January – February 2015 SEAF Trip
February 28, 2015

After bidding farewell to the TWCCTW group I headed back to BKK for a day and then on up north to Chiang Rai. So … as Paul Harvey used to say (I know some of you are old enough to know who Paul Harvey was)… Here is the “rest of the story” …

My first stop was to visit Jit at Baan Saan Rak. You may recall that this is the place that was damaged so badly in the 6.0 earthquake last May. In conjunction with my friend Carol Acosta and her local Rotary Club we were able to fund a complete teardown and rebuilding of their main activity center. Construction is progressing nicely as you can see from this photo. It’s exciting to see all that good work happening so rapidly.

Another volunteer group has just finished building a new Library for BSR. Awesome, I think. Here it is with construction about 90% finished.

And, here’s a look at the finished interior.

The last “big” need at BSR is for one more building to replace the volunteer/guest house that had to be torn down after the earthquake. We already have the funding for that so Its now just a matter of getting the plans finalized and arranging the construction schedule so as to avoid the difficulties that inevitably accompany the rainy season.

All of that, along with another grant we recently made to fix roofs, improve shower facilities, strengthen beds for the kids, and a few other odds and ends, and we’ll have Baan Saan Rak up and running again in pretty good shape.

The following day it was off to visit Sr. Lena and her Girls Boarding School in Phan. My big surprise there was finding the trafficked young girls that I’ve previously written about. That post is here. This one really touches my heart.

It was also gratifying to know that Wiraporn (pictured here with me) will be back in university soon and that Ming and Malee are doing fine with their studies. I’m really proud of the support we’ve gotten from so many donors thereby enabling these three girls to continue their education at the local university. You know who you are — so “thank you” for your support here.

The following day I took the three-hour bus ride from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai where I spent most of the next day visiting with Sr. Anurak and getting up to speed on recent developments at the Wildflower Home. With our “seed grant” it looks like we’re well on our way to building a new 25-bed facility for the women they take care of there. The report on that visit I previously sent to all donors is here.

Along with my friends in Chiang Mai, Cheron Gelber and husband Jim, I got to attend a meeting of the Chiang Mai Expat Club and got introduced to the local Rotary President. Looking forward to a visit to their club meeting during an upcoming visit.

From Chiang Mai it was on to Pattaya for a couple of days where, among other things, I was able to spend some time with my friend Somkiat (Paul) at the Pattaya Orphanage. Unlike so many of the care facilities in Asia that call themselves “orphanages”, but are actually housing kids that have living parents that are simply unable to care for them, this place is truly an orphanage. Currently they are caring for about 130 orphaned children ranging from newborn to attending university. Many of the children they care for are eventually adopted; those that are not are nurtured and educated to the limits of their abilities, which in some cases includes university.

Here I am next to the statue of Father Ray, founder of the Pattaya Orphanage

In addition to all this, they also run an innovative school for the deaf. On the day I was there the deaf students were getting a first-hand experience in planting a garden. Truly a fine place.

Soon I was back to Bangkok to connect with my colleague from Ashland, OR, Roi Crouch.
That Saturday was a big day as we attended the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Good Shepherd Sisters presence in Thailand. It was a gala affair, with a special recognition for Sister Louise and Sister Joan who were each celebrating 60 years of service in the order.

Here they are right in the middle of this photo.
Imagine that – 60 years of service and still going strong!

As one of those interesting “coincidences” that the universe serves up from time to time it was there at that 50th anniversary celebration that I just happened to meet Fr. Doroteo Reyes, the lead person coordinating Laos/Thailand efforts to deal with regional human trafficking issues. Turned out that we knew the same people at VFI in Laos and were working on some of the same cross-border issues that I wrote about in my previous TWCCTW report. It’ll be interesting to see how this new connection develops into greater opportunities for assisting these unfortunate individuals.
The following morning Roi and I were up and ready to go for an early (6AM! Ugh!) flight from Bangkok to Denpasar, Bali where we led a two-day workshop for 22 leaders from the Widhya Asih Foundation. We called the workshop “Developing and Maintaining a Sustainable Resource Engine”. Naturally, it included important elements of fund raising, but in the larger context we spent important time on leadership, individual initiative, community connections and integration, volunteer recruitment and retention, outreach programs, public relations, and the like.

Here’s Roi in action. She was awesome.

We even staged a real fundraising challenge so the five groups could practice their newly acquired skills in a competitive environment. Here’s a photo of the happy winners.

We spent two very full – and delightful – days with this dedicated, hard working group of people. What a pleasure that was.

Departing Denpasar, Roi headed off to do some follow-up work with the Sisters in Nong Khai and I returned to Bangkok for a couple of meetings before heading back home.

All in all another interesting, productive trip.

Life is good – at least for some of us it is.

Others need a bit of help – and together – we can provide exactly that ☺