This year we were able to have a Christmas celebration a Baan Phak Phing again. This year we had the celebration on Sunday, December 18th, in the morning, so several girls who lived here could come with their entire families. Most of them work on Saturdays and it is difficult for them to travel with their children during the evening as well. Quite a number of former girls were present; some single and some with husband and children. Christine Overeem, founder of Baan Phak Phing, was also present. When all former girls were on stage and talking, I couldn’t help but look at Christine and realize that all this was very special. We are so proud of all those women who have been successful in life, who haven’t given up and who still like to come back to their ‘home’. Each and every one of them were very thankful for what Baan Phak Phing has meant for them. For us, as a team of ‘mothers’, this was the best Christmas present we could get and we hope that the stories of the former girls have been encouraging for the girls who live with us now.
Yes, the title contains the word ‘new’ but this article is not about the New Year that is coming. Is about meeting a former colleague and about attending the marriage ceremony of a new colleague.
There are no special occasions in Thailand that are not accompanied by an elaborate meal, whether it is a wedding, a funeral, a housewarming party or the welcoming of an old friend or colleague. A good meal is always part of the deal. We don’t really mind because in Thailand they sure know how to cook great food.
When it comes to the wedding: the girls all worked hard to organize the party. All the girls of the house where the bride works had studied a dance to perform. When they started the dance we wondered where the bride was, because she seemed to be too late and had to miss the dance. But very soon, this turned out to be part of the show because the bride entered the stage as well to dance with the other girls. She and the girls had studied the dance together, which we did not know.
About our former colleague: she has been living abroad with her husband for years and now she was around, she wanted to give all the girls and employees a special treat, a Thai barbecue. We all enjoyed it very much, especially the people who knew the former colleague from the past.
“Help, help, there is a fire!” or: “Help, help, Sientje is not breathing anymore!” We hope we never have to experience this, but it’s better to be prepared in case it does. Last month, the girls and ‘mothers’ practiced how to leave the house as safely and as quickly as possible in case a fire would break out. It is good to have an annual fire drill, so everybody knows what to do when something really happens. A fire drill is a serious thing, but because it is not real, it is also an occasion to have fun together. After this year’s fire drill, a team of experts also conducted a first aid training to the staff. We are very glad to be able to receive this training in order to make sure that all staff know what to do in case of an actual emergency.
Right after the girls come home, they participate in the daily tasks that need to be done at home. For instance, a young girl of barely 10 years old has learned to cook from her ‘mother’. It’s quite exciting to stir in a pan that has a fire underneath it. She likes and enjoys it. The food does taste different when you’ve been helping to prepare it, right?
A young lady of already 22 years old graduated last month and got her diploma as an assistant nurse. She is very glad about that and would like to work as an assistant nurse as soon as possible. But she needs to be patient for a while until an opening comes up and it will. In the meantime, she took another job to pay for her expenses because she wanted to live on her own right after her graduation. She’s been looking forward to living on her own for years, so we’re very happy she can do that now.
A slightly older young lady, who has been living independently for a couple of years now, had a baby a while ago. A couple of ‘mothers’ recently visited her. It is always good to stay in touch with the girls that have lived at Baan Phak Phing.
What do Park Seo Jun and a group of girls have in common? That is a good question that needs a proper answer. As a celebrity Park Seo Jun has a huge fan club who, in Park Seo Jun’s name, sends gifts to fans and people in need all over the world. Also to Baan Phak Phing.
First of all the girls received awesome shoes, real Skechers, in honor of Park Seo Jun’s birthday last year. Then we received new refrigerators to replace the old, worn out and energy eating ones. And on top of that, we were able to fill these fridges with a couple of different delicious products because of Park Seo Jun’s debut day on August 12th.
When we told the girls we received another gift from Park Seo Jun they were very excited. They wondered what it would be this time around. We showed them the Bibigo products of Korean food and they were all eager to try them out. For one of the three family homes at Baan Phak Phing breakfast the next day was a big party with the Bibigo dumplings. They liked them a lot.
The ice cream was eaten right away, because it was a day off and the weather was hot. Very refreshing!
For a few years now the board of Baan Phak Phing in the Netherlands has collaborated with the University of Applied Sciences Stenden in the Netherlands, which has a satellite campus in Thailand. Students are assigned a project with an authentic organization of which Baan Phak Phing was one. During the pandemic the project was done online but hopefully the next session will be on location in Thailand. During the last session students designed a T-shirt and sold them on campus and via their friends and relatives. The profits were for the home. The board of Baan Phak Phing decided to give each girl and staff member one as well.
