In late October 2016, along with my two northern Thailand Rotary colleagues, Carol and George, I visited the Sisters of Providence for the first time. Located in the northern town of Chiang Saen, these Sisters have done some remarkable work during their five short years in the country. Led by the energetic Sr. Janda Garcia da Costa (from Brazil) and joined by three other Sisters from Myanmar and Thailand they concentrate their efforts on caring for and providing educational opportunities for at-risk, marginalized hill tribe girls (mostly Akha) from remote villages in this northern region of Thailand.
Up until now they have been operating out of various rented facilities and making do with whatever resources they could muster to take care of the 20 girls residing with them. Recently, however, they were able to purchase two rai (approximately one acre) of suitable land centrally located in Chiang Saen.
Almost miraculously, in a relatively short period of time, they have managed to raise 4,500,000 Thai Baht (about US$130,000) to construct a brand new residence hall for the girls. They did this on their own with a calendar project. An amazing display of innovative, creative fundraising.
As I toured their new building and saw the three large rooms to accommodate a total of 24 girls, and another room for the two Sisters in residence, I was impressed with the quality and workmanship of what they were able to build for the budget they had available. I can safely say this is the finest quality construction that I’ve seen on such a building anywhere in SE Asia.
In addition to the sleeping rooms, they have a beautiful great room for eating, study, and related group activities.
(Can you tell that I was impressed with both the design of the building and the quality of construction?)
Construction is now about 95% complete, but the necessary furnishings are only about 15% along the way. The potential for this new facility is clearly evident. However, they still need some help to get ready for occupancy. More about that shortly.
Walking around the grounds I could see the vision and energy of these Sisters coming to life. What was once raw land is now a very well planned campus. As you enter the property the potential for expanding the residence facilities is evident, including an open, second-floor vestibule opening all ready to become a passageway from the new building to the next one, yet to be built.
As the five of us (Carol, George, Sr. Janda, Sr, Margarite, and I) sat around the table consuming a delicious, multi-ethnic (Thai, Akha, Burmese, and Italian) meal our wide ranging conversation included many subjects, most of which centered around self-sufficiency, growth, expansion, and better serving the needs of the girls they care for. I would not be surprised to soon see a restaurant and cooking school on this property, among other innovative ways to increase their self-sufficiency.
Speaking of food, Sr. Janda served us a Passion Fruit Pie for desert (passion fruit straight from their own garden).
This was not just good; it was absolutely, make your brains fall out, delicious. So when Sr. Janda asked me if I liked it I could not resist teasing her that I liked this pie so much that I needed it in my life. So I quipped: “will you marry me?” Laughingly, she quickly replied that she was already married, and equally quickly Carol reminded me that I was also. Nevertheless, it looks like this pie is destined to be called the “Marry Me” pie from this day forward.
We need to help the Sisters get this facility ready for move in before their current rented facilities must be vacated in March. Ideally, we could help them get settled in before the end of this year, or perhaps in early January.
The needs here are not huge. Another 350,000 Baht (~$10,000) would get them the rest of the bunk beds, bedding, closets, cabinets, shelving, and related furniture they need. Another $3,000 would equip their “ready for installation” laundry facility. And, another $5,000 would enable them to equip their beautiful new kitchen with the pots, pans, cooking utensils, dishes, cups, glasses, flatware, and everything else a normal kitchen and eating area needs. Throwing in another $2,000 for contingencies brings the “move in budget” to $20,000.
The SE Asia Foundation is poised to help here. To encourage some of the other Rotary Clubs in the region to participate, we’ve offered to match (at 50%) all Rotary contributions of at least 50,000 baht (about $1,500) until the $20,000 budget is attained.
In fact, we’ll make the same offer to those of you reading this blog post. Contribute a minimum of $1,000 and we’ll match it at the same 50% rate.
Let’s get this one done. It’s guaranteed to change the lives of many girls in the years ahead.
100% of your donation will go directly to this project. Nothing is taken for fundraising or administrative expenses. You may donate here.