At the end of September, we had a team from New Zealand visiting us. During that week quite a few girls were already home from school either because their school had already closed for holidays or because they were in their final testing weeks and didn’t have to go to school every day. So, what do you do with a team of 16 people consisting of mostly 18/19-year-old youngsters? Neither the girls nor the staff know what to do with foreigners and especially not with foreigners who don’t speak a word of Thai. So, when these people begin to speak it is all English and then the girls and staff have to reply, which is quite scary. All the girls learn a bit of English at school and some of them are quite good, but it takes courage to actually start using it. It was great to see that some of the girls put in the effort to communicate with foreigners in a language not their own, although it went paired with a lot of giggling.
This team was here for a week working every day to help paint the living room, homework room, and the bedrooms at one of the houses. They worked really hard and they managed to finish the entire project. To wrap up the team’s time with us there was an evening of music, drama, and games which everyone really enjoyed.
At the end of August, we went out with all our colleagues. We didn’t have to go very far, but it was nice to be away from work and be in a place that had air conditioners. We invited a long-time friend to organize the day and he did a very good job. We learned a lot that day through music, singing, stories, skits, and games. How can you be a good team? How do you respect each other, think positively, enjoy and do your work responsibly? Something very important in this is that you know exactly what your tasks are and what is expected of you. It is also important to know what the goal is that you and your team are trying to attain, that you understand what the business or organization’s mission is. Your attitude in the team and in your relationships with your colleagues is of importance. These are just a few things that came up throughout that day.
We also got to enjoy a very delicious lunch during which we were able to talk about things other than work which was really good. After lunch, we got iced coffee from a colleague who now lives in Denmark. All in all, we are thankful for our team and the fact that we had a successful team building day.
We hope to be able to take what we learned and apply it to our job with the end result being the betterment of the care we give the girls.
Sometimes you have underlying problems that aren’t that obvious at first glance. If there were problems, then you soon forget those because the day has already started, but you’re still stuck with the question of why you are feeling so tired or why you are hurting all over. And when suddenly the penny drops, you can finally take action. It turns out that all the mattresses at Baan Phak Phing were due for replacement, both for the girls and the “mothers”. Around that same time, we received word from New Zealand that someone wanted to make a donation which ended up paying for 9 new mattresses. 9 girls can now sleep a whole lot better and are getting up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. We now have about 1/5th of the mattresses replaced with another 4/5ths to go. The mothers are also happy because well-rested girls mean a positive outlook on life which then influences the atmosphere and the girls’ performance in school.
The teenage girls who went to a camp last April had a kind of reunion recently. They got a chance to meet up with all their camp friends and leaders. This was due to a debriefing meeting following the camp. What did they think of the camp? How are they doing now? Would they like to go to a camp like this again next year? There was also time to play games together and to catch up and just have fun.
Most of the time the girls only go to visit family during the March-May holiday but this time some of the visits happened later. For one of the girls the visit was arranged after a close family member passed away and for the other girl it was moved due to planning issues. Often it is very emotional to see each other after a long time away. In some cases it is also very difficult to once again be in the place where the terrible things that were done to her occurred. A “mother” is always with the girls when they visit family to provide support and protection and creates a relationship with the girls’ family and the house she now lives in.
At the end of April we loaded up the trucks with everyone’s luggage to take a trip with the girls and staff. Altogether we had 38 people. We were going to Chiang Mai, about a 3-and-a-half-hour drive away. Sadly they are very busy working on the road making the trip longer than normal but the result should be worth the currently long trip. The first day we went to the zoo. It is a huge zoo that is constantly being developed. This time the aquarium and the panda enclosure were open, which 2 years ago wasn’t the case due to a power outage.
It was really hot at about 40 degrees Celsius causing us to seek shelter from the heat in a big mall in the area. The girls really enjoyed looking through the shops and buying food.
The next day we went to the royal gardens which was really beautiful. Next up was an amusement park with a toboggan run. For some of the girls this was a bit scary but once they got going they really enjoyed themselves and it was a small victory for them. That afternoon we went to a waterfall to cool off. It was a really beautiful area and the waterfall had multiple layers in which you could play. It was quite busy there as everyone was off from school and work and it was pretty hot. But the amount of people couldn’t deter us from having fun.
The last day we went to church and sang a song in front of the whole church, after which we stopped by the mall again before starting our journey home. Everyone had loads of fun and was therefore a successful trip. We want to thank the sponsors for making this trip possible!
It is now summer in Thailand, the schools are closed and the girls are at home. Luckily there are plenty of fun things to do. Most of the girls had the opportunity to go visit family, all the girls went to a camp, and towards the end of April we hope to be able to go on a short vacation with everyone. But the girls also have plenty of days at home in which they get to play games with each other and the mothers, color their hair and paint their nails, watch movies and decorate cooking aprons that will be given as presents to sponsors. We always try have a good time with the girls despite the insane heat right now.
At the beginning of the year we started creating a vegetable garden. Step by step we are planting more and more and we’ve already had a first harvest of radishes. Before we started planting we asked the staff of each house what they needed for their house. String beans, cabbage, tomatoes, chili peppers, herbs, cucumbers, etc. It’s already well on the way to looking like a real vegetable garden and we are already starting to see results. It would be nice if this helps us to be more self-sustaining.
She’s back for a bit! In 2017 we had a volunteer with us for that entire year and she spent her Saturdays teaching English and now she is back for 2 months. Each Saturday starting halfway through January till halfway through March the girls are being taught English. The girls are divided into 2 groups, those who are just starting to learn and those who are more advanced. They enjoy hanging out with the volunteer and learning English in a fun way. Sometimes the speaking of a new language can be a bit scary because you have to speak in front of others and you are hearing yourself speaking a language that you are not used to. We hope they can put aside their feelings of shame so they can really practice this new, and quite difficult, language that they are learning.
“Near the end of December we, the girls and “mothers”, had the opportunity to go on a special mission. We loaded up the trucks with presents, clothes, toiletries, and blankets and drove for more than an hour to reach the village in the mountains of Chiang Rai. The people that live in that village don’t have a lot, don’t know luxury, and live right on the poverty line. We got to share with the villagers part of the abundance we know at Baan Phak Phing. We, the girls, are normally on the receiving end but now we got to be the giving hand, making people happy and being a blessing to them.”
We hope the girls learned something from this opportunity. There are times for receiving and times for giving. We all have to learn to care about and take care of our “neighbors”.