“A new T-shirt for everyone?” “Yes, for everyone, the girls as well as the mothers.” As the local representative of the Baan Phak Phing board I was privileged to distribute the T-shirts. I wore mine to a staff meeting and many of the mothers immediately noticed that I was wearing a new shirt with the Baan Phak Phing logo on it. But they didn’t say anything till after the meeting. They loved it! Luckily because I had one for each colleague in my bag! Most of the staff put it on right away and wear them at work daily.
That afternoon when the girls came home from school, a few asked if I was wearing a new T-shirt. I asked them if they could read what was printed on the shirt and if they liked it. Just as the mothers all the girls liked it. When I asked if they wanted one, they all replied, “Yes, please!”
We would like to thank the board for this beautiful gift. Because of it we will regularly think of them.
Every Wednesday, all Baan Phak Phing team members have a meeting together. Besides discussing the current affairs and the cases of the girls, we take the time to share how we are doing, both workwise and personally. We support each other, if necessary, encourage each other to go on, and enjoy the good things together.
One Wednesday this past June, we received visitors; VIPs in my opinion, namely Christine, Heidi and Helmut. You probably know Christine, because she founded Baan Phak Phing and managed it until a few years ago. BUT Christine did not start Baan Phak Phing on her own. She did this together with Heidi, who also lived in Thailand at that time. Heidi is a lady from Germany and had the same vision as Christine: “To liberate girls who have ended up in forced prostitution and to give them a chance to a new future.” Christine and Heidi collaborated until February 1994, when Heid returned to Germany. She met her husband Helmut there and they raised a family together there.
Now, after all these years, Heidi and her husband came to visit us. It was so great to hear her side of the story, to see Christine and Heidi together, and to receive them at Baan Phak Phing. For many of our staff members, this was the first time they were told the history of Baan Phak Phing at first hand. We are very grateful that Christine and Heidi took the time to encourage us as a team and to encourage us in taking care of the girls.
Earlier this year, we wrote how the girls had the opportunity to pick strawberries in a mountain village. Recently, another season with different fruits had ended, and the fruits could be picked. Thailand, especially the northern part, has an enormous wealth of fruits and vegetables. Often, they grow in the garden or alongside the road. We have lychee trees in our garden, for instance. These trees have grown pretty high though, through the years, and the girls had to climb the trees almost daily lately, to pick the lychees. Also, friends invited the girls to harvest their mangos. The girls reacted very enthusiastically because they were in for something fun. Some girls went for the mangos, but others went to have a nice outing. The mangos were huge, so our crates were filled quickly. After picking them, we had a great time enjoying these wonderful tropical fruits.
This is the third year that we haven’t been able to go on holiday with the girls due to Corona. But we wouldn’t let Corona dictate what we can or can’t do. This year, again, the staff had arranged for a great camping experience on our own property. This time, they put up a number of tents on the yard. The program was also very campsite themed. The girls prepared food on a campfire, played camping games, sung camping songs, and even bathed outside.
They also celebrated that four girls graduated from school. This always is a very important moment, as the girls not only are being honored, but they also get the chance to share things. For one of the girls, for instance, the past year has been very hard, but she still succeeded with the great help of her teachers, and her mother and sisters from our house. That definitely made us shed some tears, of course.
Everybody enjoyed the camp enormously. We were all tired, but satisfied, including all staff members. Next year, we hope to have a very special holiday, because we would like to take them to the sea. Many of them have never seen the sea. After staying home for the whole holiday three years in a row, it would be great if we could realize that.
Ten weeks of school vacation might sound great, but it is not if you don’t have anything to do. So, I’m grateful to be able to tell you that the girls won’t have to be bored. They can go the gymnasium of the jiu jitsu club two mornings in the week to play sports and games.
The jiu jitsu coach and the girls who practice jiu jitsu three times a week, will lead the games and sports activities. It is a great way for these girls to learn how to bear responsibility and how to teach instead of being taught themselves. In a fun way they get a lot of exercise and learn the principles of jiu jitsu, a self-defense sport. There are even a couple of mothers who participate with the girls. It is precious to see how intensely the girls enjoy these occasions. The girls who tend to withdraw or be somber, totally blossom up. For the staff, it is also a moment to be out of the house with the girls for a while. After these mornings, the girls interact in a much better way and get along much better as well in the afternoon, because they feel tired and satisfied. 😉