i know, i skipped days 3 & 4. here they are in a nutshell.
on the third day we traveled. from pattaya to bangkok by bus and then from bangkok to chiang mai by plane.
on the fourth day we visited the compassion thailand office where we learned all the ins and outs of how compassion thailand gets the job done. one of the things we saw was the letter writing/translation area. i mention this area because the compassion blog just had a very timely post come out about letter translators in thailand and the process they go through. after the office tour we had lunch with the compassion thailand staff and then in the afternoon there was a visit to another project. but i missed the project visit, because of a schedule conflict.
and that brings us to the fifth day – the day everyone was anxiously waiting for. they got to meet their sponsor child(ren). and as big a day as it was for the sponsors it was exponentially bigger for the kids. for many it involved their first bus ride and their first night in a hotel. for some it was their first night in an actual bed. and to top it all off they were going to meet the person who they had come to know through letters and had seen in pictures. i couldn’t even begin to fathom the nerves and excitement and who knows what other feelings these kids were experiencing.
this day was organized by the compassion thai staff. and they did an amazing job. from the original introductions. (which actually begin on day four when we had lunch with the thai staff. many of the sponsors had the person who was to be their translator at their table. so identifying the group they needed to meet up with on fun day was much easier.)
to the games that helped to break the ice and to move everyone quickly from awkward introductions to teammates.
and then on to the afternoon where they could choose to hang out together at the botanic gardens or go into town to a big market. it was an amazing day. everyone went their separate ways mid afternoon to take a few hours to prepare for the evening’s dinner. this time allowed for the sponsors and kids to process the day and gave the kids time to talk things over with their parent or guardian who accompanied them during the day.
at the appointed time i made my way back to the hotel to meet the sponsors and head out to the dinner. the sponsors had been given the instruction to wear a cultural costume to the dinner and they went all out. this is just a sampling of the costumes.
we ate dinner and then it was time to showcase the many talents of the kids and the one talent of the sponsors. the kids were amazing. they sang, danced and played instruments. and the sponsors sang. but they did it with gusto.
as the evening was drawing to an end, you could feel everyone’s moods shifting – from joy and happiness to dread and sorrow. the staff had arranged a nice closing activity. they provided khom loys for each group to release. and the lighting of and waiting to release the lanterns allowed for a nice transition.
after the lanterns were released tears were shed and good-byes were said. and every one left changed. because no longer were they just sponsor and child, they were family. in the few hours they shared together their hearts were mended together. that might sound sappy, but, as a witness to it all, it’s very much what i saw happen. i truly was honored to be part of this day and share in the experiences of these compassion international sponsors.