on the eight day – samoeng, chaing mai province

i honestly have no idea how close to our scheduled time we were in the vans and on the road.  but, if i were gonna guess, i’d guess we were a little late.  and then we were a little nauseous.  or at least i was.

because, as the bird flies, the distance between samoeng and chiang mai is not so far.  but, as the van drives and the road curves, the drive was forever 2+ hours.

i have no idea where the road in this picture is,
but it’s almost as curvy as the road we were on.

eventually, we did arrive.  and thanks to big pharma and their thoughtfulness in manufacturing diphenhydramine i could still walk and talk and participate.

when we got out of the vans one of the first sights we saw was a board covered with the pictures of all the kids in the project.  i was amazed by the vast number of pictures on the board.  and then i was further amazed when the program manager said that all but 4 – i’m pretty sure he said 4 – of these kids have sponsors.

the villages this project serves are predominately populated by karen peoples and hmong peoples.  and the main project operates several satellite facilities – the kids on this billboard are from all the facilities combined.

our focus for this project visit was compassion international‘s child survival program.

to learn more about this program we visited the home of this young mother and her 11 month old son.  she lives with her husband and his father.  her husband is currently working in the strawberry fields several hours away.  she shared with us how she and her son benefit from the child survival program and the dreams she has for her son.

the child survival program’s goal is to save the lives of young, at-risk children by providing:

  • Nutritious food supplements
  • Immunizations
  • Ongoing health care
  • Physical, emotional and spiritual development

and to offer the children’s mothers:

  • Prenatal care
  • Health care
  • Nutritional training
  • Parenting skills training
  • Spiritual nurturing

but beyond those things she benefits from the community that’s been built among her, her son and the other 51 mothers and babies that participate in this program.

on the seventh day – chiang rai

today we returned to chiang rai. and, once again, we left pretty close to the time our itinerary said we should. sort of.

we got to the village a little after church was supposed to start.  at least they kept telling us it was only a little after, however i suspect it was actually a lot after.  but they kindly waited for us before they began the service.

we had an excellent morning of worship.  the pastor and his wife – she’s also the project manager – led the music.  the kids sang, we sang and we all sang together.  most of the worship songs they sang were familiar to me.  they sang in thai, we sang in english and there is something about that i really enjoy – two different languages mingled in the same song – i find it quite powerful.

after the service we were again served an amazing lunch.  and then we set out on home visits.  for the second time the child sponsorship program was being highlighted for us, but this time in a different context.  a program run in a village is quite different than one in an urban setting.  and in this particular lahu village most of the villagers are strict animists.  the project manager and project volunteers have worked hard at building relationships and gaining the trust of the community.  many of the adults, especially the children’s parents, are accepting and involved with the ministry.  they are glad to be able to partner with the project and to see the positive improvements that the compassion program has brought for their kids and the community.

three people lived in the home we visited; father, daughter – who is a sponsored child, and son – who is in the program, but isn’t currently sponsored.  joining us on our home visit were several of the neighbor kids, all curious to see what was going on and to join in when they could.

the mother in this family passed away last year and the father has done his best to keep the family afloat.  he makes a living farming rice and as a laborer and he shares household chores with his 12 year old daughter.  because of the child sponsorship program his children are provided opportunities aimed at “preparing them with the skills and knowledge required to assume adulthood, including activities that will make the community a better place to live.”  but what that really means for him is that his children can attend school and will most likely attend for several more years than they would have without a compassion program in their village.  and, because of a water filtration system that is now in their community made possible because of civ funds provided by compassion, his children have access to clean water and won’t be susceptible to the constant threat of waterborne illness .

and then there are the many opportunities for the project staff and volunteers and even the occasional outsider like us to share the love of Jesus within this village – loving and helping people where they are – a great opportunity to practice loving your neighbor as you love yourself (matthew 22:37).

when it came time to say goodbye many of the project kids and volunteers made their way to where our vans were parked.  it was a bit of a farewell party and very bittersweet.  it was lovely to spend two days working and visiting with these kids and their families.

on the afternoon of the sixth day – chiang rai

we were still in chaing rai.

we pick up just after lunch.  a very good lunch.  prepared by the very capable hands of some of the project volunteers.  we are now headed off for the real work.  still fun work, but definately more dangerous.

we split into three groups.  group destroy, group grow and group build.  (i’m taking some liberties here, because those aren’t the official names.)

group destroy was turned lose with machetes and sent to “mow” a hill.

and, just in case you’re wondering, yes, that is a group of young boys with their machetes.  they were very good with them.  much better, and probably safer, than us newbies.

we did have an actual machette accident.  of course, it wasn’t caused by the machette, but it did happen while holding the machete.  and, if team destroy being turned lose with machettes wasn’t dangerous enough, we also had fire!

team grow was a much gentler group.  it was their job to take vines, very similar to the ones we were machete mowing, and plant them so they could take over the hillside a little lower down.

team build had the job of helping to complete a kitchen.  just the walls.  i don’t think they were really load bearing walls, because it appeared the frame work, that had been done prior to our arrival, was doing all the support.  that was some very good planning.

every job we were given to do there were children helping us.  and they worked hard.  no dilly dallying on their part.  no matter how hard we tried, we could not outwork those kids.  they were amazing.  and they knew exactly what they were doing.  they knew to stear clear of those of us who had machetes. they knew not to interfere with the ladies doing the planting – they recognized expertise when they saw it.  and they knew a bucket brigade was the way to get the building job done, even though our guys were totally gung-ho for carrying the rocks to be mixed with the cement a bucket at a time.

