Matt & Anna on Radio Kent

Matt and I talk with Radio Kent’s Martin Buchanan about our experiences on the Team Thailand trip in August 2011 and share some of the interviews we collected out there.

Click here to listen to the interview. 

Used with kind permission of BBC Radio Kent.

Producer: Ian Harkness
Presenter: Martin Buchanan
Interviewees: Matt Gates and Anna Drew

Photo by Lizzie Hadell

Team Thailand

Watch this space for more Thailand interviews and pictures!

Last Working Day at RH

Yesterday was the team’s last working day at Rainbow House – we can’t believe how the time has gone so quickly!

The day started with ‘music therapy’ with the daycare kids plus Neung, who’s a resident here at RH. The inverted commas are because it’s not really music therapy in the sense we might use the term back home – more like ‘playing instrumenst and doing silly actions therapy’ – but it was brilliant all the same. The kids especialy enjoyed the game we played with the stretchy red material, stretching it between us all and bouncing a ball up and down on it (and, frequently, off it and onto someone’s head).

After lunch it was time for our farewell – CCD makes a huge fuss of all it’s volunteers when they leave, which can feel quite strange if you’ve only been here two weeks. We were sharing the occaision with Emma, who was here for 10 months and DJ (previously mentioned – a former resident of RH, here for 2 months). They gave us crowns of flowers, showed photo presentations of our time here, giving us gifts and cards and a certificate and a HUGE photo of the team each (not sure what we’ll do with that but it’s a brilliant picture – Tim looks AWESOME, like he’s the boss of all of us…) All a bit overwhelming!

The there was to interview James and Rachel about their decision to adopt Lily, before we headed into angkok for farewell drinks at the Saxophone Bar – an awesome pub with fantastic live music in the heart of Bangkok. The kind of place I’d isit all the time if it was in London.

Today we’re off to explore Ko Kret – an island on the river, where James and Rachel used to live. Then it’s be a debrief, some worship and prayer andour final bits and pieces of packing. On Saturday Jim and I fly to Chiang Mai to start our final week of travel and the others head home for family reunions (I know there’ll be tears!) What a journey!

Jim and I get back on 20 August and there’ll be little or no blogging in the meantime, but photos, video and audio to go up after we get back, so watch this space!

Last day in Government Homes

Today was the last day of our trip for visiting the gov homes, so first we went to Baan Fueng Faa to play some music in the daycare centre and help with showers and lunchtime. After that, a quick lunch at the Foundation for the Blind (plain rice for me – settling my tummy after food poisoning), followed by some time at Rajawadee Girls, making more music, with Matt at his musical best getting everyone involved in games and actions. It was great to see the ‘girls’ again and I recognised some of them from the wards we visited last week – the CCD daycare centre at RG is a really lovely, positive environment. Sadly, before we knew it the bus turned up to collect us and take us back to Rainbow House on the return school run.

There we had some time for an afternoon nap (heaven!) and I also got chance to interview DJ (aka Chariya). DJ is one of CCD’s sucess stories. Abandoned as a baby, she ended up in Baan Fueng Faa very young, but was selected by CCD to come and live at Rainbow House. From there she was adopted by a Scottish couple at the age of 3. She’s returned for just a few weeks and has really loved coming back to this place that once was her home. I’m hoping to put all the audio from the interviews online after I return home and get chance to edit them (end August).

Tomorrow is our last day in Rainbow House before Jim and I go travelling and the others fly home. None of us can believe that it’s gone so fast but we hope we can continue to support CCD when we return – if nothing else, they certainly deserve and need our prayers.

Nonthaphum

(delayed post from Monday due to sickness)

On Monday it was back to work with a visit to play some music at Nonthaphum – a mixed government home for older children. This was particularly special bcause CCD is not usually permitted to do any kind of work at Nonthaphum. So we sang some songs and played with the kids and it was great. So great, in fact, that CCD have now been invited back to play music with the kids every Friday afternoon. Chuffed to bits! It’s nice to leave something positive behind, even if it’s only a small thing.

In the afternoon we had time to explore Pakkred a bit more, with Jim, Ruth, Sarah and I taking a wander through the local markets – the food market was AMAZING – I wanted to walk round for hours just looking at all the food.

In the evening we went off for dinner with the usual crowd, plus May (who will be working one-to-one with Lily at her school) and Krit, a young boy who lives at Rainbow House. A lovely meal, but sadly it resulted in food poisoning for myself and Lily…

Eaten Alive: Part II

Jim, Tim, Ruth, Sarah and I had a fantastic time in Kanchanaburi on Saturday. Up early for our tour, we first visited the Erawan National Park and went to the Seven Steps waterfall. It’s so hard to put into words how beautiful this place was but it was incredibly gorgeous. One of God’s finest works. We walked up to the fourth step, where Ruth, Jim and I swam in the clear cool water (with Jim sliding down the rocks into the pool like a monkey). The pools are full of fish – the kind you see in the ‘Fish Pedicure’ shops, only MUCH bigger. But they still like to eat your feet – it’s extremely wierd and made me squeal. Everyone else was much more grown-up about it, with Ruth winning the ‘calmist fish pedicure’ award (and Sarah a very close second).

