More stories taken from my travel blog
Is May seriously coming to a close?! How times flies. Alas, I meant to put in this entry much earlier.
I have just gotten home after 3 weeks in Thailand and Cambodia. What a great road trip!
In Thailand I felt very privileged to have been invited to do some guest presentations for students from grade 5 to senior high school, leading up to Earth Day 2011. Doing a live presentation is like being a 1-hit wonder every single time!
Everyone was really nice, I met people I would never have crossed paths with either wise and it was definitely a great learning experience for me. I’m usually very, very concentrated before I’m on, but once I'm up on that stage, I'm just doing what I love to do and talking about matters I'm passionate about. So all my nerves melt away and I'm just living in that moment. I suppose it’s also that excitement and intensity I experience days before each event that keeps my adrenalin going and I love every minute of it!
More details about Earth Day 2011:
What goes around, comes around
I'm very proud to announce the first charity to be added into the greenerworks network- Rainbow House in Bangkok, Thailand. A few more charities will be included in the list as time goes by. The reason we are taking some time to choose our charities very closely is because we want to physically visit each location, view their facilities and get to know how they work.
It's very important to me that I physically know the people behind the charities and have seen their facilities for myself. This makes more sense to me when I’m helping to raise awareness for their causes during my upcoming expeditions and fundraising activities.
Our first charity is the Rainbow House/ CCD, which has been rehabilitating disabled children from poor families for over 20 years. It's a family run business. The Chairman is Kun Wasan Saenwian, with his wife Kun Chariya Saenwian, daughter Charika (Tarn) Saenwian and groups of local and foreign volunteers they depend very much on. With over 500 kids, some visit the Rainbow Centre, many others still live in slums on the outskirts of the city, I really have no idea how they manage with only 5 physiotherapists most of them on a volunteer basis.
I was fortunate enough to meet some of the amazing people who work at the Rainbow House after giving a simple presentation because it’s important that these kids get to learn and experience life the same as any other student. I’m really glad when I found out Kun Wasan shared this same view as me. At first I have to admit that I wasn't sure if the kids really understood what was going on especially since what I was saying needed to be translated into Thai for them. But when they suddenly got up on their feet and mimicked each other to walk like a penguin, I was very relieved and grabbed my little camera on the table to capture the brief moment.
When I was brought to the office by Kun Wasan and Kim (in the photo), the bubbly cute girl who put a red nose on me, Kun Chariya showed me a picture of the first boy who was adopted from the centre out of 38. His name is Pracha Sikhiow. Not only has he claimed the title of being the first adoptee but he has also become the first to graduate from college. He still lives with his adoptive Thai mum and American dad in Phuket, Thailand. Everyone was brimming with pride as they passed around the photo of Pracha standing in his graduation gown, with mum and dad by his side.
After my tour of the facilities, which included Kim showing me her classrooms and trying to bake something for me, I came to understand how the centre uses play-time, sensory methods and technology into their rehabilitation program. For a beautiful child like Kim, who has been getting treatment for her arm, the future is as bright as any child's. She is one of the lucky ones. Using programs like Skype has allowed her to interact with her future Irish parents. For a normal school, there is usually one curriculum that everyone has to go by, but here, it’s like every kid has to have a customised curriculum. During the Skype sessions, they show her where her new bedroom is, the toys just waiting for her to play with, and to create more opportunities for her to speak and learn English. Although I think Irish English is on a whole different level ha!
Next, we visit the boys making cloth mats and I get to see some of the amazing pictures of them from one of their magic performances pinned up on a notice board. On a normal workweek, they are in the workshop making mats for sale. And every Saturday, carrying their rice cooker to make lunch, they venture into the city centre to work at a tropical fish company packing fishes for export. Kun Wasan got them this job so that they would learn how to be independent, such as buying food from the market, cooking and travelling back and forth from the city centre.
Leaving the workshop, I was surprised to see a very lush green garden, perfectly maintained, with a rather new playground installed. Kun Wasan explained this was the favourite place of many of the kids especially when they felt sad or frustrated. He then told me a very inspiring story. Some time back, there was a young 18-year old British girl who volunteered at the centre for a few months. Upon returning home, she went on the game show ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ and actually won the top prize. So when the British media asked her what she was going to do with the money, she explained that she had just returned from Thailand and had a wonderful time at the Rainbow House. Shortly after, she contacted Kun Wasan and asked how she could continue to help. He asked her to help them acquire land to build the garden and that’s what she did. So they named it – Lydia’s Garden.
Lydia George is also the founder of 'FOR LIFE', the branch of CCD in the UK. www.4lifethailand.org
For Life, UK was established in 2004 to support CCD. This charity raises funds, awareness of the plight of the disabled children and sends volunteer workers from the UK to Thailand.
If this story wasn’t enough to poke at my heartstrings, the next one really added to my heightened emotions. During lunch, while enjoying my home cooked egg omelette and beef stew, I was introduced to a very special Thai lady, Chaluay Potter. Like Pracha, she was very fortunate to have been adopted by loving Aussie parents and grew up in Perth with a perfect Aussie accent. The downside was she couldn’t speak Thai anymore but had started taking lessons. I couldn’t resist and asked her how the locals react to her not being able to speak Thai. She smiled and said it wasn’t too awkward, they get very confused that’s all. Having recently moved back to Bangkok with her Aussie fiancée, they are now both teachers at an international school. Once they get settled down, they will start to volunteer at the Rainbow House with plans to adopt a child after they are married. I'm guessing Chaluay must be in her early 20s, she looks very young, but her maturity is definitely beyond her years. I happened to meet her because she had to go back to the centre to seek help obtaining a replacement Thai ID, which was lost when her bag got stolen the week before. Besides being a little flustered about getting her ID back, she is a very spirited, enthusiastic and happy young woman. One of the many 'happy endings' the centre has created over the years.
When my cab came, I shook Kun Wasan’s hand covering his with both my hands and I told him I was truly honoured to have met him and his family at Rainbow House.