Some street kids call her “Teacher.” Others, especially the younger ones, call her “Mom.” To many kids who have known her for years, she takes on the honorific title of “Big Sister.”
Ms. Narisaraporn Asiphong, a long-time Mercy social worker, is a trusted friend to every street child she meets in her daily rounds of the Sanam Luang, Saphan Phut, and Rim Klong Lawt neighborhoods.
This past week she received further recognition and a new title, this time not among the kids themselves but rather among her peers, at the “Professor Pakorn Aungsusing Foundation” annual award ceremony. Her title for the award ceremony: “Best Street Social Worker in Action.”
Ms. Narisaporn will do everything within her reach to protect her street children and find them a safe haven. She reunites children with grandparents and family; finds her children safe day-jobs; enters them in schools, the monkhood, or wherever they may get a second chance at being children. She makes arrangements for their weddings, for the birth of their children, and sadly, all too often, for their funerals.
We know how remarkable Ms. Narisaporn really is; and we feel justly proud that others, both her children and professional peers, feel the same way.
On Mothers Day, the children in her care always bring her flowers.
More about Ms. Narisaporn and our social workers here.
Since we opened our first preschool forty-one years ago, we’ve built and operated dozens more. We build them in the poorest neighborhoods, where children have no access to a preschool education and no place to learn their Thai ABC’s or play with other children. Today, counting our Mokan “sea gypsy” school in Ranong, we operate 23 kindergartens for poor children, with a total enrollment over 2,500 students and an alumni population approaching 45,000.
Not one of our schools has ever stood alone like an island in the slums. Woven deep into the fabric of everyday life, our preschools are the liveliest spots in their neighborhoods – always at the very center of a small but teeming and pulsating universe. From early morning to late afternoon every school day, our children’s voices can be heard reverberating in song and cheer up and down the narrow pathways surrounding each kindergarten.
When the bell rings at the end of each school day, and all the moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas come to to pick up their children, our schools become the central meeting place in the slums, a place where people share neighborhood news and gossip. On weekends our schools hold wedding parties, holiday celebrations, and informal “town hall” discussions. Our social workers do much of their outreach from our kindergartens. During floods and emergencies, our preschools double as shelters.
This morning over 300 slum kids, ages three to seven, battled for victory in their first ever team competition during our Mercy Kindergarten Sports Day. The kids were divided into two teams – The Pink and The Blue – in contests that ranged from relay races and musical-chairs to tug-of-war face-offs. The cheers and chants were deafening!
The only glitch of the day happened during the relay races because both The Pink and The Blue had a bit of trouble passing the batons to their teammates. After several false starts, The Pink eventually won. The Blue surged back, though, in the tug of war; and both teams earned top honors in musical chairs. The contests ended with each kindergarten student receiving a victory medal, a present, and an ice cream cone: a lovely first lesson in the joys of camaraderie.
Then all the children returned to their classrooms to take a well-earned afternoon nap. Photo gallery here.