they are already best friends for life. (Photo Gallery: New Mercy Kids.)
One of our boys, Master Ek, age 15, has been a part of our family for 8 years. For at least one year he was miserable, always spoiling for a fight and always losing in the end. But we knew he was a good kid. His own father never had more than a few pennies, yet when Master Ek found a 1,000 baht note ($33) in a school hallway, he immediately gave it to his teacher. When Master Ek’s father died last year, Fr. Joe asked if we could do anything for him during the ceremonies. So Ek thought a moment and replied, “I want all the Mercy kids to have pizza.” Twenty pizzas were delivered that evening.
Recently Master Ek earned a Bronze Medal in a citywide Thai boxing tournament. Now he’s the pride of his school! And he doesn’t fight outside the ring any more.