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…

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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!

Thailand Adventure: Day 1

(delayed post from Sunday)

After a Long but smooth flight we land at Bangkok International to be greeted by James, Lizzie and Lily – James and his wife Rachel are long term CCD volunteers and are in the process of officially adopting their daughter Lily, who was a resident at Rainbow House (CCD’s children’s home). Lizzie is James’ sister and another long term volunteer – she’s brilliant t have around.

Then a long drive I two taxis to Pakkred, via Rachel and James’ house to pick up Rachel, to arrive at Rainbow House, hidden away behind a main street. It’s amazing – a beautiful place with really good facilities – much better than I was expecting. A gym suite and big soft play room, classrooms for the kids and good volunteer accommodation. The best bit? Air Con. It was 29 degrees when we landed and very overcast. Cooler than expected but with hot sticky air that makes you feel clammy all over. 

Time at RH for a good sit-down and a chat with James and Rachel – plus some play time with Lily, who is completely gorgeous and surprisingly good a Angry Birds in the iPhone. They are such a lovely family and very happy to act as our hosts for our stay here and to give us travelling tips and assistance for the last week of our stay. They will probably be here for the next two years while they finalise their adoption of Lily, who suffers from cerebral palsy and deafness, though her disability doesn’t hold her back at all from being very engaging and sociable. 

After the chitchat and sit down we decide it’s time to grab a bite to eat and make our way down past the wat (temple) to the river, where there’s a big restaurant with live music – all western songs sung in English, to an ok standard. James knows what’s good on the menu so orders a range of dishes for us all to share. The food is wonderful. There’s Tom yum soup, chicken with cashews, pak pak and more rice than you could imagine. 

A great first day – it certainly hasn’t been the culture shock I was expecting. I instantly felt comfortable where we are – the people are lovely, the work of CCD is inspiring and I can’t wait to become a part of it.

Tomorrow – Induction!

Waiting to board

(delayed post from Saturday eve)

Just a quick note before we jump on the plane. All well so far, other than me forgetting to pack my shoes – doh! Unless I can get some new ones I’ll be sweating away in walking boots for three weeks. 

We are all here chatting away and getting ready but it still feels a bit surreal. By the time we land it’ll be Sunday afternoon and I don’t doubt a big culture shock awaits. Exciting. Scary. Still feel unprepared, but hopefully we’ll manage to leave all unnecessary baggage behind before departure and let God guide our path and our hearts….

Getting ready to fly…

It’s now less than 48 hours until we’re due to fly out to Bangkok to begin our time with CCD and I don’t mind saying that I’m not sure I’m fully prepared. I’ve read the fantastic Lonely Pakkred guide written by the wonderful guys at For Life (the UK charity that supports CCD with funding, awareness-raising and volunteer staff). We’ve done our training. I’ve got my rucksack ready, I’ve done my shopping and got my currency…but I’m not sure that I’m totally prepared.

It’s hard to know what awaits us as we go out there, but it was great to be able to meet up with some of the guys tonight to spend some time sharing and praying together.

It’s a weird time for all of us – Jim and I have just moved house and both Ruth and Sarah and their families are preparing to move too. Matt has begun a new job and is battling a knee injury, Louise has been slaving away at work and Tim’s been furiously writing essays to hand in before we depart and we’re all wondering what the next two weeks might hold.

But tonight we prayed that God would be in all we do – guiding, encouraging, supporting us and giving us understanding and wisdom. Two weeks isn’t a long time by anyone’s standards but all of us are praying and hoping that we can make it count and make a difference, however small that may be.

I feel really excited and priviledged to be travelling with such a fantastic group of people who are so devoted to hearing and following God’s call.

Let’s see where it takes us…