This past January the girls and staff had the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and do something for others. First, they spent a morning cleaning up the trash in our village. Everyone grabbed a trash bag and gloves and started cleaning. The streets quickly looked a lot cleaner and in the process the girls learned about serving others.
During Christmas the girls and “mothers” went to a mountain village where some of the “mothers” live to help the people there prepare for a big Christmas party, to sing carols, and to hand out blankets to the poor people there. The blankets are a welcome gift in December as it is now cold season and the temperature drops by 25+ degrees Celsius from what it normally is. This means that if you don’t have a heater you are very happy with anything else that can keep you warm. The girls have seen that there are people who need help and they got a chance to offer a helping hand by handing out blankets.
The girls live at Baan Phak Phing because they themselves need help as well. That isn’t always easy for them. They would much rather be living with their parents if it was safe for them to be there. But even if you need help yourself you can still help others who are in need. This is the lesson that the “mothers” tried to teach the girls through these days of service. We hope that it will stick in the hearts of the girls and that throughout the rest of their lives they will be aware of how they may serve others.
While some of the mothers of Baan Phak Phing are busy with the preparations for the Christmas party, the others are playing games with all the girls. It is only December 10th when this takes place and so it is quite early to celebrate Christmas. The Christmas season is a busy time in Thailand and Christmas is celebrated in many places and people often get invited to multiple celebrations. That is why we decided to move the Christmas party up to the 10th of December this year to make sure that everyone could be there.
The weather is beautiful, the grass has been nicely cut short and everyone is looking forward to the games and later the celebration. The teams are divided and then they start with first an eating relay-race: eat a banana as quickly as possible and drink lemonade. Then stick your head in a box with flour to find a piece of candy, and lastly try to blow up a balloon until it explodes. In another game the girls had to walk, as a group, across the field on one set of skis. In addition to the games we also had a face painting station.
It was a wonderful morning, and everyone had a lot of fun.
After eating lunch together, the girls helped with the decorations and the preparations for dinner. Girls who used to live at Baan Phak Phing, as well their partners and children, the “mothers’” families, and some of our neighbors were invited and came to join us for our Christmas celebration. Having everyone we know together like that is always very special.
First we ate dinner and had a chance to catch up with each other. Then we sang together, listened to the story of Christmas and performed all sorts of dances, songs and skits. At the end of the evening we handed out gifts to the girls and the mothers. Although giving presents is not the most important thing in the world, it is a great blessing to be able to do this. We are grateful to everyone who loves Baan Phak Phing and made an extra donation for Christmas to make this celebration possible.
The wind starts blowing, the sky is getting darker, a storm is coming. Then the rain starts, softly at first, but then becomes harder and harder. Every time you think it can’t rain any harder it does just that. Then suddenly you feel a drop on your head. Where did that come from? Then another one hits, and you look up. There, right above you is a small hole in the ceiling, “oh, that’s not good.” But it is the middle of the night, so you decide to just grab a bucket to at least prevent the room from flooding. Later more holes are discovered, and you end up with a bunch of buckets all around the room. Something really needs to be done!
Partway through September we have a whole week of beautiful weather and we can work on the roof. The roof tiles are replaced, and everything gets “glued” together and painted. After that week the rain starts again but now everything stays dry inside.
After the roof repair we start working on the bedroom, hallway, and living room because this hasn’t been done in years. Initially it looks like a disaster but slowly the girls start to see how beautiful it will become. They are very happy with the result: it’s as if they have a brand-new house. Some of the girls even get the chance to help put in the new ceiling tiles.
Every Friday night we end the week with all the girls together. We play games, share about our week, watch a movie, or go to the night market together.
Recently a visiting team put together a program on one of those Friday nights for the girls. They sang songs together, played games, shared testimonies, and danced together. For one of the games the girls were split into groups of 3. They had to work together to get one of them dressed as nicely as possible with a roll of toilet paper and a roll of tape. Toilet paper is quite fragile so there were some problems getting things the way they wanted. Nonetheless they managed to create some beautiful outfits. Some made a long, tight skirt which was a disaster when going up the steps of the stage. This didn’t stop them from having fun and they all got prizes for their outfits.
The girls had so much fun while dancing that the following morning they looked up the song and started dancing again.
We are thankful that the team spent the evening having fun with the girls. Thank You!
Christine Overeem, the founder of Baan Phak Phing, came to the Netherlands in August on furlough. She left Harderwijk, the Netherlands 30 years ago to move to Thailand but the connection to Harderwijk has always remained. A few days after her arrival she had an appointment with someone in Harderwijk. Before she could get to the agreed location the other person called and asked her to meet at the city hall. A group of about 50 of her friends, family, and people connected with Baan Phak Phing were there to surprise her. The Mayor was there to receive her after which he proceeded to give her a Royal Award in the King’s name for the work that she started in Thailand and the 30 years of service to help the vulnerable girls who live at Baan Phak Phing. When Christine was asked about how she felt, she said, “I am happy to have received the award but that is not what this is and has been about. It has always been about the work that we get to do in Thailand.”
The local government hospital in Chiang Rai organized 2 days of creative activities for girls from two locations, where girls live with similar backgrounds. A total of 60 girls were invited including the girls from Baan Phak Phing. These days were partly organized by a team of psychologists that Baan Phak Phing works with. This meant that several of the girls already knew them and this gave them a chance to get to know more girls from other locations as well.