we finished in the early evening and when it was time to go we had the easiest parting of the entire trip.  mainly because we knew we were headed back to the same project the next day for  worship and home visits.  we were dirty, and we smelled – some more than others – and we were tired.  but it was an awesome day.

on the morning of the sixth day – chiang rai

we (me and the crew on the compassion international sponsor tour) were up and out almost as early as the itinerary said we should be.  go us.  we headed to chiang rai and it took us…

2 hours.

today was work day.  fun work, but tiring.  in the morning we helped with the project’s saturday program.  we did a bit of a vacation bible school thing.  music, art, games, and a bible story.  the sponsors and tour leaders were amazingly organized.  they’d planned before the trip what they would be doing and who would be leading what area.  the music ladies brought plastic flutes, sticks, empty oatmeal tubs, and boxes of candy to use as rhythm instruments.

the arts team organized coloring pages and crayons. and the sports team had games and energy.


i know, these pictures aren’t actually of art or sports. but these folks all participated. i’m only one person and one camera. 😉

and the bible story team was ready to go with a play.

this is dorcas tabitha.  and dorcas tabitha is sewing clothes and handy things for widows with a really, really long thread.  a thread that is almost so long it looks like she could tip over trying to pull it through.  but she doesn’t, because she is a very good seamstress and she knows just how much thread she will need.

~

one day dorcas tabitha dies. i don’t know if she was really as surprised as she looks – because she had been sick, but, since i don’t know how sick she really was, maybe it was a sudden death.  dorcas’ tabitha’s friends were heart-broken.  they just happened to be  lounging at the railings behind tabitha and were able to quickly move into action.

~

okay, so it’s possible that one friend may have moved into action sooner (so soon i didn’t get her head in the shot), but possibly the other was so overcome with grief she found herself frozen in place.  but it didn’t take long for them to realize what they had to do.  after they prepared her body that is.

~

they called on peter.  and peter, when he saw their grief, sent them from the room.  (even though it looks like they are still in the same room, they weren’t.) once peter was alone with dorcas tabitha he prayed to God and then he told her to get up!  and she did.  he had to help her a little.  because she was old and she had been dead, she was probably a little weak.

~

once dorcas tabitha was upright, she was spry as a spring chicken.  look at the air she gets with that jump!  and when her friends returned to the room there was great celebration.  and probably some shock, because i think i’d be shocked if my dead friend weren’t dead anymore.  (but you have to imagine all that, because i was so stunned by dorcas’ tabitha’s spryness i quit taking pictures.)

 

 

~
since there’s really no good way to transition from peter resurrecting dorcas tabitha i’mjust gonna stop here for now.  tomorrow’s post will be a continuation of the sixth day.  and it has the potential for real and actual danger.

on the fifth day – fun day

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.

on the second day – prachinburi

day two had us loading up into vans and heading to a compassion international project located in the prachinburi province of eastern thailand.  it was about a two hour drive (we quickly learned that loading up into the vans would almost always equal a two hour drive.)

  • day 1 – bangkok to pattaya (2+ hours)
  • day 2 – pattaya to prachinburi (2+ hours), prachinburi to pattaya (2+ hours)

we arrived a bit late – that was sort of a theme for us – and were warmly welcomed and enjoyed a lunch prepared for us by the project volunteers that included some of the best kaeng khiao wan kai i’ve had in a very long time.

after lunch we were introduced to the project manager and many of the volunteers.

these guys work tirelessly to ensure the success of this project

at this project we learned more about the child sponsorship program (csp) and the complimentary intervention fund (civ).  child sponsorship is why most of the group i was traveling with had signed up for this trip.  they each sponsor at least one child in thailand and trips like this allow them to meet the child(ren) they’ve been supporting and corresponding with.  the complimentary intervention funds are funds that are applied for by compassion projects to help with a need outside the scope of the sponsorship program.

so we could get a better understanding of csp we split into three groups to do home visits.  our group headed to a nearby neighborhood.  this neighborhood is located along the banks of the bang pakong river and floods almost every year at some point during the rainy season.

we visited a home that has twin boys who are in the sponsorship program.  they live at home with their grandmother, who is quite frail, an uncle and an older sibling.  the uncle is normally the income provider, but he is sick at this time and unable to work.

their home is in need of structural repair.  the annual flooding has taken it’s toll on the beams that support the floor causing the back half of the house to be very unstable.  the boys are healthy and strong.  they attend school and have been identified as good leaders among their group and are being mentored to encourage their leadership skills.  they take part in the progams at the project and they attend church.  without the compassion project it is very likely that these 14 year old boys would have had to quit school so that they could help support the family.

after home visits we returned to the project.  many of the children were out of school and hanging out at the project. the school they attend is located very near, but the area isn’t safe so they cut through the project to avoid the surrounding streets.  the project also has a shelter home for children who are not able to live at home, mainly because of abuse.

this project applied for and received civ funds from korea.  these funds are being used to help support the renovation of the project buildings in order to expand the space for the children’s classes.

i didn’t get a picture of the current space they have for the kids, but it is quite small and greatly limits what they are able to do.

i was greatly impressed by the organization of this project.  having never visited a project, i really didn’t know what to expect.  this was the only inner city project i visited on this trip.  it had a much different feel than the others and had done a very good job of assessing the needs of these kids and planning a program that accomplished the mission of compassion international in a meaningful way that truly benefited the children and their families.

too quickly it was time to load up in the vans and head back to pattaya.  we took time to pray with the project manager and volunteers and then said our farewells.   i don’t normally try to sell things on my blog, but compassion international’s child sponsorship program is absolutely amazing.  when they say “you can change the course of a child’s life” they mean it.  i would encourage anyone everyone who is able to do it.  today.