After that it was elephant riding and bamboo rafting down the River Kwai – both totally brilliant and best expressed in pictures so I won’t go into detail (though Tim looked exceptionally regal on an elephant). Then onto the Death Railway Bridge and the train to Kanchanburi. Unfortunately this stalled for 1.5 hours due to another train being derailed, so we had a rather hot and frustrating journey, but the scenery more than made up for it. From Kanchanaburi, Tim, Jim and I headed back to Pakkred as Tim was drumming in church this morning. The journey was pretty hairy as the minibus driver appeared to be either derranged or on speed. Or Both. I thought we might not make it to Bangkok alive. Ruth and Sarah stayed on to take a Thai cookery course – they were kind enough to bring back a doggy bag for the rest of us – YUM!!

Sunday (today) was great too – church, followed by Starbucks (hurrah!) and swimming, then a spot of shopping. As well as our fantastic hosts James, Rachel and Lily, we were also joined by Don, a seven-year old resident at Rainbow House. Don is brilliant – chatty, active and demanding. He has a problem with his legs which means he can’t walk without his frame, but with the help of physio he should eventually walk unaided. Seeing children like Don flourish really affirms the essential, lifegiving and wonderful work of CCD.

Tomorow: another ‘concert’ at another government home. Bring it on!

Rajawadee Boys – WHOAH hokey kokey!

(delayed post from Friday, due to wifi problems)

Last night we had the honour of joining the long-term volunteers for their weekly Bible-study group at James and Rachel’s place in Pakkred. Matt lead us in a reflection and some worship and we shared in a time of prayer. It was good to have fellowship and understanding after a day that some of us had found quite tough. Sadly, Jim was still in bed feeling rotten, but we prayed for him and the next day he was feeling well enough to join us for the trip to Rajawadee Boy’s Home. Again, many of the residents are not boys by any stretch of the imagination as they simply have nowhere else to go.

They were a fantastic crowd and joined in heartily with all the actions. The circle dancing was a hot favourite, with mine and Lizzie’s group literally throwing themselves into the Hokey Kokey, which was more like a srather good-natured street scrap at times!

We weren’t able to visit any of the wards or the onsite CCD daycare centre(there’s also one of those at RG) as ‘Felang’ (foreigners) aren’t usually allowed to enter RB at all – only Thai CCD staff are permitted to visit and work there. So it was a priviledge to be there at all.

We got back to RH by 11:30 – plenty of time to prep for the weekend off. Ruth, Sarah, Tim, Jim and I are heading up to Kanchanaburi for the night. We’ll arrive this evening by bus and then tomorrow will be waterfalls, elephants, bbamboo rafting and the bridge over the River Kwai (apparently pronounced ‘Kware’). Louise and Matt will take the opportunity to catch up with James and Rachel, with whome they’ve been friends for many years. They’ll also venture into Bangkok to check out Chatachak Market.

Before we disappear off the the weekend I have also had time to do a ahort radio interview with Khun Wassan, who is the Director of CCD (‘Khun’ is an honourary term given to people who are superior in status – unlike Britain, Thailand is a status-based society). He is fascinating and I could listen to him talk about the work of CCD for hours, but 20 mins will have to suffice as he’s jetting off to Australia to launch a support network for CCD called “Friends of Ziba”.

Rajawadee Girls

(delayed post from Thursday, due to wifi problems)

Today we’re a man down – Jim’s got a rotten streaming cold and so had to stay at Rainbow House for the day. The rest of us jumped onto the CCD bus with our guitars, tambourines and dancing shoes to go and make some music for the girls and women living at the government home. Rajawadee Girls (RG) houses abandoned disabled girls, most of whom come through to RG from Baan Fueng Fah when they reach the age of seven.

Many stay their whole lives as they have nowhere else to go, so ‘girls’ is probably not the correct term. Some of those at our were definitley women, so it felt strange singing mainly children’s songs (with lots of actions) with them, but they visibly enjoyed it, loved the contact and the dancing and they really joined in. Dancing in circles was especially popular – particularly the Hokey Kokey which was CHAOS! :oD

Some residents were transfixed watching Tim drumming away at the front and I had to call him over to explain his tatoos and piercings to them. They were fascinated and horrified simultaneously! Those tats have proved a brilliant talking point with strangers since before Tim left Heathrow…

After the ‘concert’ we went to Yellow Ward, which is home for some of the residents who suffer from Cerebral Palsy. We helped with lunchtime there, feeding those unable to feed themselves, talking to them handing thei hands and just sitting with them. About halfway through a whole load of army officers came in – apparently touring the facility. They chatted with us briefly and moved on.

Next we went to Pink Ward, for residents with mental disabilites (though as many have no formal diagnosis, this is quite difficult to pin down).

After that, some of us stayed on to visit Green, where the residents mostly have Downs Syndrome. This was great – the ‘girls’ were engaging, fun and chatty, but were also very happy to just chill out with us, so we could rest our dancing feet for a while. Phew.

Today was tough for lots of reasons, but I cling to the text from a beautiful mural painted on the outside walls at Rainbow House. It has a big, colourful rainbow and written each side of it (in Thai and English) it says: ‘God Keeps His Promises’. Amen.