The goal was to give the girls an awesome and relaxing time in which they could learn new things, get to know each other and have fun.
The girls made masks, played with clay, played games, and painted t-shirts. When the t-shirts were done they got to take them home. It was a wonderful two days and the girls enjoyed it tremendously.
Having fun and relaxing is important but we also hope that creativity can help the girls develop, discover their talents, and help them express what goes on inside of them. These are small steps in processing their past and building towards their new future.
For the girls this was the first time something like this was done in their own language and the first time it was done by people in the area. We are thankful for this initiative.
Every year we have a day we call “Family Day” where the girls’ family members can come visit. They come to see how their daughter/niece/granddaughter is doing at Baan Phak Phing. They get to see what life here looks like and get to know the staff and other girls. There is also an opportunity for them to ask questions and eat together. It is always a very good day.
Why have a Family Day?
The girls who live at Baan Phak Phing do not have a safe home situation. Their families cannot provide the required safety due to the circumstances they reside in. This is horrible but the family is thankful that at Baan Phak Phing there is a safe place for their daughter/niece/granddaughter to live. We believe that family relationships are very important for the girls’ wellbeing which is why we have these Family Days and are always open for contact with the family. During the summer break the staff also spend many hours on the road taking the girls to visit relatives.
For some girls this day is very hard because they do not have a family or they are unable to come. This reality is very difficult and hard to accept sometimes. This is why we try to make it a fun day for everyone by watching a movie, doing crafts, or going somewhere fun. This year we can look back on a successful day.
On the 20th of April 3 Dutch ladies: Lydia, Anita, and Jedidja arrived in Chiang Rai to run a summer camp. Here is a report of their experiences.
We tremendously enjoyed hanging out with the girls at Baan Phak Phing during the summer camp!
The first day began by making sock puppets that the girls later used during their English lesson. It was super cool to see how creative everyone is.
Thereafter the girls were split into three different groups. Lydia did all kinds of creative things with the girls like painting and making necklaces. All the girls were very proud of their creations.
Anita taught the girls English through games and songs. They learned new words by sticking sticky notes on kitchen utensils and machines. At the end of the two weeks we got to hear everything they had learned in the final performance.
Jedidja taught the girls how to play the recorder. She was amazed at how fast they were able to pick it up. Without being able to communicate using language it is still possible to learn to play a musical instrument. It was great to see the girls so enthusiastic and to be able to hear everything during the final performance.
On the Dutch holiday called Koningsdag (King’s day) we had a big celebration at Baan Phak Phing. Flags were painted on faces and everyone put something orange in their hair. We had a lot of fun playing Old Dutch games with the girls and to finish it all off we had Dutch pancakes made by Peter and Tatjana.
We are thankful for all the people who gave towards this camp because this allowed us to take the girls out for dinner to Thai barbeque (หมูกระทะ) with loads of food and ice cream after. We also got to take the girls to a just recently opened waterpark nearby and they had an amazing time.
Another day the girls took us with them on a trip to the local zoo and one of the many waterfalls. The water at the waterfall was cold but everyone still went in for a swim.
Each day the staff prepared an amazing lunch for everyone to eat and most nights we got to join the different houses for dinner. This was a beautiful opportunity to get a taste of life at Baan Phak Phing.
We had an awesome time here, enjoyed everyone’s company and got to see the delighted looks on the girls’ faces.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported us with finances and/or in prayer.
It is summer break! There is a coming and going of girls who are visiting family and coming back again. Those who are staying at home are enjoying the break from school and help with the chores that need to happen and help with cooking food as well. Working together is always more fun than doing it alone and it leaves more time to do other fun things, like swimming, watching movies, or playing games. In Thailand eating together is very important and a lot of time is spent on it.
An American volunteer who is teaching English here is in turn also being taught by the staff and the girls. Cooking is one of the things they are teaching her as American and Thai food are two entirely different things. Even preparing the ingredients and using a knife are different but everyone gets the job done in their own way.
Finally it is time to tuck in and the food disappears in short order!
There are many things that need to “keep running” for example: an old car, a laundry machine, a computer, a business or even a project like Baan Phak Phing. Here we are actually talking about many little things but it all comes down to one thing… keeping the project up and running.
“How does a project like Baan Phak Phing keep running”, you might ask yourself.
Everything that happens in and around the houses of Baan Phak Phing happens because of donations from people who want and can contribute to helping the girls who live with us. Girls who have gone through horrible things despite their young age and who have no safe place to live. These girls have found a new home in Baan Phak Phing where they have a family (mothers/staff and sisters) that cares about them, a roof over their head, a bed to sleep in, food to eat and a school to go to. Some people give one time donations, but there are others that have been faithfully sponsoring us monthly for the past 25 years and the people in both of these categories are amazing! They are the reason we can take care of the girls and their futures.
It is not always easy to live on donations because they are not a stable source of income but for the past 25 years, with ups and downs, we have been able to help many girls. In the same way we recently got a special donation to buy new computers and it came just in time because 3 of the computers had decided to quit. The office work was not able to continue because of this and the girls had to share a single computer between the 10 of them. This is just one example of the many times when donations came in at just the right time!
This is why we as staff at Baan Phak Phing, the board in the Netherlands, and all of the girls want to express how incredibly grateful we are for all the donations that have come in over the years and of which we hope they will continue to do so in the future. Thanks to you who were and are prepared to help, there are so many girls who have already received help and are currently receiving help.