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

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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.

Baan Feung Fah

Today was a really good experience, though perhaps a little strange. We arrived at Baan Feung Fah around 10am and were guided to an outdoor stage area where we were to hold a ‘concert’ for the children. In reality, this meant playing some songs, doing some actions and dancing about with the kids. About 100 children were brought out to see us and Ruth, Matt, Sarah and Tim did a simply amazing job, performing song after song after song. In an hour we covered everything from ‘Jesus’ love is very wonderful’ to ‘if I were a butterfly’ and everything in between.

And the rest of us – Louise, Jim and I (as well as the others when they weren’t playing) danced and we danced hard. Jumping about with the kids, singing, clapping and swinging them around – great fun. Most of the children were very excited to take part and seemed to have boundless energy in the heat. We ended up Dripping. With. Sweat. Ick.

BFF is a government orphanage housing disabled children from birth until 7 years old, so it was strange to see so many seemingly ‘normal’ children in an orphanage for disabled children. While some have obvious physical disabilities (and obviously there are many disabilities that aren’t visually apparent), many of them didn’t seem to be disabled in the way we might define the term. Tan, CCD’s volunteer coordinator, explained that it’s difficult to come to England and talk about attitudes towards disability in Thailand, when then British understanding is so different. It’s not unusual for a child to end up in BFF or the homes for older disabled children simply because they have a cleft lip or a port wine birthmark. Unfortunately, once they’re in these institutions their development often becomes seriously delayed and their problems become more pronounced as they grow older, making it more difficult for them to live a ‘normal’ life. All I can say is thank God for the work of CCD.

CCD also run a daycare centre at BFF, where some of the residents go for physic, fun and to get fed and showered. We were there for lunchtime and helped some of the children who aren’t able to eat independently – noodles on the menu, followed by ice-cream – yum!

Them it was nap time and time for us to grab a bite too – we had a great lunch at a restaurant in the nearby Centre for Deaf People (Thailand seems a bit random like that – I love it!). When we got back we washed our CCD t-shirts ready to do it all again tomorrow at Rajawadee Girls – a home for older disabled girls and women from the age of 8 onwards.

We had put the washing out to dry on the roof and just sat down to dinner only for the heavens to open in an epic downpour. Drat. Let’s hope things dry overnight…

Eaten alive

Yesterday was the day of many mossies (or one extremely active one). Two of us have been bitten on the face and the rest of us have just been generally feasted on. 

But yesterday was also a great day as we started working with the children at Rainbow House. Most of the residents go to school during the day, so the only residents here were Don and Naung. They were joined for daycare by residents from the government homes and the day kicked off with singing the national anthem, a prayer and morning exercises (led expertly by Don). Then we played some songs and made some music with them, dancing about and doing the actions. After a quick snack we divided into two groups, with some going to the classroom and others to the soft play area. In the soft play area Matt, Tim and I spent most f the time being pelted with balls from the ball pool while Jim spent an hour rocking Naung on a big soft upside-down rainbow – Naung loved perching right on the edge so it looked like he would fall off at any second. 

After lunch all the children have a nap and then a quick snack followed by a shower, before it’s time to head back to the government homes. It’s a good solid routine and Sarah, a speech therapist volunteer who is here from Ulster, is planning to spend her month working out how to integrate decision-making into it, so that each child has to make at least one choice during the day. 

The little girl I spent most of the day with, Fon (sp?) was mostly interested in playing with my hair. She is blind and enjoyed rubbing her face in my ponytail – a very good reason to have a bad hair day! She was also very sleepy and fell asleep on me three or four times, which I found a little worrying. As she is very new to the centre, the guys at RH don’t know an awful lot about her or her needs, so it will take some time to figure out how best to help her develop. 

The clouds have finally cleared and today is much hotter and very humid – the ipad is steaming up as I write this. Today we are off to Baan Feung Fah – a government home for younger children with disabilities. This morning we are to put on a concert for some of the children there (or at least those of us who are more musically inclined – the rest of us will dance and muck about with the kids). In the afternoon we’ll be working at the daycare centre there, where some of the residents come for physio, general care and lots of fun. 

Really looking forward to it, but very aware that some of the conditions we witness may be upsetting and challenging. Praying that God will give us wisdom, understanding and strength today. 

Induction Day

Thankfully a very relaxed day today. Though we all had a long sleep last night our bodies are still pretty confused about what time it is as Thailand is 7 hours ahead of the UK.

After a late breakfast it’s time for our induction chat with James. he runs through with us the work and vision of CCD, which is very wide-ranging. The charity started by working with the government orphanages for disabled children who have been abandoned. There are three of these – one for young children, one for boys and one for girls, though the latter two are really for men and women as the residents often stay there to the ends of their lives. There CCD runs music therapy and other kinds of activities for the ‘children’, both through daycare centres and on the wards themselves. CCD also has it’s own children’s home – Rainbow House. Many of the RH residentS attend school, so while they’re out during the day, residents from the government homes come in to RH for daycare, which can involve anything from education to soft play to hydrotherapy. Tomorrow we’ll be playing some music with them.

On top of this, CCD also has three community projects, which help and support the patents of disabled children to keep the kids in their home by offing advice, support and by linking them up with other parents in the same situation. James told us how these projects are especially exciting because you can see a bit difference to the lives of these families very quickly, while the work in the government homes is much more ‘slow-burn’.

We also got to have a long chat with Wassan, who is the director of CCD and is clearly very passionate and committed. I’m hoping to do an audio interview with Wassan later in the week when he gets back from a social camp for the parents of disabled children.

After our induction it was time for another great Thai meal – joined by James, Rachel, Lizzie and Lily as well as Chee Cha (sp?) a little girl who is resident at RH. CC was so much fun, playing games with us in the taxi and sharing our meal with huge enthusiasm (as well as a surprisingly large appetite for one so tiny!). Photos to follow when we get chance.

We are all v excited about tomorrow when we start working with the children in Rainbow House. It’s gonna be an early start though, so time to turn in – night all!