Last Saturday, May 7th, our house moms, house dads, and all our Mercy children held a goodbye party for nine children. Six children are joining their real families while three are now age twenty and wish to start out on their own in life.
Reuniting children with families often takes years of outreach. Many Mercy kids have no parents. Or their parents are in jail. Or addicted to drugs. But these children do have aunts, uncles, and grandparents who can and will love them as family.
A few examples: One boy, Em, who has been a part of our family at Mercy for ten of his sixteen years, will be joining his Grandmom in Bangkok. Another boy, Geng, age sixteen, also a ten-year veteran of Mercy, will be joining his Uncle in Chonburi and attending vocational school in computers. Ti Noi, age 13, is being adopted by the Thai family who took care of him for years before he joined us. Kwang, age sixteen, has joined her Grandparents in Nakorn Pathom. Jangjao, age sixteen, is now living with her aunt.
Our goodbye celebration was all about family. We shared in our children’s joy; gave them farewell presents (giant hand-painted pillows signed by every Mercy kid); wished them every blessing in life along with lots of encouragement; and reminded them that they always have a second family here at Mercy.
Today is the first day of the new school year at our 22 slum preschools. Over 2,500 children are enrolled, including over 800 children who are entering their first year of classes. For those first-year kids, this is the first day of school ever!
It's also the first day they’ve ever been separated from their moms and grandmoms. Tears were flowing freely throughout the morning. And we expect more tears in the mornings and afternoons ahead. It’s the same every year. But by the second week, the new kids get the hang of it; and their tears turn into giggles, laughter, and pure, unadulterated enthusiasum as they approach each new lesson of the day. (Photo above – second-year students are happy to be back in class; photo below – a first-year student thinks her world is over.) Photo gallery here.
This Saturday, April 30, the US Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Kristie Anne Kenney and friends from the US Embassy visited our Mercy Centre to join hands with our children. As our children guided their guests on a tour of Mercy Centre, H.E. Ambassador Kenney took special time in the Mercy Graphic Arts Room to help paint batiks with our children and made a special stop in their Computer Centre, observing how our children are gaining skills through learning software. Following the tour, Ambassador Kenney, our guests and friends from the US Embassy, all our children, plus their house moms and house dads joined together to make art, draw pictures, and dedicate the day, like every day at Mercy Centre, to the strength and joy in every child’s heart. (Photo above, Ambassador Kenney, guests and our Mercy children; photo below, with our triplets, Fon, Fah, and Fai. More photos here.)
For the past three years, we have been working together with a poor community of ethnic Mokan (sea gypsies) living on Koh Lao, an island in Ranong Province. This traditionally seafaring community must now make their homes on the land, where they struggle for most necessities, including food, water, basic health care, and the education of their children. They also struggle for recognition as residents and citizens in their country. We don’t want them to lose their culture and religion as sea gypsies. but we also want them to take part in the most important Thai family holidays. Last week we joined with the village to celebrate a traditional Thai New Year. As pictured above and below, the children gently poured water over the hands of each village elder; and the elders placed their hands on the head of each passing child, wishing each one a world of joy, health, and happiness throughout the New Year.
During the New Year holidays, our Street Teacher Kru Nang, our staff psychologist Ms. Aw, and our friends from the Child Welfare Ministry in Bangkok traveled to Ranong to help the Koh Lao village children: to teach them how to play, to create, to imagine, and most of all, to celebrate the joy of being children. (Please visit our photo gallery here.)
Over 500 Bangkok children are currently enrolled in our Education Sponsorship Program. These are among the poorest children in Bangkok – children who could never afford the most basic school necessities without the support they receive from our education sponsors. These children are also at a very high risk of HIV, starting in their teenage years.
Last week we brought together all the teenagers – over 100 in total – to participate in AIDS education seminars at Mercy Centre. They were given the facts; they joined in role-playing exercises; they played games and contests. We came at them directly, indirectly, and from effective angle to teach them about HIV prevention. Our education teams also conduct seminars, geared to each audience, in high schools in high risk communities as well as after school in our kindergartens for the parents and guardians of all our kindergarten students.
During a world tour sponsored by the International Peace Foundation, the renowned Clown Reinhard visited Mercy last Saturday and performed in front of a tough and demanding crowd of 100 Mercy children. Yet as tough and demanding as our kids normally are, it didn’t take Clown Reinhard long to win them over. In fact, the moment he appeared, introduced himself, sat down on a chair, and fell on his behind, he had our children in stitches. Several young boys and girls were rolling on the floor with laughter (see photo below). After the show, Clown Reinhard gave a playful clown workshop for our kids. Photo gallery (more children's smiles) here.